Winter Adventures near Blue Ridge

Here's a plan for outdoor winter adventures by guest blogger Eric Champlin of Atlanta Trails.

The temperatures have grown frosty. Brilliant fall foliage is a recent memory. But don’t pack away the hiking boots and camping gear just yet!

Winter can be one of the most exciting and enjoyable seasons to get outside and explore the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Georgia. Vistas open wider once trees lose their leaves. Light snow dustings change the look of familiar landscapes. Delicate layers of ice sparkle over evergreen branches and icicles drip from waterfalls. If you haven’t explored the mountains near Blue Ridge in the wintertime, you’re certainly in for a treat.

Our Favorite Wintertime Hikes

Climb to the official beginning of the famous Appalachian Trail (AT) on the Approach Trail. The hike begins at the summit of Amicalola Falls, offering stunning views from Georgia’s tallest waterfall. Following blue trail blazes, the hike explores a beautiful forest before reaching the southernmost end of the AT. The Springer Mountain vistas are beautiful during wintertime, with bare trees revealing views usually hidden during leafy warm weather seasons.  It's a fantastic long day hike–or, an equally great overnight backpacking adventure. Multiple campsites on the route and near Springer’s summit offer great options for an overnight stay.

For an ultra-unique wintertime experience, plan a stay at the Len Foote Hike Inn near Springer Mountain. The rustic-modern eco retreat is accessible only by hike, and it offers hot showers, delicious meals and comfy beds. To access the Inn, follow the Hike Inn Trail from Amicalola Falls. It’s a fantastic experience year-round, but simply magical if you’re lucky enough to stay during a snowfall.

Beginning its long-distance trek from the summit of Springer Mountain, the Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT) travels 300-miles through Fannin County, the Cohutta Wilderness and into the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Multiple trailheads near Blue Ridge offer access to the BMT and visit some of the area’s most popular adventures, including the Toccoa River Swinging Bridge and Fall Branch Falls.

Another wintertime favorite along the Benton MacKaye Trail hikes to Hemp Top Mountain, one of the highest points in the Cohutta Wilderness. The trail offers beautiful through-the-tree views of the Cohutta Mountains that open wider once the leaves drop.

Benton Falls

Wonderful Winter Waterfalls

Waterfalls can be simply breathtaking once temperatures plummet below freezing. Icicles hang from rock ledges, catching the winter light and sparkling like tiny crystals. When breezes blow, a waterfall’s mist covers nearby plants and boulders in a delicate white layer of ice. The foothills and mountains around Blue Ridge are full of stunning winter waterfalls just waiting for wintertime exploration.

Hike to the rushing cascades of Turtletown Falls across the Georgia border in Tennessee. The trail loops through a scenic section of the Cherokee National Forest to visit two stunning waterfalls, catching wintertime views of the Hiawassee River through leafless trees. Or,
visit Benton Falls, also in nearby Tennessee, to explore the cascade's dramatic 60-foot drop.

A Perfect Ending to a Day of Adventure

After the adventure, head back to Blue Ridge and warm up with a cup of hot cocoa or coffee at Das Kaffee House. Or, grab lunch or dinner at any of the fantastic restaurants after browsing through the shops and stores in town. Blue Ridge hosts dozens of events, festivals and concerts
throughout the winter season that are sure to warm you up after a chilly day on the trail.

With so much to do, see and explore, why not stay a while? Curl up in front of a cozy fireplace at one of the area’s comfy cabins or relax at a campsite and spend the night under the stars beside a crackling campfire.  There’s nothing more magical than waking up the next morning to chase another adventure, and drinking coffee with views of mountaintops covered in snow.

About the Author

Eric Champlin
Atlanta Photographer & Creative Director

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