Blue Ridge Spring Adventures
By Guest Blogger Eric Champlin
Springtime Adventures near Blue Ridge
Springtime in the mountains of North Georgia: it’s simply magical. As longer days approach and temperatures warm, the forests come alive shedding the last remains of winter’s chill. New life springs from the forest floor as ferns and wildflowers stretch towards the warm sunshine. Creeks, rivers, and waterfalls, fed by abundant spring rains, babble over rocky river beds and tumble over cascading falls. Trees unfurl tender pale green leaves, and plump buds of flowering shrubs pop open revealing a dazzling display of colorful blooms.
The mountains throughout Fannin County are home to lush forests filled with wildflowers, flowering shrubs, and spectacular waterfalls just begging for exploration. And the picturesque mountain town of Blue Ridge makes the perfect home base for a weekend (or a week!) of outdoor adventure framed in the vibrant hues of spring green.
Spring in full bloom
Spring brings a plethora of wildflowers to the mountains, but few are more coveted than the trillium. Georgia is home to twenty-two native species of trillium, with flower colors in shades of white, pink, purple, burgundy, and yellow. These ephemeral beauties bloom in April and May, and then quickly disappear as the heat of summer rises. Trilliums are easy to identify in the wild: they feature sets of three leaves, three sepals, and three petals, with either upright or nodding flower heads. Look for trilliums in shady hardwood forests and sun-dappled woodlands. In the right conditions, trilliums carpet the forest floor by the millions and stretch as far as the eye can see.
The mayapple is another early spring wildflower favorite in Georgia’s mountains. These leafy plants spread by underground rhizomes and form large masses in the wild. Mayapple is easy to spot by its large deeply lobed leaves that look like small umbrellas. Creamy white bell-shaped flowers appear in May, and hang underneath the leaves, almost hidden from view. Yellow fruit develops later in the summer. Like trilliums, Mayapples also favor shady locations and can be found growing throughout the forest.
Spring in the South wouldn’t be spring without the pastel petals of rhododendron and mountain laurel. Both plants are prolific throughout the North Georgia mountains and put on a late-spring show in May and June. These hardy, leathery-leafed shrubs form dense tunnels over many trails and paths, and fill the forest with blooms of creamy white and light pastel pink.
The Blue Ridge area is the perfect location for enjoying spring blooms, and the easiest way to get a look at these beauties is on the trail. Explore the start of the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain (https://www.atlantatrails.com/springer-mountain/ ), following this iconic trail through a rocky forest filled with spring wildflowers, blooming rhododendron, and mountain laurel as it drops to the lush trout valley at Three Forks. Or wander the miles of shady trails at the Aska Adventure Area (https://www.blueridgemountains.com/things-to-do/outdoors/hiking/aska-trails/ ) where the hardwood forest provides the ideal habitat for trillium, mayapple, rhododendron, and mountain laurel. Visit the Toccoa Swinging Bridge (https://www.blueridgemountains.com/things-to-do/outdoors/hiking/swinging-bridge/), a popular adventure on the Benton MacKaye Trail, to hike through a forest speckled with springtime wildflowers and mountain laurel, and then explore the long swinging suspension bridge crossing the Toccoa River.
Up for chasing waterfalls?
Spring showers not only bring abundant wildflowers, but also keep the stream, rivers, and waterfalls full and flowing. There’s nothing more relaxing than the soothing sounds of rushing water, and the Blue Ridge area’s rolling landscape is filled with shady creek valleys and tumbling waterfalls. Pack a picnic basket, grab a blanket, and head out on a spring adventure to one of the many spectacular waterfalls near Blue Ridge.
Hike the Benton MacKaye Trail along a crystalline trout steam through shady, mossy forest to the base of Fall Branch Falls (https://www.blueridgemountains.com/directory/fall-branch-falls/). It’s a short, family-friendly adventure that packs a whole lot of beauty into a relatively easy hike. Explore another favorite, Long Creek Falls (https://www.blueridgemountains.com/directory/long-creek-falls/), to hike a scenic section of the Appalachian Trail through a lush stream valley at Three Forks. A large open clearing at the base of the falls is the perfect spot to sit, enjoy the rushing water, and grab a mid-hike snack or picnic.
No trip to the Blue Ridge area would be complete without a visit to our state’s tallest waterfall. Amicalola Falls (https://www.blueridgemountains.com/directory/amicalola-falls/ ) tumbles and spills more than 700-feet over mossy boulders framed in vibrant shades of spring green and colorful wildflower blooms. Grab long-range mountain views from the top of the falls before descending a series of stairs and bridges for close up views of the falls on the way down.
Up for a more challenging adventure? Visit the thundering, rocky cascades of Jacks River Falls (https://www.blueridgemountains.com/directory/jacks-river-falls/) deep in the pristine Cohutta Wilderness. Arguably one of the most stunning waterfalls in Georgia, Jacks River Falls is also one of the most remote. And while the waterfall is the hike’s highlight, the trek there is equally as beautiful, exploring a lush forest ripe with wildflowers and blooming laurel.