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 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

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.

Fantastic Fort Mountain

Fort Mountain ViewA scenic drive through Georgia’s Historic High Country leads us to a little slice of heaven on Fort Mountain. This state park, hidden in the hills of Chatsworth, is quickly becoming one of my favorite getaways. In addition to the incredible views from overlooks, Fort Mountain State Park boasts one of the most challenging Muddy Spokes mountain biking trails and the 8-mile Gahuti Trail connecting secluded backcountry campsites.CandyCook_ftMtnGahudiTrail

The hiking trails of Fort Mountain range from easy to strenuous. For really amazing views, take a stroll down the easy, paved Cool Springs Trail or hike to an overlook deck on a combination of the West Overlook-Stone Tower Trails. More experienced hikers will appreciate backpacking on the more difficult Gahuti Trail. Gahuti is a beautiful, yet strenuous hike often used by hikers preparing for the Appalachian Trail.

Mountain bikers of all ages and experience levels enjoy taking on 27 miles of thrill riding at the park. Multi-use Lake Loop Trail offers an easy warm-up shared with hikers, while the Gold Mine and Cool Springs Loops cater to more advanced riders looking for a fun roller coaster ride through the forest. Finally, one of the last Muddy Spokes trails a mountain biker completes, the East/West Loop offers a wild and rocky ride for the experts. CandyCook_FtMountainSwim

A Fort Mountain escape isn’t complete without a refreshing dip in the cool mountain lake, a round of mini golf, and perfecting s’mores as the moonlight shines through those magnificent Georgia pines. Pack up the tent and run away to Fort Mountain this weekend!

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.

AMP Up Your Summer Adventures

Banish summer boredom with thrilling adventures and new family experiences! Just 20 minutes east of Atlanta, AMP Adventures is celebrating the season with river exploration, free bike rentals, campfire folktales and “s’more!” You can see some highlights below and the full calendar of events here.

Arabia Mt APM

All of these activities are located in the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area along the Arabia Mountain PATH (AMP). The 33+ mile paved trail is dedicated to hikers and cyclists and is quickly becoming known as Atlanta’s most scenic trail. Remember, while several events are free, many have a limited amount of space so participants should RSVP now to save their spot.

FREE Bike Rentals at Panola Mountain State Park (June 13th and June 14th) and Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve (June 20th) For three amazing days you can feel the wind in your hair and the sun on your face as you peddle past gorgeous forests and flower-filled meadows along the Arabia Mountain PATH (AMP). Already have a bike? This is the perfect time to get your bike-less friends to finally take a ride with you!Roasting Marshmallow

Folktales by Firelight (June 27th) Hiking, a campfire, storytelling and s’mores; what a great combination! We have two event start times for a full evening of family fun. We’ll hear folktales from professional storyteller, Jonah McDonald, adventure guide and author of Hiking Atlanta’s Hidden Forests: Intown and Out. This is a rain or shine event, so bring your galoshes if we get a shower!

Georgia River Network: Hidden Gem Paddle (August 22nd) Join the South River Watershed Alliance and Georgia River Network (GRN) for a personal tour of the bends and gentle waters of the South River. This event will attract river enthusiasts from across the state and you can join the tour! The day will include a picnic lunch and presentations along the route, ranging from natural history and water quality testing to river clean-up training! Other floats are planned for June 13 and July 25. Canoe and kayak rentals can be waived for novice paddlers!Georgia River Network

AMP Adventures is presented by the Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance and was made possible in part by a grant from the National Park Foundation through the generous support of Coca-Cola and Subaru.


Kimberly EstepWhen not putting her savvy communication skills to use at the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, Kimberly Estep can most often be found wandering over hiking trails with her two dogs.  Most of all, Kimberly loves sharing her knowledge of the hidden gems of Georgia with anyone who will listen.

4 Locally-Made Georgia Food Products to Try Today

Georgia Grinders

Photo courtesy of Georgia Grinders

Georgia is known for many things—the world’s largest aquarium, America’s favorite soda, sweet and juicy peaches and a burgeoning film scene, to name a few. Add to the list: artisanal, craft food products made from locally-sourced ingredients sure to please any palette. Take a look at four of our favorites:

Bamboo Juices

Bamboo Juices

1. Bamboo Juices: The juice craze is here to stay, but rather than shell out top dollar for juices made in a far-off factory, why not spend your pennies right here in town and pick up a bottle of delicious cold-pressed juice from Bamboo Juice? Based in Serenbe, Bamboo’s organic juices—they also make insanely delicious almond milks (go for the mushroom coffee!) and elixir shots—are made from raw, organic produce primarily grown right on Serenbe Farms soil. Can’t get more local than that!

