Chill Out & Cool Off in Blue Ridge
By Guest Blogger Eric Champlin
Filled with cool creek valleys, chilly rivers and lakes, and misty waterfalls, North Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains are the perfect place to find summer adventures. It’s no secret that Georgia’s summer months can be stifling. But when the temperatures begin to skyrocket and the humidity settles in, there’s nothing we love more than heading to our favorite spots near Blue Ridge to beat the heat and catch a cool breeze in the mountains. The town and the surrounding mountains offer nearly endless opportunities for exploration and adventure, from paddle boarding on Lake Blue Ridge, to whitewater rafting on the Occoee River and splashing through cool creek trails in the nearby Cohutta Wilderness.
And what’s more iconic of summertime in Georgia than an ice-cold drink on a cabin porch after a great outdoor adventure?
Before you go
Wherever your summertime adventures take you, please remember to pack out everything you pack in to help keep our favorite places beautiful. Before you head outside, it’s important to stay hydrated when the temperatures climb, so be sure to pack plenty of water. And don’t forget the sunscreen and bug spray!
Chill out on the water
The mountains surrounding Blue Ridge are home to some of Georgia’s most beautiful streams, rivers, and lakes. The rippling waters of Lake Blue Ridge cover more than 3,000 acres, and the lake offers many miles of shoreline and coves perfect for swimming, paddling, picnicking, and boating. One of our favorite ways to enjoy the calm waters of the lake is by Stand-Up Paddle Board (SUP). It’s a great workout and a whole lot of fun, and it lets us explore parts of the lake we’d never see from shore or from a motorized boat. If you’re new to SUP and don’t own a board, several outfitters in and around Blue Ridge rent boards and equipment.
The cool, crystal-clear flow of the Toccoa River is a favorite spot for trout fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and river tubing. The Toccoa River Canoe Trail explores a few shallow rapids, gorgeous scenery, and wildlife habitats along a scenic 13.8-mile stretch of the Toccoa. A number of local outfitters offer kayak and canoe rentals, as well as guided trips. Or for the ultimate in laid-back fun, grab a few friends, sunscreen, and a cooler, and kick back on a leisurely float on the Toccoa on a river tube.
For an adrenaline-filled adventure that’s sure to be a wet, wild ride, raft the whitewater of the Ocoee River through the 1996 Olympic Games whitewater course. Multiple rafting companies offer daily trips down the river through some of the most exciting class III & IV rapids around. The Ocoee Whitewater Center also features miles of hiking and biking trails as well as a 330-foot suspension bridge, the perfect spot to watch all the action on the river below.
Cool off in the forest
Blue Ridge is nestled in the center of some of the best hiking spots in Georgia. One of our favorite ways to hit the trail in the summertime is on a hike through the many waterfall-filled creek valleys in the area. North Georgia’s streams and creeks remain surprisingly cool even in the hottest months, and its lush and leafy tree canopies offer shade from the summer sun. For the coolest adventures, we hit the trail in the early morning before the temperatures rise. And morning adventures are filled with golden light and colorful sunrise vistas, too – the makings of some great trail photography.
Follow a stretch of the Benton MacKaye Trail to the crystalline waters of the Toccoa River and cross the river on the Toccoa River Swinging Bridge, the longest suspension bridge east of the Mississippi River. Or follow the short, family-friendly hike to Helton Creek Falls, a gorgeous double-tiered waterfall set in a cool, rocky cove. It’s not a long hike, but the duo of waterfalls on Helton Creek pack a whole lot of North Georgia beauty into a short distance.
Another favorite hike follows a scenic section of the famous Appalachian Trail through a shady forest along a tumbling and spilling creek. Though the highlight of this hike is the tumbling cascade of Long Creek Falls, the journey to the falls is equally as beautiful, with multiple small waterfalls and lots of mossy, rhododendron-filled forest along the way. And there’s plenty of space around the base of the falls to relax or enjoy a picnic before the hike back to the trailhead.
Looking for something a little more challenging? The Cohutta Wilderness is one of our favorite areas to explore on hot summer days. This pristine wilderness area is the largest east of the Mississippi River, and it’s filled with clear-flowing rivers, towering forests, and thundering waterfalls. Follow the Conasauga River Trail through a pristine forest, and then plunge through river crossing after river crossing as the trail winds along its namesake river. It’s a fun, challenging, and wet adventure that seems to pair perfectly with Georgia’s dog days of summer.