Fun Fall Adventures in Blue Ridge

Brilliant blue skies, crisp, cool breezes and forests filled with a dazzling display of autumn-hued leaves: fall is spectacular in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Cooler temperatures make the perfect weather for hiking, camping and backpacking. Chilly nights bring an explosion or red, gold, orange and purple to the forests of the southern Appalachians. There’s no better place to find fall adventure than the mountains, river valleys and tumbling waterfalls near Blue Ridge.

Fantastic fall hikes
One of our favorite ways to enjoy autumn’s beauty is out on the trail. The mountains and forests around Blue Ridge are home to some of the best hiking in the South. 

The Appalachian Trail spans nearly 80 miles on its northbound journey through North Georgia. The iconic trail is one of our favorite destinations for a fall hike, offering many excellent places to view colorful leaves. Hike two miles, round trip, to Springer Mountain, the southernmost end of the Appalachian Trail.  The route climbs through a rocky forest filled with colorful hardwood trees, and offers the chance to catch beautiful views of the mountains near Blue Ridge draped in the gold and russet hues of fall.  Or, for a more challenging route to the Springer summit, follow the Appalachian Trail from Three Forks, climbing from a beautiful creek valley to the mountain’s summit.

Loved for its adrenaline-filled rafting adventures, the Ocoee Whitewater Center offers some great trail adventures, too. Twenty miles of hiking and biking trails wind through the Ocoee River Gorge, offering ample opportunities to enjoy crisp autumn air along the raging river and lofty ridge lines above. 

Waterfalls are plentiful around in the North Georgia Mountains, thanks to the rolling landscape and the region’s abundant rainfall. Our favorite waterfall hikes near Blue Ridge visit the area’s most beautiful falls and offer the perfect spot to enjoy an autumn day in the mountains. 

Blue Ridge Amicalola Falls
Amicalola Falls

A must-see is Georgia’s tallest waterfall, Amicalola Falls. This enormous cascade is a stunning sight any time of year, but particularly so in the fall when framed in brilliantly colored fall leaves. Amicalola is one of Georgia’s most popular state parks, and it’s sure to draw crowds on warm autumn weekends. For the best chance to score a little solitude, visit the falls in the early morning.

Many smaller, but no less exceptional, waterfalls fill the forests surrounding Blue Ridge. Flanked by evergreen rhododendron and hemlock, Helton Creek Falls provides the perfect backdrop to brilliant fall foliage. The short, beginner-friendly trail meanders just over a quarter mile to two stunning cascades. Or, check out secluded Sea Creek Falls and relax next to the tumbling water as colorful fallen leaves swirl in the currents beneath the falls.

After the adventure
Be sure to check out the fantastic restaurants, shops, and galleries in downtown Blue Ridge. The mountain town offers the perfect spot to recharge and refuel after a day out on the trail. The area hosts numerous fall-themed events and activities, too, including apple picking and hayrides at Mercier Orchards, foliage viewing rides on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway and fall music and art festivals.

And plan on staying for a few days, or more. Chilly nights by the campfire at one of the area’s fantastic cabins or campsites are the perfect way to end a day of adventure.

Layering and packing essentials
Autumn in the mountains can bring unpredictable weather and temperature swings throughout the day. Cool, clear mornings can give way to warm afternoons, and rain showers can pop up out of nowhere. Packing for these changing conditions can be a bit tricky. Layering is the secret to staying comfortable on the trail in the fall. 

Pack clothing that can easily be layered throughout the day to stay dry and comfortable. A lightweight base layer, like a performance wicking shirt, helps to manage moisture and keep skin dry and comfortable when the temps rise. A heavier weight mid-layer, like a zippered pullover, offers extra warmth on cool mornings. And for chilly evenings when the sun hangs low on the horizon, a mid-weight coat or rain shell is perfect to top off the layers. 

Always remember to pack hiking essentials like a first aid kit, flashlight and a paper map and compass. Insect repellant and sunscreen are essentials. Even though the temperatures have cooled, it’s important to stay hydrated out on the trail, so be sure to pack plenty of water.  And, when hiking and camping, please remember to pack in everything you pack out to help keep our forests looking beautiful.

About the Author

Eric Champlin
Atlanta Photographer & Creative Director

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