There really is no better way to spend a spring or summer afternoon than loading up the car with friends or family, backpacks full of your favorite snacks and drinks and heading to the north Georgia mountains where the weather is cooler, the air is cleaner and the views are breathtaking.
About this article
- This article was originally published in the June 2017 issue of 400-The Life, a publication of the Forsyth County News. To read the entire magazine, click here.
We are so lucky to live so close to so much accessible beauty. There are so many reasons why I would choose a day or even a weekend in the mountains than at the beach; that might sound crazy, but consider these benefits. For one, it's cheaper. Some of the best places to hike and explore are 45 minutes to an hour outside of Atlanta, and it's completely free to hike; the only real expense comes from buying a tank of gas and food, which can always be done on the cheap (homemade sandwiches never tasted so good mountainside).
Hiking is also a powerful cardio workout that can lower your risk of heart disease, help control your weight and it can even boost your mood. Research shows that hiking has a positive impact on combating stress and anxiety — there is nothing I look forward to more than hiking after a long week at work.
Another benefit is that spending the day outdoors is pet-friendly. This might be obvious, but it's important to note that your dogs need the exercise, too. My dogs are at their happiest when they're out on the trails with me, and it's always nice that they're worn out when I get home becasue it makes for a very peaceful night.
Because I'm so passionate about hiking in north Georgia, I want to give you my top 5 favorite hiking destinations to visit this spring/ summer. Take the kids for family fun, the husband or wife for a romantic and active day-date or just enjoy the nice views, fresh air, and the sights and smells of nature by yourself.
1. Blood Mountain
Union County/Lumpkin County
This one definitely tops my list for best hikes in Georgia because of the incredible view.
You have probably seen photos of the view on your Facebook feed and wondered "Where is that?!"
It's about an hour drive from Cumming and just a little north of Dahlonega in Suches, Georgia.
Blood Mountain is the highest peak on the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail and is the sixth-tallest mountain in Georgia.
It's only about 1.7 miles to the top, but it is relatively steep so I recommend wearing trail shoes, hiking boots or tennis shoes with a good grip.
Photo courtesy of Atlanta Trails.
2. Yonah Mountain
87 miles from Atlanta
"Yonah go on a hike today?" My friends and I always have a blast hiking this trail and coming up with clever ways to use "Yonah" in a sentence. Yonah Mountain is close to Helen, Yonah Mountain Vineyards and the iconic Yonah Burger (posthike burger and wine tasting? I'll take it). It's an out-and-back 4-mile roundtrip hike that is moderately strenuous, with a continuous upward climb to the top — but the views from the summit are simply stunning. You will definitely want to make sure you have your camera or phone handy.
3. Panther Creek Falls
97 miles from Atlanta
This would be my No. 1 pick for spending the entire day here. It is not very strenuous and is mostly a flat hike for the duration — a 3.5-mile hike in to the falls, 3.5 hike out — so you will want to spend some time taking in the big waterfall view. I would definitely recommend taking backpacks full of water, food and sunscreen on this trip because it can be easily made into a longer hiking day. Wear your bathing suit underneath your hiking clothes because the sandy area below the waterfall is a perfect summertime spot to relax, cool off and enjoy some seriously beautiful north Georgia beauty.
4. Pine Mountain
41 miles from Atlanta
Pine Mountain was a discovery I made last fall that I now consider one of my favorite Georgia spots. Not a lot of people know about it — especially since it's not in the north Georgia mountains, where a lot of the attention is for outdoor destination. This mountain can be found near Lake Allatoona near Cartersville, and the view from the top actually overlooks Stone Mountain, Kennesaw Mountain and the lake. There are a few different trails that take you to the top depending on how strenuous you want your hike to be, and it is about a 4.5-mile hike round-trip, making for a fun afternoon workout. You won't be able to believe this mountain doesn't get more press when you see the view.
5. Raven Cliff Falls
88 miles from Atlanta
I had to include another amazing waterfall hike for my last one because who doesn't love a good waterfall? I have camped here and hiked here many times and just keep coming back because not only is the waterfall view at the top amazing, but the entire hike (2.5 miles in, 2.5 miles out) is breathtaking. There is a trout stream that runs on the side of the trail throughout the duration of the hike with several mini waterfalls leading up to the big one at the end. Once you reach the end, you'll see the gorgeous waterfall that cascades through a 40-foot-tall towering cliff that actually slices the enormous rock in half.
Photo courtesy of Atlanta Trails.