15 Free Things to do in Blue Ridge
Sometimes you just want to get away, but your wallet has other ideas. Don’t let that stop you. With so many free ways to explore in Blue Ridge, you can find excitement and relaxation without spending a dime. Sure, you might get tempted to grab a coffee, snack or a souvenir from one of our great shops but the 15 ideas below will keep your adventure time cash-free.
Project Chimps Hiking Trails
Do you know Blue Ridge is home to a 236-acre sanctuary for 200 research chimpanzees? Our family took a tour to meet the chimps (offered several times throughout the year), but you can see them for free with binoculars along one of the four Project Chimps hiking trails. Regardless of the trail you select, you’ll hear the energetic pant-hoots of the chimps as you hike. Donations are appreciated but not required, and be sure to stop by the visitor center for a map and info about upcoming events.
Walk the Line
You can’t visit Blue Ridge without channeling your inner ‘Johnny Cash’ - you’ve got to walk the line. The blue line, that is! Head to McCaysville, where the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway makes a layover, and walk (or straddle) the blue line painted on the street and sidewalks. On one side is McCaysville, Georgia… and on the other is Copperhill, Tennessee. But don’t just stand in both states… you’ve got to visit both, also. Breweries, shops and outdoor activities abound just over the border.
Keep Blue Ridge Beautiful
There are multiple hiking trails to enjoy when you spend a weekend in Blue Ridge. But before you set off, stop into one of the three visitor centers to pick up a free backpack for your hike. Labeled “Keep Blue Ridge Beautiful” these backpacks are part of the town's "Recreate Responsibly” efforts, offered with the hopes that you'll use them to pack out trash that you find along the trails while hiking.
Enjoy a Waterfall (or Two)
With your backpack ready, where should you venture? To a waterfall, of course! There is nothing as positive for your soul as the negative ion energy coming off falling waters. Fall Branch Falls is a 1-mile round trip hike on the Benton MacKaye Trail, great for beginners and kids. The Long Creek Falls hike is 2-miles round trip along the Appalachian Trail and favored by visitors returning regularly to the area.
Cross a Swinging Bridge
Blue Ridge’s 270-ft long swinging bridge, is the longest swinging bridge this side of the Mississippi, and it’s along a gorgeous hike, to boot. Just a short walk from the parking lot, you can make this a quick stop by walking the bridge and taking in the rushing Toccoa. If you want something more challenging, then continue well over the bridge along the Benton MacKaye Trail for as long as you desire. From the bridge, it is uphill for several miles with no views at the summit, but the thick vegetation, towering trees and mossy understory create a memorable adventure.
Fish the Hatchery
Not too far from the bridge is the Chattahoochee National Fish Hatchery, home to hundreds of thousands of rainbow trout. Just be sure to check the hours, as they are only open weekdays, 8am - 3pm. When you visit, bring your gear, bait and fishing license. Catching a fish here is almost a sure-thing, so it’s a great place to introduce fishing to the kids. You can also check the calendar for group tours, derbies and more. Finally, if fishing is on the agenda (And it should be - Blue Ridge is the trout capital of Georgia, after all!) then check out this Outdoor Adventure Trout Streams and Habitat printable map.
Trout Art Trail
If your kids want to celebrate their fishing win… or they just want to see a larger-than-life trout… then they will love the Trout Art Trail Kids Game.
Print the map, find all seven colorful trout, and capture their names. Bring their completed game to any one of the three visitor centers for a fun prize.
Family Fun Adventure Game
If your kids enjoyed the Trout Trail, then the Adventure Game is a fun follow-up. Either pick up a book and crayons from one of the visitor centers, or download the pages and use your own crayons to color scenes from seven family-fun spots around the county.
Take a Driving Tour
So you’ve decided Fall Branch Falls, Swinging Bridge, and other fun and FREE stops are right for your visit? Try using this Mountains and Countryside Driving Tour map to take you to these and other free stops along the most beautiful route in the county. Here are some of my favorite stops, It also includes a short hike in the Aska Trails area, a stop along the Toccoa, and more.
Explore Lake Blue Ridge Dam
Rivers are not the only water options in the area. Lake Blue Bridge is a gorgeous site, and visiting the dam at Lake Blue Ridge Dam Recreation Area Park is a unique way to view it. At the rec area you can learn about the dam, nosh on your picnic lunch, pull out your fishing pole, or just take in the lake views. It’s also fun to drive down to the base of the dam. You can see where the river comes out at the bottom. And, don’t forget to look behind you - the view back up to the highway you were just on is pretty cool!
Morganton Point Recreation Area
I’m cheating a little here. The Point is technically not free, but it’s so affordable I have to include it. For $5 per car you can see the lake from another perspective. Lounge on the beach, have a picnic, launch a kayak or swim in the lake if the weather is warm enough. The view from the beach is unbelievable.
Hike, Bike, Swim and Picnic at Lake Blue Ridge Recreation Area
We’re not finished sharing all the fun to do at Lake Blue Ridge. Don’t miss the Lake Blue Ridge Day-Use Area with a gated, paved trail boasting great views of the lake. There are no cars here, so it’s a great place to mediate or bring the kids without worry. You will also find a great cove here with grassy areas and picnic tables, and in season you (and Fido) can swim here. Great place to launch your kayak and explore the other coves in the area. Adjacent to the cove is the Lake Loop another trail, (not paved) just under one mile long. It’s great for taking a hike, seeing the lake or setting out a fishing line from the bank.
Relax at a Local Park
With so many parks in the county, you’re bound to find one that meets your needs and invites you to relax. Here are five more we like, and why.
- Horseshoe Bend Park is by far my favorite of them all. You can play in the water, skip rocks, or enjoy a picnic and see the train rush by. Thursday nights about 6pm May - September you’ll want to bring your chairs or a blanket for live Bluegrass music.
- Tammen Park is also on the Toccoa. It’s a little smaller than Horseshoe Bend, and includes a kayak and canoe launch, plus a great fishing dock.
- Downtown Blue Ridge City Park is smack in the middle of town. It has picnic tables with grills and a sweet playground area. This was my favorite stop when the kids were younger because taking a breather here with them meant we were able to extend our tour of the shops and galleries in Downtown just a few hours longer.
- Fannin County Recreation Park is used most notably by the locals for athletic programs and camps, but even if you’re just in town for a weekend you’ll enjoy the bike paths and indoor pickleball court.
Fish at Mercier's Ponds
Pack your fishing pole and head to Mercier Orchards catch-and-release pond. The kids will love the fishing (no license required since this is private property,) and you’ll love the amazing views. If not fishing you can stroll the trails around the ponds. Additionally, on weekends you're free to walk the orchard and see the apple trees in season. Don’t miss stopping into the market. Tastings, market items and the cafe are not free, of course, but you’re bound to find an affordable souvenir here!
Visit The Zoo - The Groovy Zoo
Lions, tigers and bears - oh my! But not the usual sort. The Groovy Zoo is a fun metal-art animal installation just outside Blue Ridge. These “pets” are for sale, but it is free to roam the 7 acres or let the kids play on the playground. Don’t forget to take a selfie with the 19-ft tall colorful giraffe …or the fire-breathing dragon!
Whether you’re hiking, enjoying a picnic, or driving the countryside, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to enjoy all that Blue Ridge offers.