15 Georgia State Parks for Autumn Color

Rich reds, vibrant oranges and golden yellows make autumn color in Georgia beautiful. This fall, be sure to visit Georgia’s top 15 state parks for leaf watching. For quieter getaways, visitors can explore parks further south, which can offer pretty autumn color as well.

Amicalola Falls State Park – Dawsonville
Just an hour north of Atlanta you’ll find the Southeast’s tallest cascading waterfall.  The falls can be enjoyed from both easy and difficult trails. A short, flat path leads to a boardwalk offering the most spectacular views. There’s also an easy-to-reach overlook at the top. For a tougher challenge, start from the bottom of the falls and hike up the steep staircase. Amicalola Falls gets very busy on pretty October weekends. Pumpkin farms and apple orchards are nearby.

Autumn Color at Amicalola Fall State Park

West Ridge Trail, Amicalola Falls | Photo courtesy of Georgia State Parks

Black Rock Mountain State Park – Clayton
At an altitude of 3,640 feet, Black Rock Mountain is Georgia’s highest state park. Roadside overlooks and the summit Visitor Center offer sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The 2.2-mile Tennessee Rock Trail is a good choice for a short, moderate hike. For an all-day challenge, take the 7.2-mile James E. Edmonds Backcountry Trail. If driving Hwy. 441 north to the park, stop by Tallulah Gorge State Park and quirky Goats on the Roof.

Cloudland Canyon State Park – Near Chattanooga
One of Georgia’s most beautiful parks offers easy-to-reach rim overlooks and challenging hiking trails. A favorite hike takes you down a long, steep staircase to the bottom of the canyon, where you’ll find two waterfalls. (Remember, you have to hike back up, but it’s worth it.) The 5-mile West Rim Loop is moderately difficult and offers great views of the canyon. “Glamping” yurts are located off this trail.

Don Carter State Park – Lake Lanier
Georgia’s newest state park opened in 2013 on Lake Lanier, protecting a beautiful hardwood forest and many miles of shoreline. If you have a boat, this would be a great park to enjoy fall color from the water. A short, paved (and quite hilly) trail is open to bikes and foot traffic. Another trail is open to hikers only.

Autumn Color at Black Rock Mountain State Park

Black Rock Mountain | Photo courtesy of Georgia State Parks

F. D. Roosevelt State Park – Pine Mountain
Many people are surprised to find hardwood forests and rolling mountains south of Atlanta. The 6.7-mile Wolf Den Loop is a favorite section of the longer Pine Mountain Trail. For a touch of history, drive to Dowdell’s Knob to see a life-size bronze sculpture of President F.D. Roosevelt and great views of the forested valley. Ga. Hwy. 190 is a pretty driving route.

Fort Mountain State Park – Chatsworth
This park is best known for a mysterious rock wall along the mountain top, plus a variety of trails. For the easiest walk, take the 1.2-mile loop around the park’s pretty, green lake. For a challenging, all-day hike, choose the 8-mile Gahuti Trail.  Mountain bikers have more than 14 miles to explore. Hwy. 52 has beautiful mountain scenery and overlooks worth stopping for.

Hard Labor Creek State Park – Rutledge
Kayak tours of this park’s lake let you enjoy autumn color from a different perspective. Sign up for a ranger-led paddle or rent a canoe to explore on your own. Mountain bikers can explore 10 miles of trails ranging from beginner to experienced. This park is easily reached from I-20 exit 105.

Autumn Color at Sweetwater Creek State Park

Sweetwater Creek | Photo courtesy of Georgia State Parks

James H. (Sloppy) Floyd State Park – Summerville
This park near Rome is a good choice for families with young children. An easy walk circles a fishing lake, and kids enjoy feeding fish from the boardwalk. Older children will like the Marble Mine Trail which leads to a small waterfall with a pretty blue-green tint. Serious hikers can explore the nearby 330-mile Pinhoti Trail.

Moccasin Creek State Park – Lake Burton
Georgia’s smallest state park sits on the shore of a gorgeous deep-green lake.  Guests can choose from the 2-mile Hemlock Falls Trail or 1-mile Non-Game Trail with a wildlife observation tower. Hwy. 197 is a particularly pretty road, passing Mark of the Potter and other popular attractions.

Red Top Mountain State Park – Lake Allatoona
Just 40 minutes north of Atlanta you’ll find a variety of trails with nice fall color. The easy, flat 4-mile Iron Hill Loop is open to bikes and foot traffic, offering great views of the lake and forest. Another good choice for lake views is the 5.5-mile Homestead Trail. Families with young children will like the paved walking path behind the park office. Be sure to explore the log cabin and blacksmith shed.

