A Guide to the Perfect Outdoor Weekend in Blue Ridge

With easy access to the Chattahoochee National Forest, Blue Ridge serves as the ultimate launching pad for North Georgia adventure.
With easy access to the Chattahoochee National Forest, Blue Ridge serves as the ultimate launching pad for North Georgia adventure. Jeff Gunn
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Located on the northern edge of the Chattahoochee National Forest, Blue Ridge, Georgia, is just south of where the Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia borders meet. If you're looking for a weekend of outdoor adventure, it’s hard to find a better place to enjoy hiking, camping, mountain biking, and trail running. Anytime is the perfect time for a visit, and here's everything you need to know to make a weekend trip to Blue Ridge one to remember.

Start Off Right

L&L Beanery has outdoor seating for a quick cup of coffee before the trails.
L&L Beanery has outdoor seating for a quick cup of coffee before the trails. Fannin County Chamber of Commerce.

Perhaps the most storied and popular breakfast spot in Blue Ridge is L&L Beanery and Café . The restaurant is in an old bank building, and it’s no surprise that in the old walk-in safe you find an ample supply of their valuables: coffee. Unlike many coffee shops, this cafe boasts a full menu to satisfy every breakfast palate, like its offerings of famous chicken salad on a croissant and stuffed French toast. For a quick bite before hitting the trails, visit the L&L Beanery East on Main Street for coffee and pastries. 

Another option is Blue Ridge Grocery, a spot with locally sourced ingredients, and made-from-scratch baked goods. Try the classic PB & J—it’s a great way to start off the day with a childhood favorite. Carry out or dine in.

Hit the Trail

The Swinging Bridge over the Toccoa River is the longest suspension bridge East of the Mississippi.
The Swinging Bridge over the Toccoa River is the longest suspension bridge East of the Mississippi. Fannin County Chamber of Commerce

Blue Ridge is a hiker’s paradise, offering access to several major trail systems, including the famously well-traveled Appalachian Trail and the Benton-MacKaye Trail. There is also a great outdoor retailer in town, Blue Ridge Adventure Wear , and staff there can help answer all your questions about the surrounding landscape and hikes before you hit the trail.

Blue Ridge is the official trail town of the Benton-MacKaye Trail, a system of more than 300 miles of trails. Closest to town, you canaccess the BMT from Falls Branch Road and hike to GA 515 through the Rich Mountain Wilderness for a roughly 8.6-mile, point-to-point hike that crosses over Rocky Mountain. The wilderness is full of second-growth hardwood forest. A shorter section of the BMT’s beautiful hike goes from Highway 60 to the Swinging Bridge for a 3.6 mile journey. When you arrive at the bridge that straddles the Toccoa River, make note: At 260 feet, this is the longest suspension bridge East of the Mississippi.

The Aska Trail, a popular 17-mile trail system near Blue Ridge, features hikes that intersect and loop ranging from 1 to 5.5 miles. The trail runs from Deep Gap to Stanley Gap; access from Blue Ridge by driving South on Aska Road to Deep Gap. Hikers will pass through coves of hardwoods, mountain laurel, and rhododendron. Trails ascend to nearly 3,200 feet in the Blue Ridge Mountains, including a climb to Green Mountain, where you can catch beautiful vistas of the surrounding mountain ridges. In the valley, you’ll see the glimmer of Lake Blue Ridge. The longest hike is the green-blazed, 5.7-mile Flat Creek Loop trail, a singletrack with a 20 percent grade.

You can also choose from a variety of waterfall hikes near Blue Ridge, including Long Creek Falls, which is the most popular waterfall in Blue Ridge. Begin your hike from the Three Forks area, off FS-58 for a 1.1-mile hike that meanders along Long Creek. At the finish, you’ll come upon the 50-foot waterfall that cascades down two drops. While the entire journey to the falls is uphill, you can cruise on the downhill on the way back. And don't forget to check out Fall Branch Falls, a series of cascades that leads to a single major drop of some 30 feet, with the water plunging into a deep pool at the base of the falls. You can hike from the BMT’s Stanley Creek Road access point, just off Aska Road. The trailhead is about three miles on the right (.2 miles from where pavement ends).

Where to Grab Lunch

Chester Brunnenmeyer's rustic bar is a great lunch stop.
Chester Brunnenmeyer's rustic bar is a great lunch stop. Stacy Heath

The midday meal in the mountains should replace the calories lost in morning pursuits, while readying you again for more of the outdoors. For unbeatable hickory smoked meats, including fall-off-the-bone ribs, seek out Joe’s BBQ , one of TripAdvisor’s list of Top BBQ Joints in the USA. There's also  Chester Brunnenmeyer's  whose broad menu features sizable portions of tacos, salads, sandwiches, and seasonally-inspired American fare. The rustic atmosphere is nestled into an old rail center from the 1920's, adding to its bucolic feel.

