Aerial view of Hog Pen Gap on Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway in Helen, Georgia. Photo by @bobreel
Blue Ridge to Blairsville Fall Road Trip
Sure, there's a shorter way, but this scenic drive in North Georgia is absolutely worth the time.
From rolling vineyards to rows of orchards to charming small-town stores and sprawling state parks, there is plenty to explore on the long way from Blue Ridge to Blairsville via Suches, one of the area’s most scenic drives. Shop for freshly picked apples at Mercier Orchards, sip wine under the background of the mountains at Serenberry Vineyard & Winery, or traverse over the iconic Swinging Bridge before tucking in for the night at a campsite in picturesque Vogel State Park or a rental cottage in the small town of Blue Ridge.
From Blue Ridge, head east on U.S. 76. Turn southeast on Highway 60 to Suches. From Suches, follow Wolf Pen Gap Road (Highway 180) northeast to U.S. 19, and continue into Blairsville. Take time to hike, shop, eat and take photos along the way.
Things to See & Do
Shop at Mercier Orchards
Nothing feels more autumnal than biting into a fresh apple surrounded by rolling farmland with leaves crunching beneath your feet. Mercier Orchards, a 300-acre family-owned farm in Blue Ridge grows apples, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and peaches, and is open to the public from Thursday through Sunday. Shop for fruit, baked goods, jams, honey, home goods and much more in the market, and sample fruit-based hard ciders and wines distilled on-site.
Sample Wine at Serenberry Vineyards
For an adults-only side trip, stop at Serenberry Vineyards, just 10 miles east of Blue Ridge. Open Thursday through Sunday year-round, the vineyard offers tasting flights and wines by the glass and bottle in its picturesque, open-air patio framed by lush green lawns and distant mountains. Try the Blue Ridge Red, a bold, black cherry-forward Cabernet Sauvignon, or grab a bottle of Tipton’s Treasure, a slightly sweet white blend perfect for an outdoor picnic.
Walk Across the Swinging Bridge
Perched above the rushing waters of the Toccoa River, the 270-foot-long Swinging Bridge was built in 1997 and is the longest swinging bridge east of the Mississippi River. Access the bridge on either side of the river via the white-blazed Benton MacKaye Trail and the blue-blazed Duncan Ridge Trail. Both paths are short and family-friendly, with gradual descents to the sandy river banks through a forest of pine and mountain laurel. Don’t miss the short side trail just before the bridge, which descends to a tumbling waterfall.
Hike in Suches
Suches, the postcard-perfect town known as “the valley above the clouds” is prized by Georgia cyclists for its wide, winding roads and stellar sightlines. While the drive itself is scenic and enjoyable with several overlooks, you can also hop out of the car for a quick hike at Sea Creek Falls, Sosebee Cove, or Preachers Rock — a two-mile hike via the Appalachian Trail that leads to a wide, rocky outcrop with 360-degree views of fall foliage and the summit of nearby Big Cedar Mountain.
Explore Vogel State Park
From Suches, drive north for 12 miles on Wolf Pen Gap Road past rolling hills and the picturesque Lake Winifred Scott to your next destination: Vogel State Park. Perched at 2,500 feet above sea level, it’s the state’s second-oldest park and sits at the base of Blood Mountain, which is blanketed with brilliant gold and red leaves in peak season. Hike on 17 miles of trails, including the Bear Hair Gap loop, a gentle, 4-mile loop trail that traverses around the lake and over the mountain’s lower ridges before descending to the misty Trahlyta Falls.
Grab Snacks at Sunrise Grocery
For a mid-journey snack, stop into Sunrise Grocery, a country store just two miles north of Vogel State Park. The family-owned spot sells boiled peanuts, jams and jellies, fresh produce, and old-fashioned candies in addition to camping equipment and homemade soaps, pottery, and other wares from local makers. In autumn, the store’s antique truck and pumpkin display make the perfect background for a family photo.
Tour Grandaddy Mimm's Distilling Co.
Founded by the great-grandson of one of the area’s most famous bootleggers, Grandaddy Mimm's Moonshine Distillery makes peach, blueberry, and apple moonshine from an old family recipe as well as premium vodkas. Stop in for a tasting or tour, which are available Monday through Wednesday by appointment only and Thursday through Saturday between 12 and 5 p.m. every hour on the hour.
Stop in Blairsville
End your journey in the picturesque town of Blairsville, with crisp mountain air, bubbling streams, and a walkable downtown dotted with shops, restaurants, and more. As its name suggests, The View Grill has one of the town’s best outdoor patios and serves an extensive menu of burgers, sandwiches, pastas, and other casual fare. Housed in a charming brick building, Cabin Coffee Co. is a great quick stop for single-origin coffees and specialty drinks, along with bagels, pastries, and sandwiches. It also has a small outdoor patio.
Places to Stay
Blairsville has numerous cabins available for rent from Airbnb and other vacation rental companies. Search for your favorite setting in the North Georgia mountains.
Trackrock Campground & Cabins
Nestled in pristine woodlands between Blairsville and Hiawassee, Trackrock Campground & Cabins offers shady campsites for tents and RVs with water and electricity hook-ups and modern bathhouses. It also has fully furnished cabins with full kitchens and covered porches for soaking in mountain views.
Vogel State Park
Stay at an intimate bed and breakfast or rent a rustic cabin perched high on the slopes of nearby Blue Ridge, or spend the night under the stars at one of the many campgrounds or intimate cottages at Vogel State Park.