Cities Jasper, Talking Rock, Ellijay, Cherry Log, Blue Ridge, Blairsville, Hiawassee
Whether you are heading north to visit one of Georgia's great mountain lakes, hike to a waterfall, ride a train to bygone days, learn our history at a museum, go to a historic jail or enjoy one of our famous mountain festivals, the Georgia Mountain Parkway should be on your itinerary. This quick, easy way deep into the backcountry of north Georgia significantly reduces the amount of time it takes to get to your destination. You don't have travel on those winding two-lane roads and there's a wide array of fun things to do, everything from outdoor activities to high culture.
Along the Georgia Mountain Parkway
A portion of the Georgia Mountain Parkway is also known as the Zell Miller Mountain Parkway
Crane Creek Winery
Historic court house museum in Blairsville, Georgia
Pickens County Jail
The Georgia Mountain Parkway is the name given to the road that begins at the end of Interstate 575. It starts as GA 515, the Appalachian Development Highway. In Ellijay U. S. Route 76 joins, which the Parkway follows to the eastern Towns County line. In between the road winds through small mountain towns into the spectacular beauty of Georgia's Blue Ridge Mountains, and the centerpiece of the Blue Ridge, the Chattahoochee National Forest. In fact, most of the forest is within the five counties that the parkway bisects: Pickens, Gilmer, Fannin, Union and Towns.
You won't have to walk very far to find a hiking trail. These counties contain all of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia and many other hiking destinations including the remote Benton Mackaye Trail. Significant portions of the nearby land have been designated wilderness, from Rich Mountain to the Cohuttas. Jimmy Carter liked Rich Mountain so muc, he moved here! Looking for more hiking near the Georgia Mountain Parkway? Check out Vogel State Park as a hiking destination, or the trails near Brasstown Bald.
In addition to the hiking, there are some great lakes for fishing, boating and, well, cooling off. Carters Lake is Georgia's best kept secret, and that's only a few miles from the Georgia Mountain Parkway in Gilmer County. Lake Blue Ridge, one of the first lakes built in North Georgia, is near the Parkway in Fannin County, and Lake Chatuge, spanning the Georgia-North Carolina border, crosses underneath the parkway in Towns County. Hunting, fishing, boating, its all within feet of the parkway.
If a train ride is your idea of fun, then the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway is a great idea. You can cruise from Blue Ridge to McCaysville and back (that's 26 miles round trip) through the Toccoa River Valley during Spring, Summer and Fall. There's a layover in McCaysville, which allows for shopping and dining in the local establishments.
While each of the towns along the parkway have antique shops, the destinations for most antique shoppers are Ellijay and Blue Ridge. Browsing the stores here, buyers frequently come away with bargains that you simply won't find in Atlanta.
Many of the towns along the parkway have historic attractions, starting with the Pickens County Jail in Jasper. Built in 1906, the two-story edifice features a marble facade and held local criminals and the jailers family until the federal government forced its closure in 1981. Further north, in Ellijay, one of the Cherokee forts built to house the First Americans before they were forced west on a travesty known as the Trail of Tears sat near the parkway. Ellijay is the oldest continually inhabited town in Georgia's present-day boundaries. It is mentioned in writing as early as 1731, beating Savannah by at least two years.
Blue Ridge is a relatively new town, built along the route of the railroad in the 1880's. It wrested the title of county seat from Morganton, a few miles to the east, and the rest is history. The Fannin County Heritage Foundation has a museum downtown (West First St.). Blairsville has the Union County Historical Society which runs a museum in the old courthouse in downtown and a second building a couple of blocks away. Three memorial parks are within a mile of the Georgia Mountain Parkway, in Fannin, Union and Towns County (the Towns County memorial park is directly on the parkway).
Throughout the region there are many other highlights. Crane Creek Winery offers a full-bodied red wine, one of Georgia's finest wines and a popular favorite on the Georgia Wine Highway. Young Harris College is noted for its contribution of both a governor and a senator, Zell Miller! And from the Appalachian Education and Historical Society comes The Reach of Song, which depicts life in the Southern Appalachians through the eyes of Georgian Byron Herbert Reece