“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going homes; that wilderness is a necessity…” – John Muir
My happy place is in the mountains of North Georgia/Western North Carolina. The area is so unique because you are on the border of Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Just a short drive can take you to so many different and unique places. Since our family has been going almost every year for as long as I can remember, I have rounded up some of the must see places in this beautiful region!
1. Nantahala River
Located outside Bryson City, North Carolina, the Nantahala River is great for white water rafting, zip lining and hiking. We have been white water rafting here several times and the rapids are mild but can be a little tricky (we have had a few riders bounce out of the rafts). More info about the Nantahala River can be found here: https://noc.com/plan-your-trip/nantahala-river
2. Andy’s Trout Farm
Andy’s Trout Farm is a fun little day trip for families. My grandfather took us here when we were very young, and repeated the trip for my son’s 3rd birthday this year. Lots of special memories in this picturesque place. They have several fully stocked trout ponds and even a place to get married! Andy’s is in Otto, North Carolina and you can find out more info here: https://www.andystroutfarm.com
3. Wayah Bald
Wayah Bald is a high-altitude treeless open area in Nantahala National Forest, near Franklin, North Carolina. The Wayah Bald Observation Tower is located at the area’s highest point (5,385 feet) and the was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937 for fire detection. The Appalachian Trail and Bartram Trail cross at Wayah Bald. It is a short easy walk to the tower and the view is absolutely breath-taking and is always a must-see for us.
4. Goats on the Roof
Real talk, I love goats. Goats on the Roof in Tiger, Georgia is a fun family stop to feed some goats, eat some nitro homemade ice cream and do a little shopping. Check them out here: http://www.goats-on-the-roof.com
5. Lake Rabun
While we have never stayed on the lake, we have gone there several times. Lake Rabun in Lakemont, Georgia is a beautiful lake with some beautiful houses. There are hotels, rental houses and restaurants around the lake and it is very close to a bunch of other great attractions.
6. Clayton, Georgia
Clayton is usually the closest town to us when we stay in the mountains. It is full of cute little shops, restaurants and bars. The town has gotten decidedly more hip in the last 10 years or so. We always have a good time in Clayton.
7. Helen, Georgia
Helen, GA is a really unique town that is a must-see in Georgia. Located on the Chattahoochee River, Helen is a Bavarian Village in the Georgia mountains. It is a lot of fun when decorated for Christmas or to explore in summer. You can even grab an inner-tube and float right through town on the river!
8. 12 Spies Vineyard
While Georgia isn’t necessarily known for its wineries, 12 spies Vineyards is a little taste of the west coast in Georgia. Located in Rabun County, 12 spies has some uniquely southern and delicious wines. Some of my favorites are the Muscadine Wine and Front Porch Peach.
9. Highlands, NC
In addition to a multitude of outdoor activities in the surrounding Nantahala National Forest, Highlands boasts exquisite restaurants, fabulous shopping and a great cultural arts scene. The “postcard” downtown offers plenty of art galleries, antique stores and upscale boutiques. Five of the restaurants have been awarded the coveted Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. In the middle of downtown Highlands is Old Edwards Inn and Spa, a resort consisting of the historic main building, a full-service European–style spa, Madison’s Restaurant and Wine Garden.
10. Secret Falls
Just 6.5 miles from busy downtown Highlands is this hidden oasis that is definitely a secret to many. Secret Falls (also known as Big Shoals Falls) is a gorgeous 50-ft. waterfall on Big Creek that cascades into a serene pool. We had a lot of fun playing in the water at the bottom of the falls.
It’s a moderately easy half-mile hike, but there are no signs to the parking area. So, this remote area is mostly visited by locals. There’s one lone stake in the small parking area at the start of the trail that says “Secret Falls.”
11. Minnehaha Falls
Located on Lake Rabu, Minnehaha Falls is a short, easy hike to a beautiful, towering waterfall.
12. Anna Ruby Falls
Anna Ruby Falls is a beautiful and rare double waterfall. Located near Unicoi State Park and Helen, GA, it is a fantastic kid-friendly, stroller-friendly and dog-friendly hike (I have even done the hike while pregnant!).
13. Tallulah Gorge
Tallulah Gorge is one of the 7 wonders of Georgia, and there is a reason why! The gorge is approximately 2 miles long and features rocky cliffs up to 1,000 feet high. Through it, a series of falls known as Tallulah Falls drop a total of 490 ft in one mile. There are 6 separate waterfalls to hike through and a suspension bridge! While it is a tough hike, it is certainly worth it.
14. Chattooga River
The Chattooga River has quickly become one of our favorite places to hang out. It is a very short drive from Clayton and is short easy hike down. There are two separate parts of the river and both are very cool. The top part is fast moving and has lots of rapids (and rafters!). The bottom part of the river is very slow moving and is almost like a beach with its sandy shoreline. Our son loves playing in the shallow water and we spend hours hanging out!
These are just a few of my favorite places in the North Georgia mountains. Let me know what places you love and which ones I am missing!