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Many people who love the fall season flock to the Northeastern U.S. to see the colorful autumn leaves. However, Georgia is actually one of the most underrated fall foliage destinations in the country! This state is packed with beautiful and accessible state parks with plenty of trees and wide-open spaces to take in all those vibrant reds, oranges, yellows, and browns. These are our nine favorite places to embrace the colors of the season and see the fall foliage in Georgia.
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Cloudland Canyon is a wonderful Georgia destination at any time of year, but its colors really come alive in fall. There are some great hiking routes here, as well as mountain biking trails that allow you to view the fall foliage while also getting some excellent exercise. The Five Points Recreation Area has single-track trails that are fun and challenging for mountain bikers. For hiking, the West Rim Loop offers amazing views of the canyon, is moderately difficult, and is about five miles in total length. There are some yurts here that you can rent out for a glamping weekend among the fall foliage.
While many of the best views of fall foliage requires a trip out to one of Georgia’s state parks, you can see some really beautiful colors right here in the city of Atlanta. Head to Piedmont Park to see the city’s stunning architecture next the beautiful leaves turning from green to red, orange, and yellow. There are some nice paved trails for walking your dog and going for runs, as well as a large off-leash dog park for your pup to run and play. Atlanta is sometimes referred to as the “city of trees,” which should tell you that there are lovely spots all over town to snap photographs and relax among the natural beauty.
Tallulah Gorge is always a stunning and impressive park to visit, but you’re really missing out if you haven’t seen it in the fall. It’s a very popular canyon to visit in the Southeast with opportunities to hike along the rim to see colorful oak and maple trees. If you’re up for a longer hike, stop by the visitor center early in the morning to get a permit to hike down to the gorge floor. This is an ideal place for hiking and also whitewater kayaking. In November, the water here is released from the dam, creating some intense Class IV and Class V rapids. Therefore, it’s best to leave these adrenaline-boosting waters to the true experts.
Brasstown Bald is a famous mountain in North Georgia that offers dramatic views of the fall foliage. It’s also the highest peak in the state. If you’re up for a challenge, hike the Arkaquah Trail to the top, which involves a steep initial incline and traversing ridge lines. You’ll be rewarded with lovely views of the colorful leaves in fall, as well as the nearby farms down below.
If you’re coming from Atlanta, it’s an easy drive of less than an hour to reach Red Top Mountain State Park. Here you can see Lake Allatoona surrounded by all of the beauty of fall colors. The Hill Loop is a great trail to see the lake and forest with all of its colors on foot or on a bike. You can also get some nice views of the lake from the Homestead Trail, which is about a 5.5-mile hike.
Black Rock Mountain’s summit stands at approximately 3,640 feet, and you can get incredible views of the fall foliage from up here. One recommended fall foliage hike is the James Edmond Backcountry Trail, which has a few primitive campsites available to stay overnight in a tent. This is a loop trail that extends a little over seven miles and takes you to the top of Lookoff Mountain. For a shorter hike, try the Tennessee Rock Trail, which is about 2.2 miles long and has great views too.
Yonah Mountain is located near the town of Helen, Georgia and offers some excellent hiking opportunities to see fall foliage. The Yonah Mountain Trail extends about 4.4 miles round trip and is moderately difficult. Dogs are allowed on the trail, so bring your pup along to enjoy the crisp, cool fall weather. You can start your fall foliage journey from Chambers Mountain Road south of Helen and reach the summit in about 2.2 miles. Views from the trail are gorgeous, but don’t get too close to the drop-offs at the top because they can be dangerous. You can also set up a tent at the summit of Yonah Mountain or at base camp, and primitive campsites are first-come-first-served. While in the Helen area, you can visit the Unicoi State Park and Lodge, which offers lovely views of the colorful leaves and even zip lines to take you to the top of them. There’s also a fun Oktoberfest celebration that takes place in Helen every fall, so plan to refuel with tasty German brats and beer after your time among the trees.
The fall colors are also in full effect in Vogel State Park near Blairsville. Hiking and trail running are popular activities here. If you’re an experienced hiker, consider setting out on the Bear Hair Gap Trail, which is about a four-mile hike. From here, you’ll get the best views of Lake Trahlyta and all the colorful leaves that surround it. The Lake Loop is another nice hike that takes you to a little waterfall.
A lesser-known fall foliage destination in Georgia is Fort Mountain State Park. This is another park that’s favored by mountain bikers, and there are suitable trails for both beginner and experienced bikers. A good beginner bike trail is the Gold Mine Trail, while the 301 East-West Loop is exciting if you enjoy steep downhills. There are over 14 miles to explore here on a mountain bike. Colorful trees that you may see in this park include dogwoods, hickories, and oaks.