Smithgall Woods State Park – Helen
Protecting more than 6,000 acres around Dukes Creek, this is the perfect spot for fly fishing while enjoying fall color. Day visitors can picnic near the creek, and overnight guests can hike a private trail to Dukes Creek Falls. A 1.6-mile loop climbs to Laurel Ridge and provides a view of Mt. Yonah once most leaves are off the trees. This park is near many wineries and Helen’s Oktoberfest.

Sweetwater Creek State Park – Lithia Springs
Just west of Atlanta you’ll find 9 miles of hiking trails, a beautiful creek and small lake. For an easy walk, take the popular 1-mile Red Trail which follows the creek to the ruins of an old mill. For more of a workout, continue past the mill to the Blue Trail, where you’ll climb steep bluffs for outstanding creek views. Sign up for a guided hike to learn more about this park’s Civil War history. A new yurt village opens September 2015.

Autumn Color at Tallulah Gorge State Park

Tallulah Gorge | Photo courtesy of Georgia State Parks

Tallulah Gorge State Park – Near Clayton
Tallulah is one of the most spectacular canyons in the Southeast, and you can choose from easy or difficult trails. Hike along the rim to several overlooks with waterfall views, or get a permit from the park office to trek all the way to the bottom.  During November, you can watch expert kayakers as they enjoy the bi-annual “whitewater releases.” Be sure to see the park’s film because it includes heart-racing footage of kayakers and news clips from Wallenda’s famous tightrope walk across the gorge.

Unicoi State Park – Helen
Avoid Oktoberfest crowds in Helen by hiking a pretty 3-mile trail which leads from the park into town. You can enjoy lunch and window shopping before hiking back to the trailhead. Mountain bikers can zip past fall color on the park’s challenging 7.5-mile bike loop. If you’re up for a steep hike, take the 4.8-mile Smith Creek Trail up to Anna Ruby Falls. (To avoid having to hike back, leave a second car at the falls.)

Vogel State Park – Blairsville
The 4-mile Bear Hair Gap Trail makes a nice day trip for experienced hikers, offering great mountain color and a birds-eye view of the park’s lake. For an easier walk, follow the Lake Loop to a small waterfall. The twisting roads around Vogel, particularly Wolf Pen Gap Road, offer some of north Georgia’s prettiest fall scenery.

Kim Hatcher

Kim Hatcher has handled media relations for Georgia’s State Parks and Historic Sites since 1993. She grew up in Smyrna, Ga., and earned her journalism degree from the University of Georgia. She and her husband enjoy camping, hiking, paddling and exploring the great outdoors. Kim works with reporters and travel writers, manages the park system’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and serves as a spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Northeast Georgia Corn Mazes and Pumpkin Patches

What do you think of when you think of the fall season – amber and yellow leaves, crisp cool mornings, and football? Well, these are some of the welcome signs of fall, but in North Georgia visitors can enjoy these along with several very traditional fall activities.

Do you have childhood memories of wandering through a pumpkin patch looking for that perfect pumpkin to carve for Halloween or wandering through a corn maze that left you laughing from your farm puzzle exploits?

If so, then head to North Georgia and relive your childhood memories with your friends, your children or even your grandchildren at one of the following corn mazes and pumpkin patches. If not, head to North Georgia and make some new memories!

Jaemor Farm Market Corn MazeJaemor Farm Market
Just north of Gainesville on Hwy 365, you’ll find Jaemor Farm Market, where of course you can always find the most delicious fried pies and fresh farm vegetables and fruits, but in the fall, they have a corn maze as well. The corn maze opens September 12th and lasts until November 8th.

Southern Tree Plantation
Little kids will find something a bit different at Southern Tree Plantation south of Blairsville off of U.S. 129. Not only will pumpkins dot the landscape but a wooden barnyard maze awaits the eager puzzle seekers. Hayrides, mini-train rides and roasting marshmallows round out this trip to North Georgia.Southern Tree Plantation

Bradley's Pumpkin Patch

Bradley was featured in Georgia Magazine in 2010

Bradley’s Pumpkin Patch
Dawsonville grown pumpkins are waiting for you at Bradley’s Pumpkin Patch! Bradley started the pumpkin farm when he was only 13 years old. The farm is open for the pumpkin picking season and pumpkin patch hours are posted on their website. Other times are by appointment. They have lots of freshly grown pumpkins grown right on their Dawsonville farm. Family visits are free and educational group tours are offered for a small fee. Visit the Country Store with lots of locally made items.

Burt's Farm



Burt’s Farm
At Burt’s Farm, pumpkins are the “star” of the show. The only thing more beautiful than the fall leaf season is the sea of orange created by thousands of Burt’s pumpkins. You can wander through this vast array of pumpkins (make sure NOT to pick them up by the stem) picking out just the right one, take a two-mile hayride through the farm, and wander through the country store that is fully stocked with everything you’ll need for decorating your home for fall.