Get Cultured

In addition to the amazing hiking and outstanding restaurants, this small town has a lot to offer artistically and culturally. The nationally famous Blue Ridge Scenic Railway runs almost all year long, with departures from downtown Blue Ridge to Copperhill, TN, and back for a 13-mile trip. The ride is about 45 minutes, giving you time to recover from a tough hike while admiring the natural beauty of the area and heritage of miners, outdoorsmen, and kayakers along the way.

Home to Blue Ridge Arts Association, the Blue Ridge Arts Center features more than 35 art exhibitions a year that rotate every four to six weeks, so visitors always have a chance to see something new. Exhibitions range from Youth Art to Quilt and Fiber Arts, to Holiday Features, and of course, plenty of photography and painting galleries. The center is open every day of the week except Monday. Check out their bi-annual Arts in the Park in October and May, where you can peruse local artist booths with a backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Mercier Orchards,   a family owned and operated u-pick orchard, is known primarily for their apples—they have more than 38 varieties, but visitors can also pick peaches, strawberries, and other produce, depending on the season. Climb aboard a hayride and get dropped off in the middle of the orchards to pick to your heart’s content. After picking, stop inside the market to stock up on fresh-pressed cider, warm fried pies, jams, and jellies. Be sure to sample hard ciders and wines in their new tasting room.

Post-Adventure Bites and Brews

Some of what's on tap at the Grumpy Old Men brewery.
Some of what's on tap at the Grumpy Old Men brewery. Fannin County Chamber of Commerce.

There is nothing better than a craft beer and a hearty meal after a day in the outdoors, and Blue Ridge has a variety of options from which to quench your tastebuds' cravings.

Grumpy Old Men Brewing is Blue Ridge’s premier nano-brewery. Co-owners Jim McKnight and Steve Weber—fraternity brothers at Georgia Tech in the ’70s—embody their business name and tout the motto, “If we don’t like it, we don’t drink it. If we don’t drink it, we don’t sell it.” Signature brews include: Aska Pale Ale, Moon over Blue Ridge Wheat Ale, and the soon to be released Hell’s Holler Porter. At Fannin Brewing Company, the motto sums up just about all you need to know as well: Fresh Air, Fresh Water, Fresh Beer. Started in association with the Blue Ridge Brewery, this spot offers some of the same sought-after sips like Hiawassee Golden Ale and Toccoa Brown Ale. Both Fannin Brewing and Grumpy Old Men Brewing have weekend hours for tours and sampling, along with comfortable diversions including big screen televisions, group seating, cornhole, and live entertainment.

Following a drink grab some dinner at Harvest on Main, which uses seasonal products whenever possible to support the local economy, farmer, and artisan. The cuisine is touted as global influence with a Southern twang, so expect dishes like rosemary-spiced trout, an 8-ounce filet of Teres Major steak, or house-made gnocchi. Another local favorite is Cucina Rustica, a casual, yet elegant spot that puts the utmost importance on preserving the traditions of northern Italian cuisine. Pick this for your classy meal out, where entrees such as Osso Buco, shrimp scampi, and stuffed veal loin, are paired alongside a wine list that rivals many of Atlanta’s popular restaurants. Blue Ridge Brewery has distinctly chosen microbrews and homemade flavors on tap at all times to complement an equally appealing food menu, like shrimp mac ‘n’ cheese. The live entertainment outdoors on Friday evenings is a perfect way to begin a long weekend.

Where to Get a Good Night's Sleep

Since Fall 2006, Mulberry Gap has been the place for mountain biking accommodations in North Georgia, positioned in the mountain bike capital of the state. This hidden gem is nestled in the Chattahoochee National Forest, just a few miles down the road from one of the longest mountain bike trails of Georgia, the Pinhoti Trail . This 140-mile IMBA EPIC trail starts just west of Cedartown, GA, and connects to the Benton-MacKaye Trail in Ellijay. You don’t have to be a mountain biker to enjoy the accommodations. Whether guests want to camp by a bubbling brook, shack up in a bunk room, or share a family cabin, Mulberry Gap offers a variety of affordable options. You can visit the Barn daily for a home-cooked breakfast and dinner made by the on-site chef. In addition to its tranquil setting, guests at Mulberry Gap can enjoy hot tubs, campfires, life-size jenga, and even Wi-Fi in the Barn.

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