Nature's finest: Best hiking and camping this fall
Raven Cliff Falls. - photo by Sydney Robinson

Story highlights

* Hiking: Lula Lake, Kennesaw Mountain, Raven Cliff Falls

* Camping: Dockery Lake, Cloudland Canyon

About this article

This article was originally published in the September/October 2016 issue of M-North Atlanta, a publication of the Forsyth County News. To read the entire magazine, click here.

The season of cooler weather, cozy sweaters and hot apple cider is finally here! The heat and humidity of this past sum¬mer were brutal, especially if you are an avid outdoor enthu¬siast like me.

Of course I am always thankful to live in North Atlanta where we are among hundreds of beautiful mountainous regions, national forests and wildlife preserves. For many of my friends this time of year, their idea of going for a scenic hike is to Sawnee Mountain in Cumming or taking a camping trip to Lake Lanier.

I am not saying those places aren’t beautiful and fun, but I have had the chance to explore the ins and outs of our beauti¬ful state this past year (and some parts of Tennessee) and have compiled a list of my Top 5 hiking and camping trips that are unbeatable for the fall outdoor season. The best part? All are less than a two hour drive.

HIKING

Lula Lake

The Lula Lake Land Trust located near Lookout Mountain, Georgia, is an amazing 8,000 acres of pri-vately owned scenic land that is open to the public on the first and last weekend of every month. Because it is so large, there are guides at the start of the main trail to give you a map of the land and help you navigate your way based on what you want to see and how much time you have. The popular 3.1-mile loop features amaz¬ing overlooks, a gorgeous water fall that you can stand under and a crystal clear lake — hence, Lula Lake.

Kennesaw Mountain

Take a wild guess where this mountain is located. One of my favorite parts about this hike is that it is a 3,000-acre national battle¬field park with so much Civil War history. There are more than 20 miles of trails that weave through the forest that make for a great run, hike or outdoor adventure near Atlanta. You can see Atlanta from one side of the mountain and the Blue Ridge Mountains on the other side.

Raven Cliff Falls

Raven Cliff Falls, left, is the perfect day hike. Located near Helen in Cleveland, the trail is 5 miles of cascading waterfall heaven. I like this hike because it is not strenuous and allows you to just walk and leisurely take in all of the sights of the beautiful mossy landscape. Hike in 2.5 miles to reach your destination of a 40-foot tall towering cliff with a gorgeous waterfall flowing right through it. This is a great hike to take with your furry friends.

CAMPING

Dockery Lake

One very seriously hidden gem of a campsite in North Georgia is Dockery Lake. It is located just north of Dahlonega, and the trail around the lake takes you to the Appalachian Trail. This small lake is completely surrounded by mountains, and there are several camp¬sites along the lake shore. This spot was hands down my favor¬ite place to camp because of its serenity and low-key nature. I camped there on a weekend this past winter and couldn’t believe not every camp¬site was occupied on a Saturday and Sunday. The trout fishing is also spectacular, and I recom¬mend bringing a canoe. Do not expect to have cell service while you are there.

Cloudland Canyon

For a more primitive camping experience deep in the wilderness, you must check out Cloudland Canyon. I camped there earlier this year in one of the backcountry campsites in the park, which was an incredible hike-in experience. The campsites are scattered along a mile-long trail on level ground, and the best sites are spaced far enough away and offer great privacy. I definitely rec¬ommend camping here versus just hiking because there are hundreds of miles of scenic waterfalls nestled deep in the gorge. The canyon views are simply amazing. It is about a two-hour drive from Atlanta, so camping just makes sense. Ten numbered sites are available first-come, first-pick, and reservations are required.