Last week, Bruce and I took a break from the routine to head up to North Georgia. Over the years, we had always passed through the northern part of our state on our way to other destinations. This time, we rented a log cabin on Cherry Lake Mountain, halfway between Ellijay and Blue Ridge.
Bruce found us a cute cabin through Morning Breeze Cabin Rentals that had a beautiful view of Cherry Lake below. We purposely booked it for a week before the crowds would descend on the area for the Ellijay Apple Festival and expected fall foliage color change. The last thing we wanted to deal with were crowds right before our hectic holiday craft show season!
If we had written a wish list for the perfect week in North Georgia, it couldn’t have been any better than what we actually got: Sunny and dry with daily high temperatures in the upper 70’s to low 80’s every day until we left. Better yet, there were no crowds! On our back-country drives, we often had the road all to ourselves—perfect for the loop from our cabin to the apple orchards in Ellijay, and then to Amicalola Falls, followed by Dahlonega, and then finally back to Blue Ridge via the curvy (and fun!) GA-60. What an awesome day!
These were the highlights of our week:
Amicalola Falls State Park. Don’t go to North Georgia and miss seeing these gorgeous waterfalls! Located eight miles from the Appalachian Trail, the park is within the Chattahoochee National Forest, between Ellijay and Dahlonega, in Dawsonville. At 729 feet, Amicalola Falls is the third-highest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River.
Although there are longer hiking trails leading from the lodge to the falls, we opted to park at the Reflection Pool and hike in on the Appalachian Approach Trail to the observation platform. It’s a short hike that parallels the creek running from the falls, and the sound of the water was so mesmerizing. The first observation platform is at the base of the falls, and the views were spectacular! The higher observation platform was just 175 steps up. For those needing rest, there were small rest arears along the climb up. The views were breathtaking!
Blue Ridge. Located 90 miles north of Atlanta via I-575, Blue Ridge is located on the Georgia-Tennessee-North Carolina line. A hiker’s and trout fisherman’s paradise, Blue Ridge was ranked by Southern Living Magazine as one of the 2020 South’s Best Mountain Towns.
The quaint downtown is the starting point for the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway; however, we opted not to ride the train to the Georgia-Tennessee border and just stay in Blue Ridge. There were a lot of nice shops, galleries, and restaurants in a quaint, but not too touristy-looking atmosphere. Thankfully, it wasn’t ruined by tacky Ripley’s “attractions” like Gatlinburg, Tennessee was. (We later drove on our own to McCaysville, GA / Copper Hill, TN; however, the journey was more enjoyable than the destination.)
For us, the highlight of Blue Ridge was visiting The Art Center, home to the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association. Located in the former Fannin County Courthouse, exhibits are on display throughout the building. Our favorite was the Contemporary Southern Folk Art exhibit (ending soon!) on display in the former court where trials formerly took place. The association did an outstanding job turning the courthouse into a spacious and beautiful gallery! Check out their website for upcoming exhibits and make sure to stop by to check them out. We visited mid-week and had the entire place to ourselves! There is no charge, but please drop a donation into the glass bowl as it is a non-profit arts association.
Whenever I research a travel destination, I always search the Trip Advisor website for recommendations. Since the top-rated restaurant was a casual, locally-owned favorite with outdoor dining, it was a must for us. We will definitely return to The Rum Cake Lady Cuban Food Café in downtown Blue Ridge when we visit the area again! The food was delicious, and the restaurant offered vegan and vegetarian options.
Further south in Ellijay, the highlight was hitting the apple orchard trail. Although Mercier Orchards back up in Blue Ridge has the most Trip Advisor reviews, our favorite orchard of the five we visited was Panorama Orchards, located three miles south of the center of Ellijay. Both orchards are rated 4-1/2 stars on Trip Advisor; however, we enjoyed shopping for goodies at Panorama Orchards’ market much more than at Mercier. The apples are priced the same at both markets; however, Panorama has an incredible selection of food items at better prices, including their homemade preserves, jams, apple breads (delicious!) and other bakery items.
In the back of the market, there is a large window where you can watch them making fudge and other candies—all priced better than at any of the other orchards we visited. The fudge (made with fresh cream and butter) is heavenly, so pick some up to bring home.
Panorama Orchards was also the only one that made their own ice cream, and it was priced better than any of the ice cream shops we checked out in Northern Georgia. The Blueberry Cheesecake ice cream was delicious!
We picked up a ½ peck of Honeycrisp apples to munch on in the cabin, and then stopped by on the way home for another ½ peck to bring home with us. They were the best apples I have ever had!
Here are a few more snap shots from our trip. (I still haven’t replaced my broken favorite camera, so all of the shots in this post were with my cheap, sub-par Fuji underwater swimming video camera.)