5 Favorite Fall Stops Along the Mountains and Countryside Driving Tour
Crisp air and turning leaves - there is no better time of the year to head to Blue Ridge than in the Fall.
The Mountains and Countryside Driving Tour is the ideal way to see some of our favorite outdoor stops, while taking in the gems of Autumn. Download the map, print our notes below, grab your favorite hoodie and take a daytrip adventure to celebrate the season.
BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY
You’ll begin your drive right off Hwy 515, taking a few small turns to reach Aska Road, which you’ll follow for the first half of the journey.
If you’re starting really early or you won’t be hiking today, detour off Weaver Creek Rd or Snake Nation Road (named by the Cherokee Indians well before the Trail of Tears) for views of pastoral valleys, old churches, farms and more…otherwise make a note to visit them on your next Blue Ridge weekend.
TAKE A SHORT FOREST HIKE
About 4 miles into your drive you’ll come to the Deep Gap Aska Trail area. Pull over to marvel from the 2200 ft of elevation that offers a view of Springer Mountain, where the Appalachian Trail begins.
Our first stop is a great hiking opportunity to add to your day trip. Head about .4 miles down from Deep Gap, then take a left onto Shady Falls Road. Here you can hike the Long Branch Loop Trail, a 2.1 mile easy loop, ideal for a bit of forest bathing. (Find more hikes here.)
FEEL THE RIVER’S POWER
Back in the car and onto Aska Road, your next stop is about 3 miles down. This pull-over, known to the locals as Toccoa River Rapids, offers a chance to get a good look at the Toccoa River, one of Georgia’s most pristine trout streams.
It’s a popular spot to view the rapids and will likely include a fisherman or two, as the Toccoa is favorite trout stream for serious fly fishermen. Unusually, the river flows northward into Tennessee, and it’s there that it becomes the Ocoee River, site of the 1996 Olympic whitewater kayak competition.
THE PERFECT SNACK
Another mile down the road you’ll come to Iron Bridge Cafe. Park here, but before you head in for lunch, walk across the street for a closer view of Shallowford Bridge. This historic one-lane bridge was built in 1920 and is one of the last of its kind.
Got your selfie? Great…back to Iron Bridge Cafe for lunch. You can’t beat the specials here, and there is always a delicious, sweet treat to indulge in - from cupcakes to Bundt cake.
For the next 9 miles or so, you’ll drive by several interesting historic sites. Take note of Toccoa Valley Campground, where you must return in Summer for sensational tubing action - it was also the beginning of the Dial Community, originally settled in 1834.
You’ll see the VanZandt House, an original pioneer home. The house was built around the original log cabin in 1834. And less than a half-mile from there is the Cochran-Davenport House - or the “fancy” house with gingerbread details that Cochran built lovingly for his wife, Sarah VanZandt.
As you continue, look for the Chastain House surrounded by 100-year old boxwoods brought from North Carolina by Chastain’s wife, Mary. And see the Old Skeenah Mill, from 1839, where the VanZandts, Cochrans, Chastains and more most likely exchanged family news and chatted about the weather as they waited for their corn to be ground. It was the town’s original “social media” location.
SUSPENDED OVER THE RIVER
Don’t skip the side trip to Swinging Bridge. The bridge is a 260-foot suspension bridge built by the US Forest Service. Park at the berm and hike into the bridge, which only takes about five minutes. Walk the bridge, feel the breeze from the rushing Toccoa, and take in the towering hardwoods certain to be showing their colors.
CHEERS TO A FANTASTIC DAY TRIP ADVENTURE
As you leave the Swinging Bridge, turn left on Highway 60 for about 7.5 miles to enjoy a side visit to Serenberry Vineyards. This fourth-generation family farm includes a 1920s barn, which now stands as a Tasting Room for the vineyards and farm winery.
After your tasting, head back to Hwy 515 through Morganton, where you can see beautiful Lake Blue Ridge. Be sure to take a drive over the dam. It’s one of the largest earth dams in North America, built in 1930. If the sun is shining, you’ll likely see paddleboarders or kayakers in the water below.
The Mountains and Countryside Driving Tour is just one of several self-guided tours available on the Blue Ridge website. Find the library and make plans for your next Blue Ridge escape.
Related Stories & Events
Iron Bridge General Store & Café
8436 Aska Rd. Blue Ridge, GA 30513 (706) 632-4700 Website