Cities, small towns, mountains, valleys, rivers, lakes – North Georgia has it all. There are so many different hiking trails in varying terrains within reach of Atlanta, making them perfect for a day trip or a weekend wilderness getaway. Different hikes are best experienced in the right season. Find out the best way to explore the seasons of North Georgia below:
Summer – Sweetwater Creek State Park
For summer hikes, I like to stick to the rivers to keep cool in the Southern heat. Just west of Atlanta is Sweetwater Creek State Park. Fans of The Hunger Games movies may recognize the park’s Manchester Mill as the ruins of District 13. Sweetwater Creek State Park has 15 miles of hiking trails that take you along the river, by the mill ruins, across a picturesque steel bridge, past Native American shelters set into the mountain, and to mountain-top city views. If you want a hike that has it all, exploring Sweetwater Creek State Park’s trails is the way to go.
Fall – Tray Mountain Summit
Fall in North Georgia is filled with pops of reds, bright oranges, and clear blue skies. There’s no better way to experience a crisp fall hike in Georgia than on the Appalachian Trail. I like Tray Mountain for this because “hiking the Appalachian Trail” sounds daunting, but on the Tray Mountain Summit Trail you’re just getting a quick little taste of the AT with a mile hike. Tray Mountain is also a unique place to go Jeeping, so you can start your climb up the mountain with some off-roading, then park and hike the mile to the summit to get a little more adventure on your trip. At the top of the mountain, you get to take in the Appalachian views painted in fall colors.
Winter – Cloudland Canyon State Park
Cloudland Canyon State Park’s two waterfalls are referred to as winter waterfalls because their flow gets strong and constant in the wintertime. The beauty of North Georgia’s seasons is that even in winter, you don’t have to worry about too much cold and snow, so the hike might be brisk but it won’t be unbearable. Cloudland Canyon State Park has 64 miles of hiking trails, but the park’s Waterfalls Trail is arguably the most stunning. This trail takes you down about 600 stairs into the park’s 1,000 foot deep canyon where the 90-foot Hemlock Falls and the 60-foot Cherokee Falls flow into sparkling pools. For incredible views of the gorge itself, the West Rim Loop trail takes you from one side of the canyon to the other in five mile loop.
Spring – Unicoi State Park to Helen
The vibrant colors of spring really pop at Unicoi State Park outside of Helen, GA, a small town designed to look like it’s straight out of the German Alps. The three mile hike on the Unicoi to Helen Trail is spent mostly under the cover of lush forest and momentarily follows a trickling stream. The hike departs from the Unicoi Lodge and takes you to Helen’s Unicoi Hill City Park so you can take a break from communing with nature to explore the Alpine village.