Biking & Hiking Aska Adventure Trail Area

Biking Aska Adventure Trail Area

Biking the Aska Trails | Photo courtesy of Joseph Cattoni, Regular Joe Photography

A favorite destination among many Georgia hikers and mountain bikers, Aska Adventure Trail Area offers 17 miles of interconnected trails winding through Chattahoochee National Forest. This Blue Ridge trail system boasts a range of difficulty levels from easy-moderate to very strenuous along trails that vary in distance from one to six miles.

Hitting Aska Adventure Trails in August is a cool summertime treat beneath the shade of mature hardwoods. Right around the seasonal corner, fall paints this landscape with colorful leaves that open up beautiful mountain vistas to enjoy during winter and early spring. A good starting point is riding the hills of the easy-intermediate Long Branch Loop. Riding the trail counter-clockwise gives riders many heart-pumping uphill climbs with a few fun downhills, while riding clockwise offers more gradual uphills and lots of fun downhill riding. A creek crossing marks the lowest point of the trail. Long Branch Loop isn’t challenging as far as technical features, making it fun for riders who are stepping up from easier trails. Other trails in the system ascend to over 3,000 ft, some offering creek crossings and a portion of trail on the shores of Lake Blue Ridge.

Long Branch Loop at Aska Adventure Trail Area

Biking Long Branch Loop

Trails to hike and ride in Aska Adventure Trail Area:

  • Stanley Gap Trail is a single track trail that clocks in at 5.5 miles of moderate intensity.
  • Flat Creek Loop offers another 5.7 miles of moderate intensity mountain biking.
  • Long Branch Loop is 2 miles of easy-moderate climbs and  sweet descents for a fun, quick ride. Note: The elevation changes going counter-clockwise may be considered more difficult than going clockwise on the trail.
  • Lower Green Mountain is an intermediate 1.5 miles that connects with the more strenuous Upper Green Mountain Trail. Note: A portion of the Upper Green Mountain Trail is closed.
  • The 300-mile Benton McKaye Trail also winds through Aska Adventure Trail Area.
  • Several connector trails make easy transition to other trails in the system.

There are four parking areas to access trailheads at Aska Adventure Trail Area. These parking areas are located at Deep Gap, Stanley Gap, Forest Road 711, and Shady Falls. Driving directions to all four parking areas, as well as a list of the trails, are available on the Blue Ridge Mountains website.

candycookCandy is Georgia’s official Outdoor Explorer and the author of the blog “Happy Trails Wild Tales.” Click here for more Outdoor content from Candy.

Top Five Family Attractions in Blue Ridge

Get to know the best of Blue Ridge, 90 minutes north of Atlanta, with this series of posts featuring top five picks for hiking, waterfall watching and family fun.

Make memories with these unique Blue Ridge attractions, catering to multi-generational fun.

1. Mercier Orchards – A family-owned and -operated primarily apple orchard, the must-see attraction will reward senses with bushels of apples, strawberries and other produce, fresh pressed cider, warm fried pies – but, most importantly, memories. Started back in 1943 by Bill & Adele Mercier, Mercier Orchards is now celebrating more than 70 years of fruitful harvests. Beyond fruit, the onsite store serves up a variety of farm toys, pet items, kitchen paraphernalia, home decor and a meat and cheese shop. Visit the tasting room offering hard ciders and wines, including locally-produced varieties. Gather the family for a u-pick experience and fill baskets with fresh-from-the-tree apples or other seasonal produce.

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

It’s all about the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. (Photo Credit: Fannin County Chamber of Commerce)

2. Blue Ridge Scenic Railway – Chugga-chug down the 13-miles of rails comprising the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. The 45-minute (each way) excursion is a generation-bonding adventure that starts at the historic 1905 depot in Downtown. Vintage climate controlled rail cars or open air rail cars host more than 70,000 passengers each year for a ride that winds alongside the Toccoa River, with a stop in the twin border towns of McCaysville, Georgia, and Copperhill, Tennessee. Copperhill/McCaysville is one town with two names because it is split by the GA/TN state line, where visitors have a two hour layover (one & half layover on Sunday); plenty of time to eat lunch, shop for unique crafts and antiques, snack on ice cream, or walk around.

3. Swan Drive-in – Catch a movie the old-fashioned way at one of Georgia’s four remaining drive-in theaters. Established in 1955, the Swan Drive-in also features a full concession stand, including funnel cakes and fried Oreos.

