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When driving north to south, Georgia’s topography evolves astonishingly from dramatic mountains to rolling hills, and finally to flat plains with spanning pastures. Fall is the time to break away from the interstate—slow down on the winding side roads that display a deeper view of the southern landscape. Hop in the car, depart from the madness, and soak in a variation of scenery through the autumn looking glass.
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Historic Camp Lawton sets along the Millen-Jenkins County Scenic Byway, with beautiful antique farmhouses, churches, and the Downtown Millen Historic District. Expect an abundance of woods with vibrant foliage and some adorable small towns. Many stopping points are situated on Herndon Road portions of the byway, so get the camera ready. Magnolia Springs State Park requires a turn off the main drag, but aqua springs and age-old sites make for a worthy detour.
Proximal to Atlanta, this south Fulton route isn’t far from plenty to do, but still allows for a taste of tranquility. With Cochran Mill Park in the center, a combination of roads, particularly Cochran Mill, Hutcheson Ferry and State Highway 70, weave through serene, gently sloping fields just west of 285. Newnan and Carrollton surround the 29-mile adventure, either making for a great destination after you complete the drive. Don’t miss out on fall color the park also has to offer.
Stretching from Gray to Juliette through endangered species inhabited Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, this route focuses on the stunning treelined Ocmulgee River. Travelers can stop to fish, canoe and kayak along the waters, which are accented with an old bridge that is further embellished when the colors start to pop.
Running parallel to the Soque River, Highway 197 ultimately leads to North Georgia’s famous Tallulah Gorge State Park. Driving through Habersham and Rabun counties means lots of foliage laden valleys and mountain views on the paved path that once served as a moonshiner route during prohibition. Moccasin Creek State Park, Lake Burton Fish Hatchery and Lake Burton are a few significant stops along the winding mountain road. It’s not an official scenic byway, but it should be!
Coastal Georgia isn’t the first place to come to mind when planning a fall road trip, but the region offers unique trees and heavenly weather when autumn arrives. Historic churches and glimpses of the Savannah River, where the leaves turn a gentle gold and orange, lead 60 miles through Guyton, Springfield and Rincon. German Lutheran founded the town, Ebenezer, which marks the endpoint.
Russell-Brasstown begins to unfold its beauty in Helen, which is one of the most attractive fall destinations in the mountains. Octoberfest brings in quite the crowd, so be ready for that, and some darn good beer and German eats. The drive coasts through the Chattahoochee National Forest, passing the Dukes Creek Falls, Raven Cliffs and Appalachian National Scenic trails along the way. Brasstown Bald is your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow because rich fall colors can be seen in four different states from the top.
Snow white cotton fields are gorgeous in the autumn sun, and this 65-mile stretch delivers. Pecan and peach groves along with peanut and grape farmlands fittingly provide the scenery through the Magnolia Midlands road. Passing through Hawkinsville, Pineview, Rochelle, and Abbeville, significant sites from the Civil War and agricultural heritage deepen the experience.
Another coastal byway, the Altamaha route begins at the Sapelo Island Visitors Center. You’ll see Fort King George, the Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation and Butler Island within the 17-mile journey that ends in Darien, the second oldest city in Georgia. A canopy of mossy oaks, marshes and numerous old buildings truly make us fall in love with the idea of autumn near the sea.
Last but not least, the Cohutta-Chattahoochee has all six intrinsic qualities required to dub a road an official scenic byway. The checklist includes scenic, natural, historic, cultural, archaeological and recreational attributes. Following State Route 2 for a lengthy 54 miles through northwest Georgia, three amazing trailheads provide great leg stretching opportunity. Fort Mountain Overlook, Prater’s Mill and the Cohutta Fishery Center are great places to get out and take it all in. There’s also beautiful views of the Cohutta Mountains at a mountaintop overlook—that’s how you round out a crisp, fall day in Georgia.