Leaf change brings thousands of people into the north Georgia mountains every year. In response to a number of inquiries, we have come up with our tips on observing the beauty of this yearly show of color and our favorite places to witness this splendid time of the year.
The optimum time to see the leaf change in the north Georgia mountains is normally the last weekend in October. If you are going into the higher elevations, subtract a week. Closer to Atlanta? Try the first week in November. Since leaf change can vary it is best to check locally in the area you wish to visit prior to leaving. At the end of this article are a few phone numbers to call that can help you better plan the days to visit.
Don't try to see the leaf change by going well below the speed limit on a heavily-traveled road such as US Highway 76 or US Highway 129. This is as dangerous as speeding. Take a few minutes to study our six great autumn drives and pick one. Then drive to the start and follow these routes. Be sure to obey all speed limits where posted. You will have a lot more fun and be a lot less hazardous.
Gas up the car and clean your windows before the trip (Do we really need to tell you that?). These are remote locations and you may not find a gas station for miles.
This drive, just over 14 miles long, takes you from south of Unicoi Gap back into the Mark Trail Wilderness and ends north of Helen, Georgia, where it feeds into Alt. 75. The road is unpaved for the first 11 miles and rarely permits speeds over 10 miles per hour, so this is one great way to see the fall color. And you end up at the alpine village of Helen just in time for Oktoberfest. Take GA. 75 north from Helen. 2.75 miles past Andrews Campground (on the right), the Chattahoochee River Road comes off to the left. The color on this route tends to start a few days earlier than the rest of north Georgia. Area hiking trails include Andrews Cove Trail and Horse Trough Falls Trail. There is a campground at Horsetrough Falls and primative camping is allowed along the road.
This wide, 14.5 mile in and out route takes you from Persimmon Valley Road north to Tate City and the North Carolina border. Along the way are hiking trails, the Tate City Shopping Mall and some incredible beauty. When you return to Persimmon Valley Road, turn left and wander down to Patterson Gap. This road crosses the mountains and ends on U. S. 441 just north of the Dillard House. Take U. S. Highway 76 west from Clayton (Rabun County) for 8 miles to Persimmon Road. Turn right and travel four miles to Tallulah Road (F.S. 70) on left. Hiking trails include Denton Branch Falls and Coleman River. There are two developed campgrounds run by the U.S. Forest Service along this route.
The Cohutta Loop varies from a narrow, one-lane road on the east side near the Tennessee-Georgia border to a wide, well-banked and graded gravel road to the west and south of the mountain range. This "half-loop" encircles the southern end of the Cohutta Mountains, which many mistakenly believe to be part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Technically, they are the southern end of the Smoky Mountains. This 16-mile trail is easily broken into sections and there are many hiking paths available. Lake Conesauga offers camping, hiking and fishing (no motor boats) in the remote forest. For complete details on directions please see the Cohutta Loop page. Trails available on this hike include Grassy Mountain Tower Trail and Songbird Trail (both near Lake Conesauga)
Don't let the name changes fool you. This is essentially a single road that runs from Villanow to U.S. 27 north of Rome, Georgia. This road was so remote that when General James Birdseye McPherson led the Army of the Cumberland through the area it was not on his maps. This drive (about 15 miles) takes you through the Armuchee District of the Chattahoochee National Forest. The Civilian Conservation Corps built the original campground at The Pocket as its home (Camp 3435, F-16, listed as LaFayette, Georgia) while it worked on replanting the mountains stripped bare by the lumber companies. At Lake Marvin the main road becomes Everett Springs Road and the Pocket Road descends from Horn Mountain. This winding, steep road is not recommended unless the driver pays attention to the road and not the leaf change. Take I-75 to exit 320 (GA 136/LaFayette, Resaca, old exit #129). Go west on 136 to Pocket Road (19 miles). Turn left on Pocket Road. At the end of the drive turn left on U. S. Highway 27 (Martha Berry Highway). At GA 140 turn left. This returns you to I-75 at exit 308 (old exit #128). Along the route are a number of good hiking trails including Keown FallsJohns Mountain, and The Pocket. Along GA 136 is the Pin-hoti Trail, which is a multi-use trail.
Leaf change is a wonderful time to see North Georgia