In October and November, Georgia’s landscape transforms into a palette of gorgeous fall colors. Get out and enjoy the reds, yellows and all the hues in between during an outing framed around the best scenes the season has to offer. To help leaf peepers find the best scenery, Georgia’s State Parks offer an online “Leaf Watch” travel planner, found at www.GeorgiaStateParks.org/leafwatch.
The mountains of North Georgia are the ideal location for experiencing some of the finest views. Blue Ridge Scenic Railway offers fall leaf excursions each October on the historic railway. Beginning at the historic depot in downtown Blue Ridge, wind your way along the Toccoa River in a vintage rail car, observing the canvas of bright colors. These are some of the most popular trips, so it’s best to book reservations at least three weeks in advance.
From downtown Blue Ridge, head to Vogel State Park in Blairsville, where the 4-mile Bear Hair Gap Trail offers a bird’s-eye view of Lake Trahlyta and the golden vegetation that surrounds it.
Don’t miss a drive on Wolf Pen Gap Road for some of the area’s most captivating leaves.
A stop by Brasstown Bald is also a must for a view of the autumn landscape from the highest natural point in the state.
Next, travel along the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway-CNF to witness what is considered one of the most stunning mountainous fall foliage sites. The meandering road is flanked by trees undergoing seasonal change and includes several turnoffs with scenic overlooks along the way. You can also stroll two Appalachian Trail crossing points, listening to leaves crunch below your feet.
Continue to Helen and stop to experience the alpine-style village’s 45th Annual Oktoberfest — a yearly celebration complete with beer, brats and lots of Lederhosen. A short drive away, Lucille's Mountain Top Inn & Spa is a luxurious place to rest your head. Climb up to the Inn’s “Crow’s Nest” for a 360-degree view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Sautee Valley in all its fall glory.
More memorable scenes are on display at Tallulah Gorge State Park, one of the Southeast’s most popular canyons. Hike on trails overlooking the rim and waterfalls and take in the glimmering yellow oaks and red-tinted maple trees. In November, watch the biannual “whitewater releases” when expert kayakers brave the rushing rapids.
Farther south, Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge boasts the Southeast’s tallest cascading waterfall. Choose a flat path to a boardwalk overlook, or try your stamina on the steep staircase from the bottom of the falls. Either way, the payback is striking scenery.
Several pumpkin farms, mazes and apple orchards are nearby — all must-dos in the fall. Nowhere can the bounty of the season be better enjoyed than in Ellijay, known as the “Apple Capital of Georgia.” Sitting at the edge of the Chattahoochee National Forest, Ellijay is home the annual Georgia Apple Festival Arts Crafts Show and numerous pick-your-own orchards. Each fall, Hillcrest Orchards hosts its Apple Pickin’ Jubilee when visitors can not only pick fruit, but also milk a cow, watch live pig races, take wagon rides and much more.
Farther south, Red Top Mountain State Park on Lake Allatoona features a variety of trails with radiant colors. Hike the 4-mile Iron Hill Loop for unique vantage points of the lake and forest, and visit the park’s log cabin and blacksmith shed.
As you travel through North Georgia and stare in awe at the yellow sweetgums, golden hickories and red dogwoods, you’ll immediately begin counting the days until the next fall, which is without a doubt one of the state’s most beautiful times of the year.