Sure, living in or near metro Atlanta is great, but sometimes you just need to get away from it all.
A North Georgia hike will let you escape the hustle and bustle of the big city as you wind your way through some beautifully rugged areas, complete with forests, waterfalls and gorgeous views.
If you're getting away to North Georgia, these six magnificent hikes are well worth the trip:
The Raven Cliff Falls Trail is one of North Georgia's most popular hikes, and it's easy to see why. The trail, which starts near Helen, takes you on a round trip that's just under five miles long and filled with beauty. Towering hardwoods provide a shaded canopy for the hike, which goes past plenty of wildflowers and bright green moss in a lush forest. On your way to the hike's namesake feature - a waterfall that cascades through a large cliff - you'll also see several smaller waterfalls.
If you'd like to take a break from hiking, you'll find campsites as well as a four- to five-feet deep swimming hole to take a dip in.
At over 720 feet, Amicalola Falls is Georgia's highest waterfall. The hike isn't very long - just over two miles - but it can be strenuous since you'll be climbing stairs for part of your journey. You'll climb your way through a hardwood forest before reaching the falls' crest and taking in the stunning views. Along the way, you'll also cross a bridge where you'll want to pause and enjoy the falls' mist and spray.
This hike is gorgeous in any season, so even if you've been before, it's worth returning another time of year.
The top of Blood Mountain is the Appalachian Trail's highest summit in Georgia, and the hike to the top will provide a strenuous workout. The trail begins at Byron Reece Trailhead near Neels Gap, where you'll work your way through a creek valley, cross a creek bed and ascend stone stairs. This trail meets the iconic Appalachian Trail, where you'll pass through many rocky clearings and climb over boulders before reaching the summit.
A rock building was constructed at the summit by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, and the view from the outcropping beside it is amazing.
The DeSoto Falls Trail provides many great views in a relatively short distance – about two miles round-trip – and without being too strenuous. For that reason, it's a good opportunity to bring the kids along. Rated easy-to-moderate in difficulty, the trail starts at a paid parking lot near the trail head, spans a wooden bridge and crosses Frogtown Creek. You'll hike through a shady forest and reach a wooden viewing platform at Lower DeSoto Falls. The trail continues through the forest before reaching Upper DeSoto Falls, which has large, multi-tiered cascades.
You'll have to drive on remote mountain roads to reach the Grassy Mountain Tower Trail, since its located in the Cohutta Wilderness. This rugged area is the largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi, spanning over 36,000 square miles. The moderate hike is just over five miles round trip and provides one of the best views in the state. The hike climbs from the shores of Lake Conasauga, which is at the highest elevation of any Georgia lake. You'll hike from the lake's shores through scenic forest, a boulder-filled creek and abundant wildflowers.
At the summit, you'll find the Grassy Mountain fire tower, which you can carefully climb to its first platform to take in a nearly 360-degree view.
This scenic hike takes you from the base to the summit of Yonah Mountain, which is located between Cleveland and Helen. The mountain is known for its asymmetrical shape and exposed outcroppings, and the summit can be reached in a 2.2-mile, moderately challenging hike (the hike is 4.4 miles roundtrip).
You'll work your way through a rocky forest with abundant wildflowers, cross a small bridge and climb stone stairs. Before reaching the summit, you'll be able to see Cowrock Mountain, located on the Appalachian Trail. The views from Yonah Mountain are gorgeous, but watch out for steep drop-offs.
One-tank trips is an occasional series from The Atlanta Journal Constitution that highlights places you can visit on – you guessed it – one tank of gas. Contact Stephanie Toone at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or ideas.