With its changing colors and cooler temperatures, fall is one of the best times to hike in the southeast. With Atlanta’s proximity to the mountains, it only takes an hour to reach a full spectrum of reds, yellows, and oranges on trees. The peak time to see fall’s changing colors in Georgia is from late October through mid-November. If you’re heading to a Georgia State Park, you can use their Leaf Watch website to find out when the colors peak. To get you started, here’s a quick guide to 11 of the most beautiful places for fall leaf-peeping in Georgia.
1. Amicalola Falls
Start out at the base of Amicalola Falls and check out the burst of color that surrounds the waterfall—the tallest east of the Mississippi. From there, hike 8.5 miles to the summit of Springer Mountain and the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
2. Anna Ruby Falls
Hike from Unicoi State Park into the Chattahoochee National Forest to the twin Anna Ruby Falls . The short, paved hike is only .04 miles, and you'll arrive at a pair of 150-foot waterfalls. The bursts of whitewater cascading down the rock are beautiful when contrasted with the bright reds and oranges of Fall.
3. Black Rock Mountain
The tallest mountain in Georgia’s state parks is here. At 3,640 feet, the summit of Black Rock Mountain offers views of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Hike the James Edmond Backcountry Trail and camp out in one of the four primitive sites. The 7.2-mile loop summits Lookoff Mountain and follows a few streams and waterfalls.
4. Blood Mountain
Hike from Neels Gap up Blood Mountain across steep, technical sections of living rock. Shortly before the summit and Blood Mountain shelter, look left to see a scenic overlook of the Chattahoochee National Forest.
5. Brasstown Bald
The best way to see the fall colors, or at least the most difficult, is to hike the Arkaquah Trail to Brasstown Bald . You conquer 1,500 feet in the first 1.5 miles of the trail, then traverse along several ridgelines to Brasstown. The views along the way are just as beautiful, showcasing the surrounding farmlands and colorful fall foliage.
6. Cloudland Canyon
While hiking into the canyon of Cloudland Canyon is beautiful, take the chance to get your spokes dirty by mountain biking the more than 30 miles of trails that lead from the park via the Cloudland Connector trail system. You can loop through technical sections of the Five Points Recreation Area, which features single track woop-de-doos, tight curves, and more.
7. Fort Mountain State Park
While the park is popular for hiking, it’s mountain biking that you'll want to try at Fort Mountain . For a challenge, take on the 301 East-West Loop, a 14.6 mile loop with challenging uphills and thrilling downhills (and an average 12 percent grade). If you want an easier ride, the 303 Gold Mine Trail is six miles, and includes wide sections of Forest Service Road.
8. Tallulah Gorge State Park
If you’re a whitewater paddler, you’ve gotta paddle the two mile section of the Tallulah River during the semi-annual whitewater release . If you aren’t ready for the challenge, join park rangers to hike into the gorge at Tallulah Gorge State Park for a perfect viewing spot of Bridal Veil Falls, a Class IV rapid.
9. Vogel State Park
If you’re looking for a difficult trail run, take off from Vogel State Park via the Coosa Backcountry Trail for a 13-mile loop that rolls through the Chattahoochee National Forest. Upon completing the 12.9-mile trail, you’ll have hiked three peaks and clocked more than 5,000 feet of elevation.
South of Atlanta, fall colors change in mid-November. If you miss the peak season up north, head down south.
10. F.D. Roosevelt State Park
You'll be surprised that Georgia's largest state park is in the south in Pine Mountain, Georgia. Because the F.D. Roosevelt State Park encompasses 9,049 acres, you'll find plenty of biking on the low-traffic roads around the park. If hiking is your thing, do some backcountry camping on the 23 mile Pine Mountain Recreation Trail.
11. Panola Mountain
Take to the PATH trail, a 20-plus mile paved cycling route that connects Panola Mountain to Arabia Mountain . You'll see more of the scenery as you pedal over wooden bridges and under canopies of changing leaves. A perk is that the trail is only 20 minutes from downtown Atlanta.