Uncle Shuck'sUncle Shuck’s Corn Maze
If you haven’t visited Uncle Shuck’s Corn Maze then you must put it on your list and start a new family tradition. Explore the corn maze, find your perfect pumpkin and shoot the Corn Cannon. When you are hungry they have food, fall decorations for making your house festive for the season and a Goat Walk (you’ll have to come and find out what that is!). In October on the weekends, see if you can make it through the Haunted Maze. If you are not into scary, then hang out by the bonfires after a hayride. Check out their website for info on special events for scout and school groups. Uncle Shuck’s is also a great birthday party option.

Buck’s Corn Maze
Buck’s Corn Maze is named after W.Z. “Buck” Samples, who farmed for 50 years on the land that now features this 12-acre maze in a 20-acre field next to Cochran Creek with a beautiful view of the Appalachian Mountains. Buck loved to have friends come visit and enjoy the beautiful views and peaceful country. Although Buck is gone, his family still welcomes everyone to come and enjoy the maze and the tranquil countryside. As much fun as the maze is in the daytime, it is double the fun at night: bring your flashlight and test your skills in the dark. After completing the maze, go on a relaxing hayride, which runs by the creek and through the cornfield.Buck's Corn Maze

Hillside Orchard FarmsHillside Orchard Farms
Just north of Tallulah Gorge State Park and Interpretive Center on Old U.S. 441 is Hillside Orchard FarmsIn addition to the corn maze, there is a playground and farm animals to pet. They have something new this year: Ol’ #3, a miniature of the Tallulah Falls Railroad Train, which will run every hour on the weekends.





3283c42Cheryl Smith is the Northeast Georgia Mountains regional travel expert. She’s worked in the region for the past 26 years and likes to say that if she doesn’t know what you are looking for, she knows someone who does! Cheryl spends her time paddling and riding her Harley 1200 Sportser.

Civil War Wednesday: Longstreet’s Gainesville

Longstreet memorial in Gainesville

Monument on the site where Longstreet’s Gainesville home stood | Photo courtesy of the author

James Longstreet, born January 8, 1821, in South Carolina, spent his youth in Augusta, Georgia. He later attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated in 1842. Serving in Florida after his graduation from West Point, Longstreet began a military career, which would take him into Mexico, serving under Major Generals Zachery Taylor and Winfield Scott during the Mexican-American War.

Surviving a wound at Chapultepec, he continued service in the United States Army, until resigning his commission on June 1, 1861. Rising from his early rank of brigadier general in the Confederate army, to a position of lieutenant general, Longstreet fought in most of the major battles in the eastern theater. With the Army of Northern Virginia, and General Robert E. Lee, Longstreet, along with Lieutenant General Thomas J. Jackson, served Lee well during the war. Lee, referred to Longstreet as his “Old War Horse,” and depended upon the general during the various campaigns in the east.

Traveling a roundabout route via rail, Longstreet brought several of his troops west in September 1863, and a few of his brigades, which arrived earliest, helped the Army of Tennessee win the Battle of Chickamauga. Disgruntled with General Braxton Bragg, Longstreet sought a way to separate himself from the crusty officer. Bragg, wishing to rid his army of Longstreet, sent the general toward Knoxville, where he might force Major General Ambrose Burnside’s troops away from the city, and open the important railroad connecting the eastern and western theaters. Longstreet’s troops faced a repulse when attacking the garrison of Fort Sanders in late November 1863, and wintered in east Tennessee.

Rejoining the Army of Northern Virginia before the opening of the Overland Campaign, Longstreet received a wound from friendly-fire during the May 1864 Battle of the Wilderness. Out of the saddle for months, he returned to active duty, and continued service until Lee surrendered his forces to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House. Longstreet and Grant, friends before the war, reunited when Grant became president. Longstreet alienated many former Confederates when he joined the Republican Party, supported Grant, and occupied several government-appointed positions, including U.S. Minister to Turkey.[1]

Longstreet's Piedmont Hotel in Gainesville

Present-day image of Piedmont Hotel | Photo courtesy of the author

Moving from New Orleans in 1875, Longstreet returned to Georgia, and set up residence in Gainesville. He managed the Piedmont Hotel, with his second wife Helen. The Longstreet couple lived as respected citizens of Gainesville, and the old general continued to deflect accusations from Jubal Early, and other former Confederates, intent on casting the blame for the loss at Gettysburg on Longstreet. In 1896, Longstreet fired a rebuttal, as his From Manassas to Appomattox: Memoirs of the Civil War in America rolled-off the press. Grieving over the passing of his old friend Grant, Longstreet, during an 1885 interview with the New York Times, uttered one of his most memorable phrases – “Why do men fight who were born to be brothers?”[2]

James Longstreet died on January 2, 1904, and his body rests in Gainesville’s Alta Vista Cemetery. Today, the Longstreet Society, operating from their headquarters in the restored Piedmont Hotel, works to preserve and protect the various Longstreet sites in the area. They house an impressive collection of Longstreet memorabilia, host educational programs, and sponsor occasional tours. For more information, please visit http://www.longstreetsociety.org/.

