Top 24 Forests to Visit Near Blue Ridge
Here are some of the best forests to explore during your trip to Blue Ridge.
1. Amicalola Falls State Park
The word Amicalola comes from a Cherokee Indian word meaning “falling waters.” These popular 729-foot falls are the tallest east of the Mississippi River. An eight-mile approach trail also leads from the park to Springer Mountain, the southern end of the Appalachian Trail. Directions: From Blue Ridge, take Hwy 515 to Hwy 52 outside of Ellijay. Follow Hwy 52 to the left fork toward Dahlonega. For more information, call 706-265-4703.
2. Cooper Creek Recreation Area
Adjoining the 1,240 acre Cooper Creek Scenic Area, the Cooper Creek area features hiking trails, camping, picnic areas and beautiful Cooper Creek and its tributaries, stocked with trout. Camping is available at the Cooper Creek Recreation Area and Mulky Campground. Directions: From Morganton, follow Georgia 60 south toward Dahlonega for 17.7 miles; turn left on Forest Service Road 4 for 5.7 miles. For more information, call 706-632-3031.
3. Chattahoochee National Fish Hatchery
Built in 1937 by the U.S. Forest Service, the fish hatchery is managed today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The station produces one million trout each year, which are stocked into tailwaters, streams and lakes of North Georgia. Tour the hatchery, fish in Rock Creek or picnic in public areas. Camping is available near by at Frank Gross Campground and the Deep Hole Recreation Area, operated by the Toccoa Ranger District, 706-632-3031. Directions: Take Georgia 60 south from Morganton for 15 miles. Turn right on Forest Service Road 69 to the hatchery. For more information, call 706-838-4723.
4. Morganton Point Recreation Area
On Lake Blue Ridge, this area offers campsites adjacent to the lake shore, camping, picnicking, hiking, swimming, boating and fishing. Directions: Take U.S. 515 south from Blue Ridge for 4 miles to GA 60. Turn right and go 3 miles to Morganton. For more information, call 706-632-3031.
5. Aska Trails
The Aska Trails Area is a 17-mile hiking-mountain biking trail system on Aska Road in Blue Ridge. Trails range in length from 1 to 5.5 miles and are open year round. The trails ascend to 3,200 feet, providing vistas of mountain ridges, and descend to the shores of Lake Blue Ridge. Two trails cross mountain streams, providing a range of forested settings. Directions: The main trailhead location is at Deep Gap; other trailheads are at Stanley Gap, Shady Falls Road, and on Forest Road 711/Campbell Camp Road. From McDonalds in Blue Ridge, go north on Highway 515 to Windy Ridge Road. Turn right on Windy Ridge to the dead end at Old Highway 76. Turn left on 76, then go .2 miles to Aska Road on the right.
6. Cohutta Wildlife Management Area
Recommended for seasoned backpackers and fishermen, the Cohutta Wildlife Management Area (WMA) encompasses 95,000 acres, 40,000 of which are in Fannin County. The Cohutta Wilderness is the largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi River. The highest peaks rise to 4,000 feet. There are 26 trails totaling 127 miles and the pristine trout waters of the Jacks and Conasauga Rivers. For directions and more information about access to the Cohuttas, contact the Cohutta Ranger District at 706-695-6736. Or see the Chamber’s Self-Driving Tour #2, A Ride to the Cohutta Wilderness.
7. Fort Mountain State Park
Named for a mysterious 855-foot rock wall on top of the mountain, this state park offers 30+ miles of trails, camping, cottages, a lake with swimming beach, boat rentals, mini-golf, horseback riding and picnicking. Located 8 miles east of Chatsworth via Ga. Hwy 52. For information, call 706-695-2621.
8. Lake Conasauga Recreation Area
Managed by the Forest Service, this beautiful recreation area is located within the Cohutta Wildlife Management Area and features the highest lake in Georgia. The area offers camping, fishing, swimming, boating, picknicking and hiking. See the Chamber’s Self-Driving Tour #2 for directions from Fannin County, or call 706-695-6736 for directions and information.
9. Vogel State Park
One of Georgia’s most popular state parks, Vogel is located 11 miles south of Blairsville via U.S. Hwy 19-129. Driving from the south, visitors pass through Neel Gap, a beautiful mountain pass near Brasstown Bald. The 233 acre facility features hiking and backpacking, fishing, swimming, pedal boat rental, miniature golf, camping and cottages. For information, call 706-745-2628.
10. Blood Mountain
Walasi-Yi Center – The Walasi-Yi crossing on Blood Mountain provides hostel services and outfitting to through hikers on the Appalachian Trail. The gift shop features local art and pottery. Located south of Blairsville via Hwy 19-129. For more information, call 706-745-6095.
