North Georgia Mountains refers not to a mountain range but a region where the Blue Ridge Mountains meet the Appalachian Mountains along the state’s northern border with North Carolina and Tennessee. Much of the region makes up the 750,000-acre Chattahoochee National Forest, home to more than 500 wildlife species, and a popular recreation area with 530 miles of trails.
The North Georgia Mountains are rich with local history and culture, spanning thousands of years that predate the arrival of Europeans. When explorers came to the area now known as Rabun County in 1760, the Cherokee population was so vast that many settlers referred to the area as the Cherokee Mountains. In 1828, thousands flocked to the area when Dahlonega became the site of the first major U.S. gold rush, which lasted nearly 20 years. The town of Helen was thrived as an exporter of timber, but it fell into economic decline in the ‘60s. That was when city planners and a local artist decided to retool the town as a Bavarian Village. Their efforts were successful and today Helen is a thriving tourist destination.
Located in Pickens County, Tate was originally called Marble Works because of its role in the manufacturing of building granite and marble. In 1880 it was renamed after Georgia Marble Co. president Samuel Tate.
Why You Should Go
The main reason folks in Atlanta flock to the North Georgia Mountains every weekend is to find respite in the majestic beauty and cool, quiet calm found in this heavily forested landscape of peaks and valleys. Recreational activities abound, whether you’re into swimming, hiking, fishing, camping, kayaking, horseback riding or spelunking. But luxury accommodations, fine dining and antiques shopping can be found, too.
* Dahlonega: If you like to explore underground then Consolidated Gold Mines, the site of the largest hard rock Gold Mine East of the Mississippi River, might just be what you’re looking for. Open seven days a week, operators offer guided tours of the mine and the chance to pan for gold or mine for gems.
- Jasper: Here’s one step back in time that’s fun for the whole family! The Seventy-Four Ranch in Jasper offers an old West ranch experience featuring campfires, trail rides, cookouts, fishing, cowboys, cattle and more. Accommodations are provided in the Butler Cape House Bed and Breakfast and a Cowboy Cabin.
- Helen: Weekend visitors from Atlanta often make their way to Helen, even when it’s not Oktoberfest. The town hosts the event throughout the fall, as well as many other events and festivals throughout the year and the opportunity to sample delicious German cuisine year-round.
- Tate: Built by Sam Tate in 1926, The Tate House is listed as the Pink Palace in the National Register of Historic Places. It was 1920 when Tate noticed the rare Etowah Pink Marble that came from the quarry on his property. He set the matching pieces aside, which eventually led to the construction of the massive marble home. The last member of the family left the house in 1955 and it sat, abandoned, until 1974, when it was purchased by Ann Laird, who spent 10 years restoring it. Today the home is available as an event facility. For private tours, call 770-735-3122.
- Tallulah Gorge – At the beginning of the 20th century, Tallulah Falls was a bustling resort town that drew thousands of visitors to it’s 17 hotels and boarding houses. Known as the "Niagara of the South" and one of the most spectacular canyons in the eastern U.S., Tallulah Gorge is two miles long and nearly 1,000 feet deep. Visitors can hike rim trails to several overlooks, or they can obtain a permit to hike to the gorge floor. A suspension bridge sways 80 feet above the rocky bottom, providing spectacular views of the river and six cascading waterfalls.
How to Get There
Depending on what part of the North Georgia Mountains, you’ll want to head north on I-575, I-985 or Ga. 400. From Atlanta you can get just about anywhere in the region within two hours.
Links of interest
- Tourist Board: www.ngeorgia.com/travel/
- Hotel/Motel: www.georgiagetaway.com/motels.shtml
- Dining: www.georgiagetaway.com/restaurants.shtml
- Rabun County: www.explorerabun.com