Longstreet's Gravesite in Gainesville

Longstreet’s gravesite | Photo courtesy of the author

[1] John H. Eicher and David J. Eicher, Civil War High Commands (Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 2001), 352–53.

[2] New York Times, “General James Longstreet (1821-1904),” Ulysses S. Grant Homepage, http://www.granthomepage.com/intlongstreet.htm (accessed August 27, 2015).

MikeMichael K. Shaffer is a Civil War historian, author, newspaper columnist and lecturer. He can be contacted at: www.civilwarhistorian.net.

Dahlonega with Kids

Crisson Gold Mine in Dahlonega

Crisson Gold Mine

Thinking of spending fall in the mountains? Dahlonega is a superb destination, with educational excursions, hiking opportunities and more. Here are five places to visit in Dahlonega with kids and two family-friendly dining opportunities.

3 Gold Adventures

Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site. Visit the oldest surviving courthouse in Georgia, and see the real gold laced in the bricks. See gemstone collections, stories about private mints, and a great movie about the history of gold discovery and excavation in Dahlonega.

Chestatee River Diving Bell. See an actual diving bell used to retrieve gold from the river floor in the 1800s.

Crisson Gold Mine. Tour the mine, and see the only working Stamp Mill in Georgia at 130 years old. Kids will love panning for gold and gems.

See more photos from our Dahlonega Gold Adventures.

2 Outdoor Adventures

Springer Mountain Trail. Hike to the southernmost point of the Appalachian Trail. From the parking lot, this is a moderate 2-mile journey. If you have hiking poles, you will want to bring them. At the top you will see a commemorative AT plaque, and cubby in the rock with a notebook for hikers to share their thoughts. See more Springer Mountain Trail info here.

Cane Creek Falls. You will weave through a Methodist Church Camp/Retreat to get to this waterfall. From the parking lot there is only about a 100-yard walk to the falls. You can easily get to the water’s edge for great photos, but splashing and swimming in the water is not permitted. See more Cane Creek Falls info here.

Cane Creek Falls in Dahlonega

Cane Creek Falls

Family-friendly Dining.

Several places on the Dahlonega Square make for a great family-friendly dining experience. We enjoyed lunch at Gustavo’s Pizzeria, with tasty pizza pies, pastas and salads. For dinner, try a seat on the upper patio of Bourbon Street Grille. It’s the perfect view for eating Cajun cuisine (plus burgers and pasta for picky eaters).

See more photos and info regarding family-friendly dining in Dahlonega.

LesliLesli is the Georgia’s official Family Explorer and the owner of 365AtlantaFamily, which offers a daily dose of inspiration for metro-area families. Click here for more Family content from Lesli.

3 Hauntingly Beautiful Georgia Cemeteries

Georgia Cemeteries: Myrtle Hill Cemetery

Myrtle Hill Cemetery. Photo by Sue Rodman, Field Trips with Sue.

As Halloween creeps up on the calendar, our thoughts turn to the spooky. This time of year is perfect for visiting one of Georgia’s many hauntingly beautiful cemeteries. Most are more historic than scary, but there is something about being in a cemetery at Halloween that adds a bit of gooseflesh to the experience. Here are three Georgia cemeteries worth a visit any time of year.

Linwood Cemetery, Columbus: Best known as the burial site of John Pemberton, the founder of Coca-Cola. Linwood offers guided brochures for download and tours on request. Each October, the Historic Linwood Foundation hosts a special guided tour as a fundraiser for the organization.

Myrtle Hill Cemetery, Rome: Myrtle Hill Cemetery sits on top of Myrtle hill at the confluence of the Etowah, Oostanaula and Coosa rivers, and offers one of the best views of downtown Rome, Ga., as well as the Appalachian foothills and Etowah Valley. The cemetery offers a mobile tour that includes text, audio, video and historical photos. The mobile tour is free and can be downloaded to your smartphone.

Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Ga.: Bonaventure Cemetery was made famous in the movie (and book) Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, but if you are looking for the bird girl statue from the book cover, it has been moved to the Telfair Museum. What you will find is the gravesite of songwriter Johnny Mercer, who wrote Moon River. Visit on the second Sunday of each month for free walking tours from the Bonaventure Historical Society. On other days, stop by the Visitors Center for a copy of the Historical Society Guide which gives a history of the property and residents.

For more fall fun, visit the Field Trips with Sue Fall Guide.

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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