If your family loves to whitewater raft, hike, rappel or hang glide, this scenic area around Dawsonville could be your next road trip.
From Atlanta, adventurous families can find a starting point to get away from it all and head for the mountains of North Georgia. The large city is an excellent departure point for road trips in the foothills of the rustic Appalachian Mountains. When the kids get tired of driving, there’s a good variety of activities to break up your trip, ranging from hiking to fly fishing, white water rafting to hang gliding. The best time to go if you’re considering outdoor activities is the fall, to escape the summer heat of the South.
A Scenic Drive with Active Stops
One of the most popular trips is to get on Georgia Highway 9 and travel only about 50 miles north to the city of Dawsonville, where you will find Amicalola Falls, home to both the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River and a challenging hiking trail to Springer Mountain, the southern end of the 2,135-mile Appalachian Trail.
Don’t worry about completing the entire eight-mile hiking trail, however. You will also want to checkout world-famous Tallulah Gorge, two-miles-long and nearly 1,000-feet deep. Hikers here can travel in both directions: down to the gorge floor and up along a series of rim trails. There are many scenic overlooks. For an even better view, however, brave the new suspension bridge over Hurricane Falls, the tallest of the gorge’s waterfalls. Alternately, you can rappel to the gorge floor.
Fisherman of all ages and skills might like to know you can travel another 40 miles north of Dawsonville on Highway 19 to find some of the best trout fishing in the region in nearby Helen.
Expert guides at Unicoi Outfitters (706/878-3083) offer fly fishing lessons and they will also guide families on excursions in the Nacoochee Bend trophy trout section of the Chattahoochee River, the public trophy section of Dukes Creek at Smithgall Woods, and other trout streams.
Just a little bit more north, in Clayton, daredevils can brave the Chattooga River, one of the longest free-flowing rivers in the Southeast.
The Nantahala Outdoor Center (888/905-7238) offers guided rafting trips down the Chattooga. The river was named to the prestigious Wild and Scenic River System and is still relatively untouched. It’s also home to some of the most difficult and technical Class III, IV and V whitewater rapids in the region.
North Georgia Sleeps
In Dawsonville, you can find places that offer everything from inns accessible only by foot to luxury rooms in wilderness settings.
The Len Foote Hike Inn (800/581-8032), for example, is a hike-in/hike-out hotel that is one of Georgia’s newest and most unique state park properties. The Inn is accessible only by foot over a moderate five-mile trail and features 20 rooms with bunk beds. Guests enjoy hot showers and delicious, family style meals.
Another place with a mountain view is The Lodge at Amicalola Falls (800/864-7275), a 56-room retreat within earshot of one of the Southeast’s highest waterfalls. This retreat blends nature with comfort. The Lodge also features 14 cottages with panoramic views, miles of hiking trails and comfortable quarters for business or pleasure trips.
In Helen, The Lodge at Smithgall Woods (800/318-5248) is also nestled in the north Georgia mountains. The lodge combines a wilderness setting with the rustic charm of a mountain estate. There are recreational activities, elegant accommodations and culinary pleasures amid the mountain landscape. Five cottages offer accommodations for 28 guests.
North Georgia Eats
Dawsonville is home to the famous Bully Burger at the Dawsonville Pool Room (706/265-2792). Named for Bully Thurmond, a long-time employee of the Pool Room, the burger is known as the best in state.
In alpine Helen, travelers can sample authentic German cuisine at The Edelweiss Restaurant (706/865-7371). Homemade sausages, sauerbraten, schnitzels and goulash soup provide a good approximation of a Bavarian experience.
In nearby Sautee, The Stovall House (706/878-3355) serves up regional cuisine using the freshest ingredients and presented in an intimate yet informal setting.
For more activity ideas, lodging suggestions and local eateries, explore a virtual Dawsonville at www.dawson.org; the Bavarian-inspired village of Helen at www.helenga.org; and Clayton and surrounding Reuben County at www.gamountains.com.
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