2. Georgia Grinders Nut Butters: Georgia may be the peanut capital of the world, but shockingly, there are very few Georgia-based craft peanut butters. Atlanta resident, Jaime Foster, changed that when she launched her hand-crafted, small batch peanut butter, Georgia Grinders, earlier this year. Foster’s premium peanut butter contains just two ingredients—non-GMO peanuts from South Georgia and sea salt—and is produced in small batches, only when orders come in. The Georgia Grinders brand also includes other nut butters, like NaturAlmond, an all-natural almond butter, cashew butter and forthcoming pecan and sunflower seed butters.

Little Barn Apothecary3. Little Barn Apothecary: Though not technically edible, this Stone Mountain-based plant-based company, run by self-taught herbalists Joshua Morgan and Brad Scoggins, makes luxurious apothecary goods from wild-harvested, certified organic ingredients that are good enough to eat, from bath soaks and body washes to oils, balms, salves and naturally-scented air waters (we’re partial to the the lemongrass-basil spray, peppermint-eucalyptus soak, and avocado and coconut oil lip balm).

Pop Stars

Pop Stars

4. Pop Stars Popsicles: Finally a dessert that tastes as great as it makes you feel—Pop Stars, an Atlanta-based all-natural popsicle brand made with all-natural, often organic ingredients, is sweetened with cane sugar and made creamy with the addition of rice and coconut milk. They’re vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and insanely flavorful, especially if you opt for delicious flavors like Chocolate Salted Coconut, Peanut Butter & Jelly and Strawberry Milkshake.



KateKate is Georgia’s official Culinary Explorer and a freelance food and travel writer for more than 100 publications. Click here to read more culinary content from Kate

Summer Reading Takes a Field Trip

Make Summer Reading Fun: Bring it to Life!
Getting lost in a good book is wonderful, but sometimes, you don’t want to just read about it, you want to experience the amazing places, and have adventures of your own. You don’t have to travel far to experience your favorite book. In fact, you can do it pretty close to home with pretty much any book.  Below are three ways we’ve experienced the young adult series about Percy Jackson by Rick Riordon.

Once you see how we did it, think about your favorite book. Where do the characters go? Is there someplace near you that looks or feels similar? What do they eat? Can you have a meal or a snack similar to the characters? What adventures do they have? You may not be able to swing through an Amazon jungle, but you could swing through the trees on a local zip line.

Dualing Zipline North Georgia

Dualing Zipline North Georgia

Come face-to-face with Gaea: In the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordon, the Goddess of the Earth Gaea is causing havoc in the world and confusing the gods. Come face-to-face with Gaea at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens where she is immortalized in a giant topiary statue that looks as if at any moment she will raise her eyes and ask in a dreamy voice “what is it you wish from the Goddess of the Earth?” While there, check out the Children’s Garden. Bring a bathing suit and towel during the summer months for young kids to splash in the ‘flower shower’ as my children always called it.

Find Saltwater: In Mark of Athena, Percy and his friends arrive in Atlanta in search of salt water. Not an easy task in a landlocked city. However, their quest finally brings them to the Georgia Aquarium where they get a backstage tour from a strange creature. A behind the scenes tour of the Georgia Aquarium doesn’t showcase mythical creatures, but it does give you a better idea of how the Aquarium works and what it takes to keep such a large operation going. If visiting Atlanta isn’t on your itinerary, you can also visit the Flint RiverQuarium in Albany, or the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium in Savannah.

Under the Sea (Georgia Aquarium)

Under the Sea (Georgia Aquarium)

Captain Your Ship: Also in Mark of Athena, Leo captains the Argo II using a Wii remote. You probably have a Wii remote at home, or you can visit a local arcade like we did. Across the street from the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta is a restaurant arcade called Game X. You won’t find Wii’s, but you will find a pirate ship to captain, as well as pop-a-shots, a giant Connect Four game and multi-puck air hockey to name just a few games. Games X has a kid-friendly menu and a full bar for the adults.

How do you bring summer reading to life? I’d love to hear your stories via Field Trips with Sue on Facebook. Your kids can also earn prizes for summer reading through numerous summer reading incentive programs.


SueSue Rodman is Georgia’s official Smart Travel Explorer and the editor and publisher of the award-winning family travel blog Field Trips with Sue. Click here for more Smart Travel content from Sue.

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