Take a scenic drive through North Georgia.

Scenic Drives and Must-See Waterfalls Near Atlanta

If you are planning a fall visit to the North Georgia mountains, you will find no shortage of scenic drives. Here are just a few ideas of what you can find when you turn off of the main road and hit the byways.

Barbecue, biscuits and pumpkins — sounds like North Georgia. (Photo by Andrew J. Clark

Brasstown Bald

Visit the highest point in Georgia at Brasstown Bald. (Photo by Andrew J. Clark

If you are searching for scenic views in North Georgia, put Brasstown Bald on your list. Find it within the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests within easy driving range of the north Georgia towns of Blairsville, Hiawassee and Helen. The Brasstown Bald Visitor Information Center stands at at the highest point in Georgia — 4,784 feet up. That means you can see quite a lot from there. If you are standing on the observation deck on a clear day, you’ll have views of Georgia, of course, plus Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Where: From Blairsville, take US 19 and 129 south for 8 miles. Turn left onto Georgia 180. Go 9 miles to Georgia Spur 180 and turn left (north). From there, it is 3 miles to the Brasstown Bald parking lot.


If you want to see beautiful waterfalls, North Georgia will not disappoint. Lace up your hiking boots, pack your water and a snack, and prepare to be awed.

Anna Ruby Falls

If you find yourself near Helen, Ga., don’t miss Anna Ruby Falls. (Photo by Andrew J. Clark

Anna Ruby Falls is located in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest a short drive from the town of Helen, