Fall foliage at Tallulah Gorge State Park in Tallulah Falls, Georgia

Fall foliage at Tallulah Gorge State Park in Tallulah Falls, Georgia

Clarkesville to Dillard Fall Road Trip

Explore the northeast reaches of Georgia on this scenic drive that includes deep gorges and mountain lakes.

Located in Habersham County, the small town of Clarkesville is known for its picturesque setting and historic buildings housing galleries, museums, and shops. With its proximity to state parks, wineries, and acclaimed restaurants, the town makes a great home base or launching point for viewing North Georgia’s brilliant fall foliage.

Route Overview

From Clarkesville, take U.S. 23 north into Dillard. It's a simple route filled with great places to stop along the way. Take time to hike, picnic, shop, eat and take photos at these favorite places below.

Things to See & Do

Explore Tallulah Gorge State Park

Girl on bridge at Tallulah Gorge State Park in Tallulah Falls, Georgia. Photo by @ruruhappylife
Tallulah Gorge State Park in Tallulah Falls, Georgia. Photo by @ruruhappylife

From Clarkesville, drive 15 miles through the heart of the forest to Tallulah Gorge State Park, which surrounds the two-mile, nearly 1,000-foot-deep gorge formed by the Tallulah River. Start your trip at the Jane Hurt Interpretive Center, with exhibits highlighting the area’s history, terrain, and unique ecosystem. Then hike to one of several overlooks to view the dramatic gorge, river, and waterfalls.

Or, descend into and across the gorge via a suspension bridge, which offers an up-close view of the falls. The park also has a paved path to accommodate strollers, wheelchairs, and bicycles, and a 10-mile technical trail popular with mountain bikers.

Picnic and Hike Around Lake Rabun

Lake Rabun in Lakemont, Georgia. Photo by @klaude_g
Lake Rabun in Lakemont, Georgia. Photo by @klaude_g

Brilliant marigold, crimson, and copper leaves on towering hardwood trees frame 835-acre Lake Rabun in a picturesque valley just a 15-minute drive from Tallulah Gorge. Developed along the Tallulah and Tugalo Rivers, the human-made lake has 25 miles of pristine green space along the shoreline, ideal for recreational activities like boating and hiking.

Pack a picnic to enjoy in Nacoochee Park on the lake’s north end, or hike the two-mile trail from the Rabun Beach Campground to the twin Panther and Angel Falls. The two-mile, family-friendly Angel Falls Trail traverses lush, moss-covered valleys blanketed with wildflowers and shaded by dense forests to two tumbling falls.

Shop at Goats on the Roof

Goats on the Roof in Tiger, Georgia
Goats on the Roof in Tiger, Georgia

Drive eight miles north via scenic Highway 23 to your next stop: an old-fashioned country store in Tiger, Georgia. Goats on the Roof sells homemade fudge, boiled peanuts, jams and jellies, and unique gifts. Little ones can try their hand at gem mining, roam on the playground, or feed the resident goats, while adults will enjoy relaxing in Adirondack rockers by a fire pit and soaking in the scenery.

Eat and Sip in Clayton

Red barn and patio at Tiger Mountain Vineyards in Clayton, Georgia
Tiger Mountain Vineyards in Clayton, Georgia

The small mountain community of Clayton is big on charm, adventure, and fun. Stroll through the gorgeous downtown streets, lined with upscale boutiques, antique shops, and farm-to-table restaurants. Dine outside with a view at Universal Joint, Mama G’s Italian Restaurant, Lake Burton Cafe, or the retro-themed '50s Soda Fountain Restaurant, which serves up burgers and old-fashioned milkshakes.

The area is also home to several wineries like Tiger Mountain Vineyards and Stonewall Creek Vineyards, which offer snacks and sips on patios in pastoral settings.

For a more active excursion, hike the Bartram Trail. Just east of the town, the easy, 1.4-mile hike incorporates waterfalls, lush green forest floor, and spectacular leaves.

Hike at Black Rock Mountain State Park

Fall foliage at Black Rock Mountain State Park in Mountain City, Georgia
Black Rock Mountain State Park in Mountain City, Georgia

With altitudes reaching 3,640 feet, Black Rock Mountain State Park is Georgia’s highest state park and just six miles north of Clayton. Choose from more than 11 miles of hiking trails, including the beginner-friendly Black Rock Lake Trail, which loops the scenic 1.7-acre lake framed by poplar and pine forest. For mountain vistas, opt for the 2.2-mile Tennessee Rock Trail loop, a moderate trail that winds through high elevation woodlands and gives views up to 80 miles — including neighboring states of North and South Carolina and Tennessee — on a clear day.

Eat Southern Cooking at The Dillard House

Southern-style meal at The Dillard House in Dillard, Georgia
The Dillard House in Dillard, Georgia

Located on the Georgia/North Carolina border, the picturesque town of Dillard is just a few miles north of Clayton and Black Rock Mountain State Park. You don’t have to be a guest in the historic Dillard House’s charming inn or cozy cabins to enjoy its main claim to fame: family-style Southern food, served three meals a day. Think fried chicken, green beans, homemade biscuits and cornbread, coleslaw, and peach cobbler. Grab take-out to enjoy in a nearby park, walk through the lush landscaped grounds, take a horseback riding lesson, or visit the on-site petting zoo.

Places to Stay

Kingwood Resort & Winery in Clayton, Georgia
Kingwood Resort & Winery in Clayton, Georgia

Kingwood Resort & Winery

For a quiet retreat with all the amenities, the Kingwood Resort & Winery has it all: an on-site winery and tasting room, an 18-hole championship golf course, and tennis courts.

Beechwood Inn in Clayton, Georgia
Beechwood Inn in Clayton, Georgia

Beechwood Inn

Named one of the Top 10 Farm to Table Restaurants in Georgia, the intimate Beechwood Inn offers luxury suites with fireplaces, sweeping porches with mountain views, and award-winning food, plus a cellar with over 4,000 bottles of wine, which guests can sample at the nightly Wine:Thirty.

Lake Rabun Hotel in Lakemont, Georgia
Lake Rabun Hotel in Lakemont, Georgia

Lake Rabun Hotel & Restaurant

In Lakemont, the 1920s-era Lake Rabun Hotel & Restaurant is another upscale option with amazing food and drink plus scenic decks to soak up mountain views.

Glen-Ella Springs Inn & Restaurant in Clarkesville, Georgia
Glen-Ella Springs Inn & Restaurant in Clarkesville, Georgia

Glen-Ella Springs Inn & Restaurant

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 16 rooms at the Glen-Ella Springs Inn & Restaurant in Clarkesville are decorated with antiques and locally-made furniture and feature covered porches outfitted with rocking chairs to take in the serene surroundings.

Tiny cabin at Bleu Canoe in Clarkesville, Georgia
Bleu Canoe in Clarkesville, Georgia

Bleu Canoe

For a more laid-back stay, the 23-acre Bleu Canoe campground offers three historic fish camp cabins and eight tiny RV homes for rent. Guests can enjoy the communal fire pits and yard games like bocce and corn hole or dine at the property’s restaurant, which serves Cajun-inspired fare like étouffée and po-boys.

Published: September 2021
Written by: Laura Scholz