Nestled in the foothills of southern Appalachia lies the tiny town of Blue Ridge, Georgia, with a population of less than 1,500. Once a Mecca for those seeking the soothing comforts of mineral springs, it is now a launching pad for outdoor adventurers intent on exploring the backcountry of nearby Chattahoochee National Forest. In preparation for a visit, contact the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, and request their comprehensive list of literature, guides, and maps.
Where to Stay:
For quaint accommodations priced far below what they could command, head to The Cast & Blast Inn. Located in a beautiful refurbished building in historic downtown Blue Ridge, and attached at the hip to Oyster Fly Rods, this is your one-stop-shop for gearing up and winding down. Each of the five rooms in this casual inn is stylishly decorated and possesses its own personal theme, with the option of reserving the entire set of rooms for larger groups as well. Oyster Fly Rods, headed by Bill Oyster, is a world-class fly rod shop, where custom bamboo rods are handmade, and if you're lucky enough to reserve a spot, you can even take a class where you build your own. Fly rod aficionados come from all over the world to take part in this old school, hands-on course, so plan ahead.
What to Do:
Driving: If you love driving in the verdant, rolling mountains of the Southeast, you will be captivated by the roller coaster-like drive out to Forest Service Road 58, and then on to the Blue Ridge Wildlife Management Area. Here the steep mountains are riddled with creek beds, which over the millennia have hollowed out the valleys. Noontootla Creek. Chester Creek. Frick Creek. Long Creek. Each stream is a showpiece, unique in its flow and features, yet alike in the splendor they share. And, as is typically the case in the backcountry, FS 58 parallels the most impressive of these creeks, topping out above 3,000 feet.
Hiking: The forest here is brimming with waterfalls, ranging from creek-bound rapids to the magnificent two-drop Long Creek Falls, which falls a combined fifty feet, and lies just off the Appalachian/Benton MacKaye Trail. Driving slowly alongside the aforementioned streams with your windows down and radio turned off, you will discover several smaller, but still-magical surprises, with spectacular photo ops only a few minutes’ walk from the road. If you park where the AT/Benton MacKaye Trail crosses FS 58, and follow the blazes to the left (north), within a 30-minute hike you can experience a magnificent series of three waterfalls, with Long Creek Falls being the third and most spectacular.
Fishing: In addition to taking in the sites from your car or out hiking on famous trails, some of the very best “wild trout” fishing in North Georgia happens along Noontootla Creek, where the waters are managed to best imitate a native trout stream. If fate smiles on you and you land a rare trophy fish that is at least 16 inches long, you may keep it, but all others must be released. To help add to the sporting nature of your fishing trip, you may only use artificial lures.
During your time along FS 58, you are likely to see section hikers, mountain bikers, trail runners, and off-roaders aboard motorcycles, 4-wheelers, Jeeps, and other capable recreational vehicles. Many of these enthusiasts take advantage of the numerous creek-side backcountry campsites, while others head out for the pristine forests, cold-water streams, and all that goes along with being in the mountains of Southern Appalachia. Whatever activity you choose, adventure truly awaits in Blue Ridge, GA.