The changing of the leaves in autumn is a much-anticipated Georgia tradition. Leaf peepers head out to hike and catch these beauties at state parks and historic landmarks. But for those who aren't as hardy or adventurous, autumn can be your time, too! There are so many ways to enjoy Georgia's leaves changing that don't require you to leave the car. And it isn't just for the lazy folks among us. It's for people who have limited mobility and would really enjoy a lavish display of Mother Nature's finest. And if you don't have to plan a big hike, you're more likely to stop and enjoy the leaves where you can find them in the region. Here are places you can see the leaves change in Georgia without leaving the car:
3085 Black Rock Mountain Parkway, Mountain City, Georgia. 706-746-2141.
Rabun County's Black Rock Mountain State Park has lots of hikes and camping for those who want to enjoy the changing leaves in Georgia up close and personal. But you can also drive through the park, pull onto one of its roadside overlooks, roll down the window and prepare to be stunned by the view. This is the Blue Ridge Mountains at its autumn best.
143 Highway 17, Sautee Nacoochee. 706-878-1077.
The farm itself is plenty picturesque in any season, and you can enjoy guided tours of the Nichols-Hunnicut-Hardman Mansion and interactive pioneer activities if you visit there. But the lure for those who want to see Georgia leaves change is the road between the visitors center and the mansion. It's part of the historic Unicoi Turnpike and it's popping with gorgeous fall color.
5845 HWY 2, Dalton. 706-694-6455.
Forget pumpkin spice, this is the stuff autumn dreams are made of. Views along the 54 miles of this scenic byway make up for all the stifling heat and dreary winter rains that Georgia throws at you the rest of the year. The drive will take you through Chattahoochee National Forest and some movie-set tiny towns draped in autumn colors. You'll also pass Fort Mountain State Park en route to a mountaintop overlook. If you start on the Prater's Mill end, you can pull into its parking lot to see more changing leaves and a National Register of Historic Places working water mill powered by Coahulla Creek. The leaves don't turn until after the county fair at Prater's Mill in Dalton, but if you're seeking small-town scenery, it's worth two trips.
The Cherry Bark Oak at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Home
760 Pollard Blvd. SW, Atlanta. Call ahead at 404-688-9515.
Considered one of "20 Atlanta trees you should know" by the tree preservationist elite, Atlanta's largest measured tree is 250 years old and glorious in every season. It rests outside a hospice home, so you can drink in its dignity and comfort while admiring its fall hues. The tree is accessible to the public at 760 Pollard Blvd. SW, but the best approach is to let the sisters at the home know you're coming to admire the tree, even if you don't plan to get out of your car.
GA Hwy's 17/75, 180, 348 and 75 ALT, Blairsville. 706-745-6928.
One of Georgia's famed Scenic Byways, Russell-Brasstown begins north of Robertstown at the intersection of GA-17 and GA-75. Then you're off for a leaf peeper's dream ride through autumn-tint timberland. This is near Helen, Georgia, the Bavarian hamlet if you need to stop. But if you drive on, you'll end up atop Brasstown Bald, looking down at a mountain full of fall leaves.
201 Dowman Drive, Atlanta. 404-727-6123.
Best College Reviews considers Emory University one of the nation's most beautiful campuses in autumn. The publication raved about the changing leaves, in particular, saying, "the 600-acre heavily forested campus is populated with pine, maples, oak, and magnolias bring every autumn color in the rainbow. Peavine Creek, a branch of the Peachtree Creek, runs through the campus carrying fallen leaves peacefully to the sea." The campus architecture is a perfect backdrop, full of impressive granite buildings, including a notable Tudor and Gothic Revival mansion, Lullwater House. The campus is so accessible for a short (polite, very safe) drive to look at changing colors that it could become an annual tradition. Just make sure if you decide to park and stroll that you abide by the campus policy, which designates parking for patients and University visitors across campus and then provides a free Cliff shuttle between parking decks and around Emory's main campus.
28 Scenic Highway, Rising Fawn. 706-398-9510.
This mountaintop restaurant in Georgia serves up wood-grilled pizzas and a surprising array of fresh fish options, but the view tops even the food. Take a leisurely two-hour drive from metro Atlanta along tree-lined byways and to the top of Lookout Mountain, then end up at this tasty dinner spot. Just be sure to do your leaf-peeping on Wednesdays through Sundays and plan to eat in the evenings, because that's when the Canyon Grill is fixing wonderful fresh food.
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