4. The Lilly Pad – Mine for gems, go fishing, take a hike or play a round of mini-golf, all at Blue Ridge’s destination for family fun. Pets are welcome, too.

5. Fall Branch Falls – The upper portion of Fall Branch Falls is a series of cascades that lead to a single major drop of some 30 feet, with the water plunging into a deep pool at the base of the falls. These falls, along the Benton MacKaye Trail, west of Aska Road, are a shorter, although a bit harder walk than Long Creek Falls.

Insider tip:
Visit the Self-guided Tours page on www.BlueRidgeMountains.com for complete descriptions and driving directions.

If you go:
From lake-view with a mountain vista and room for 20 to cabins hidden away and built only for two (hot tub included!) find links to cabin rental companies at www.BlueRidgeMountains.com.

katieMom-on-the-go and Laurie Rowe Communications PR pro Katie Reeder graduated at the top of her class from the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University with a degree in Communication Studies. Katie resides in Cumming, Georgia – between the beautiful mountains of North Georgia and the lights and action of nearby Atlanta.

Top Five Waterfalls Near Blue Ridge

Get to know the best of Blue Ridge, 90 minutes north of Atlanta, with this series of posts featuring top five picks for hiking, waterfall watching and family fun.

Chase waterfalls with the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce’s recommendations for easy access to some of nature’s finest accomplishments.

1. Fall Branch Falls – The upper portion of Fall Branch Falls is a series of cascades that lead to a single major drop of some 30 feet, with the water plunging into a deep pool at the base of the falls. These falls, along the Benton MacKaye Trail, west of Aska Road, are a shorter, although a bit harder walk than Long Creek Falls.

2. Long Creek Falls – The most popular of the waterfalls in Fannin County is Long Creek Falls, which can be seen by hiking down a short side trail from the combined Appalachian/Benton MacKaye Trail. These falls total about 50 feet in two distinct drops. A leisurely 30 minute hike to the falls is uphill on the way in, downhill on the way out.

Benton MacKaye Trail

Discover the beauty of Blue Ridge’s Long Creek Falls. (Photo Credit: Fannin County Chamber of Commerce)

3. Sea Creek Falls – Located in the Cooper Creek Scenic Area, Sea Creek Falls are an easy walk of less than .1 mile. The first, or upper falls are a series of steep cascades ending in a brief drop. The second falls are also a series of steep cascades. When the water flow is heavy either in late winter or spring, or after a summer rain, these are a remarkable sight.

4. Amicalola Falls – About 21 miles from Ellijay on Hwy 52 is a spectacular 729-foot falls, the tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River. Also, a strenuous 8.5-mile approach trail leads from the park to Springer Mountain, the start of the famous Appalachian Trail.

5. Helton Creek Falls – There are two falls on Helton Creek near Blairsville. A short trail descends to the first waterfall then climbs to the second larger waterfall. Beware – the rocks are slippery. From Blue Ridge, take Hwy 515 north to Blairsville. In Blairsville, take US 19/129 south about 11 miles. Turn left onto Helton Creek Road, the first road past the entrance to Vogel State Park. Go 2.2 miles; the road turns to gravel. There will be a small parking lot on the right in a curve, and the trail is marked.

Insider tip:
Visit the Self-guided Tours page on www.BlueRidgeMountains.com for complete descriptions and driving directions.

If you go:
From lake-view with a mountain vista and room for 20 to cabins hidden away and built only for two (hot tub included!) find links to cabin rental companies at www.BlueRidgeMountains.com.

katieMom-on-the-go and Laurie Rowe Communications PR pro Katie Reeder graduated at the top of her class from the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University with a degree in Communication Studies. Katie resides in Cumming, Georgia – between the beautiful mountains of North Georgia and the lights and action of nearby Atlanta.

Top Five Hikes in Blue Ridge

Get to know the best of Blue Ridge, 90 minutes north of Atlanta, with this series of posts featuring top five picks for hiking, waterfall watching and family fun.

A hiker’s paradise, Blue Ridge offers several major trail systems, including access to the Appalachian Trail which extends for more than 2,000 miles to Maine through many of the states on the Eastern Seaboard. Pursue these paths for outdoor explorations on one of the many trails in a system of over 300 miles, including short trails suitable for beginning hikers.

