Extreme northwest Georgia offers some of the best regional attractions in the state. Combine those with great places to eat and quality lodging all bundled together in a five county area. We called our journey Backroads and Battlefields to give you get a pretty good idea of what this trip is going to be about. The combination of attractions include something for every member of the family, young, old or in between. To make it even more fun, this five-county area features some of the prettiest backroad driving in the state of Georgia, climbing Lookout Mountain and Sand Mountain or dropping into the Valley and Ridge section for exceptionally scenic backroads.
The Cherokee Nation called Northwest Georgia "The Enchanted Land" for good reason. The rolling hills of Georgia's Valley and Ridge section give way to the Blue Ridge Mountains in the east and Lookout Mountain in the west. Centrally located in between is a rugged spine of mountains only a couple of miles wide known as Taylor Ridge. These are the mountains you cross in Dalton, Georgia. Anywhere you are in the area, there is almost always a scenic view right around the corner.
Wilder Tower, one of the stops at the Chickamauga Battlefield
In 1838 the state of Georgia forced the Cherokee west on a tragedy known as the Trail of Tears, then built the Western and Atlantic Railroad so they could move cotton and other goods to the port city of Savannah. During the Civil War (or, as we call it, the War Between the States), Union troops crossed Lookout Mountain into our valleys, fighting the Confederates at Chickamauga and Chattanooga. The next year General William Tecumseh Sherman followed the railroad south, battling Rebel forces under General Joseph E. Johnston]] in Tunnel Hill, Dalton and Resaca during the Atlanta Campaign. Cotton became King, but in the 1920's a cottage industry arose - bedspreads - along the route of the "Dixie Highway." Out of this grew Northwest Georgia's carpet industry and the Carpet Capital of the World, Dalton, Georgia
We began in Dade County, in the extreme northwestern corner of the state, actually west and south of Chattanooga. Georgia's lyrically named Cloudland Canyon State Park, takes its name from a city in Dade County. Once known as Sitton Gulch, the park is among the largest in the state park system with miles of scenic hiking trails and two falls at the bottom of the "canyon," so remote that until 1939 it was not connected to the state. Nearby is Rock City, whose name beckons people from across Dade County to its home on Lookout Mountain. See Georgia's Valley and Ridge section from Lover's Leap or See Seven States Flag Court.
Walker County brings you to Pigeon Mountain, another outdoor adventure playground with the world famous Rocktown Trail. In addition to LaFayette, the county boasts the city of Chickamauga and a creek by the same name. The battle of Chickamauga actually began in the city, at Lee and Gordon Mills, then spread north, first along Chickamauga Creek and then along the Chattanooga-Layfayette Road.
As you travel north from Chickamauga, you enter the Chickamauga battlefield and quickly cross into Catoosa County, following the road that frequently divided the Union forces from the Confederate forces during the bloodiest two days in American history. Along the way is the Chickamauga battlefield tour, interpreted stops that describe the battle. Near the northern boundary of the park is the Visitors Center where rangers use a massive map of the battle to recreate the action of September 19th and 20th, 1864. As you leave the battlefield you enter Fort Oglethorpe, a town sold by the Army lock, stock and Captain's Quarters in 1947.
Whitfield County takes you to the site of the first action in the Atlanta Campaign, Tunnel Hill. In front of the tunnel a division of Confederates under Patrick Cleburne tried to hold off the 20th Army Corps under Joseph Hooker. Although the outcome was close, the Confederates withdrew. At the start of the next year the Yankees advanced to Dalton, next stop on the tour. Here, they found a much more formidable defense along Rocky Face Ridge and Dug Gap. After a few attacks, Sherman decided to go around instead of through, ending up at the tiny town of Resaca. A small cemetery and a "Pocket Park" are all that currently tell us of the battle fought here by more than 165,000 men.
The Dalton Depot
Back in Dalton, folks can go shopping in downtown, see a play at Wink Theater or eat in one of the many fine restaurants. One of those restaurants happens to be the Dalton Depot, another one of those great old depots in Northwest Georgia. It was also the town center when the city was founded in 1847. Continue west from Dalton into Murray County, where the Showplace of the Cherokee Nation brings the Cherokee Nation into light. James Vann and his son Joseph Vann both lived here and sent their children to the Moravian missionary nearby at Spring Place. The people from the missionary are buried at God's Acre. The city of Chatsworth is nearby, set beneath the stunning rise to Fort Mountain State Park. The scenic beauty of the area is unrivaled - from the floor of the valley the mountain rises more than 2,000 feet, the tallest such rise in the state.
Seeing Georgia's Backroads and Battlefields Tour
Originally designed as an alternate to a 30 mile section of I-75, Georgia's Backroads and Battlefields took us 3 days to visit, and we did not see everything in the brochure. Plan on spending at least one night in a local hotel.
The brochure lists all non-fast food restaurants in the area. The quality of these establishments varies greatly. Check locally for more information on the best ones for your favorite types of food.