11. Brasstown Bald
Georgia’s highest mountain offers a Visitor Information Center and panoramic view of four states. Also featured are exhibits, video presentations, hiking and picnicking. From Blairsville, take U.S. 19/129 south for 8 miles. Turn left onto Georgia 180. Go 9 miles to Georgia 180 Spur and turn left. Go 3 more miles to the Brasstown Bald parking lot. For information, call 706-896-3471.
12. Russell/Brasstown Scenic Byway
The Russell/Brasstown Scenic Byway offers beautiful views of the Chattahoochee National Forest on this 40-mile drive. See the twin waterfalls at Anna Ruby Falls, climb to the top of Brasstown Bald or picnic at Unicoi State Park. From Blue Ridge, go to Blairsville on Highway 515. In Blairsville, take Hwy 129 south to Hwy 180, which forms a loop with Hwy 75 and 348.
13. Mocassin Creek State Park
Mocccasin Creek is located on the shores of 2,800-acre Lake Burton. A fishing pier is perched above a trout-filled creek open only to physically challenged visitors, senior citizens and children. Facilities include camping sites, boat dock and ramp, playground and picnic shelter. From Blue Ridge, take Highway 515 through Blairsville, Young Harris and Hiawassee toward Clayton. Turn right on GA Hwy 197 west of Lake Burton. For more information, call 706-947-3194.
14. Unicoi State Park
Unicoi is located two miles from the Alpine village of Helen. It is a 1,050 acre facility offering camping, cottages and lodge accommodations, a 53-acre lake and beach, tennis courts and picnic shelters. Activities include hiking, mountain biking, fishing, swimming, canoe and pedal boating. The park is located 2 miles northeast of Helen via GA Hwy. 356. From Blue Ridge, take Highway 515/76 to Hiawassee, then GA Hwy 75 south to Helen. For more information, call 706-878-3983.
Cherokee National Forest
15. Big Frog Wilderness
North of the Cohutta Wilderness is the Big Frog Wilderness, an 8,055 acre preserve in Tennessee. Within the wilderness are Big Frog Mountain, hiking trails, Tumbling Creek Campground and Ocoee River access. For directions and more information, contact the Ocoee/Hiwassee Ranger District at (423) 338-5201.
16. Ocoee Whitewater Center
Located on Hwy 64 north of McCaysville, the Ocoee Whitewater Center was built by the U.S. Forest Service for the 1996 Olympic Canoe/Kayak/Slalom events. The information center displays legacy items from the Olympics. There are hiking trails, swimming holes, picnic areas, a native garden, gift shop and more. For information call (423) 496-5197.
17. Ocoee Scenic Byway
Follow the nation’s first National Forest Scenic Byway as it winds alongside the Ocoee River, past the Ocoee Flume Line and Powerhouses. The byway follows Hwy 64 between Ducktown and Cleveland, Tennessee.
18. Cherohala Skyway
Travelers on this National Scenic Byway encounter panoramic views as they round the tops of peaks in the Cherokee and Nantahala Forests. The byway begins at Tellico Plains, Tennessee and follows Hwy 165 to Robbinsville, N.C.
19. Nantahala River Gorge
The 8.5 mile section of the Nantahala River between Beechertown and Wesser, N.C. is a nationally recognized world-class whitewater river. The river attracts 200,000 people annually. Rafting is available through several rafting companies in the Blue Ridge area, including the Nantahala Outdoor Center, Rolling Thunder River Company and Wildwater, Ltd.
20. Hanging Dog Recreation Area
Located on Hiwassee Lake, the recreation area has a campground with 68 campsites, picnic area, hiking trails and a boat launch. Hiwassee Lake has 180 miles of shoreline and is a popular place for fishing, boating and water skiing. From Murphy, N.C., travel 5 miles on SR 1326.
21. Jack Rabbit Mountain Recreation Area
Located on a peninsula on Chatuge Lake, the recreation area offers 200 camp sites, swimming beach, showers, hiking trails, picnic areas and boat launch. Jack Rabbit is located south of U.S. 64 between Hayesville and Shooting Creek, N.C.
22. Upper Tellico Off-Highway Vehicle Area
Upper Tellico’s 8,000 acres offer 40 miles of trails for four-wheeling. Most trails are open to all types of off-highway vehicles. Many are rough and challenging. Upper Tellico is on the Tennessee state line 13 miles north of Murphy, N.C.
23. Joyce Kilmer National Forest
One of the most impressive old-growth forests in the country, featuring 100+ tree species, some over 400 years old.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
24. Cherokee, N.C.
Blue Ridge Parkway – The 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway begins in Cherokee, N.C., home of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee. The Parkway follows the mountains from the Great Smokies to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.
From Blue Ridge, take Hwy 60-Spur to Murphy. In Murphy follow Hwy 74 through Andrews and the Nantahala Gorge to Cherokee.