Aska Trails

Hike Blue Ridge’s Aska Trail System. (Photo Credit: Fannin County Chamber of Commerce)

1. Three Forks to Long Creek Falls – The hike to Long Creek Falls is a great way to experience the Appalachian Trail. This adventure includes a scenic 5.3-mile drive into the forest following Noontootla Creek to the Three Forks area where you will begin your two-mile round-trip hike following Long Creek to a beautiful cascading waterfall with two drops totaling 50 feet. Take a picnic to enjoy at the falls.

2. Swinging Bridge Trail – Another awesome excursion requires rambling the Benton MacKaye Trail south from Hwy 60 for three miles to be rewarded with sweeping views of the pristine Toccoa River flowing beneath a structure known simply as the “Swinging Bridge.” The longest suspension bridge east of the Mississippi, the passage was built by the USDA Forest Service and the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club in the mid-1970s.

3. Hike to the Appalachian Trail terminus – One of the greatest outdoor adventures in the world, the Appalachian Trail, begins in Fannin County at the top of Springer Mountain.

4. Aska Trails – This is a popular 17-mile trail system near Blue Ridge, with hikes that intersect and loop ranging from one- to 5.5-miles.

5. Benton MacKaye Trail to Fall Branch Falls – A short distance away and part of the larger Benton MacKaye Trail, Fall Branch Falls is a double waterfall with mountain laurel and rhododendron growing along the trail and creek bank. The hike to the falls is about 30 minutes round-trip.

Insider tip:
Visit the Self-guided Tours page on www.BlueRidgeMountains.com for complete descriptions and driving directions.

If you go:
From lake-view with a mountain vista and room for 20 to cabins hidden away and built only for two (hot tub included!) find links to cabin rental companies at www.BlueRidgeMountains.com.

katieMom-on-the-go and Laurie Rowe Communications PR pro Katie Reeder graduated at the top of her class from the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University with a degree in Communication Studies. Katie resides in Cumming, Georgia – between the beautiful mountains of North Georgia and the lights and action of nearby Atlanta.

Blue Ridge: The Perfect Family Get-Away

Attention families everywhere: it’s time to trek to Blue Ridge, Georgia

View from cabin.

View from cabin.

Just under two hours north of Atlanta, my family of four savored a recent getaway at Mountain Top Cabin Rental’s Five Star View cabin, overlooking Blue Ridge Lake, in Blue Ridge, Georgia. With all the modern luxuries a family could yearn for, one look around had us wanting to extend our stay.

We fueled up at nearby Iron Bridge Cafe, a roadside restaurant along Aska Road offering views of the Toccoa River and serving lunch staples like BBQ and grilled cheese sandwiches with no-frill sides.

 

 

Gem mining at Lilly Pad.

Gem mining at Lilly Pad.

Next, it was off to The Lilly Pad, where mining for gems set us back only $15 while creating priceless memories. Onsite mini golf and fishing are unlimited.

Blue Ridge boasts miles of trails through the Aska and Benton MacKaye Trail system. Take U.S. Forestry Road 816 three miles off Highway 60 to a 260-foot suspension bridge, a “tickle-your-ears bumpy drive” (in the words of a two-year-old) that is worth the bumps, if just for the view and peaceful ripple of the Toccoa River.

Joe's BBQ

Joe’s BBQ

Evening hunger pangs were satiated at Joe’s BBQ, where a sign on the door sets the tone with instruction to ring the bell if the door is locked but Joe’s truck is out front. Fall-off-the-bone pork and chicken, coupled with sides like macaroni and cheese, mean stick to your ribs eats that can’t be beat. Joe took our order, asked about our stay, and left us feeling stuffed and like less of a tourist with his thorough welcome.

A must-experience attraction for kids and kids at heart is the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, which sent us choo-chooing over 26 miles of scenic countryside, most alongside the Toccoa River before laying over in McCaysville, Georgia, and then returning us to Downtown Blue Ridge. After chugga-chugging down the rails, we perused Downtown Blue Ridge boutiques.

Apple cider donuts from Mercier Orchards.

Apple cider donuts from Mercier Orchards.

Just before beginning plans for a return visit, we ended the weekend with a visit to Mercier Orchards – a chance to show the young ones where food really comes from. Check their Facebook page to find seasonal U-pick options for apples, strawberries and more.

 

katieMom-on-the-go and Laurie Rowe Communications PR pro Katie Reeder graduated at the top of her class from the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University with a degree in Communication Studies. Katie resides in Cumming, Georgia – between the beautiful mountains of North Georgia and the lights and action of nearby Atlanta.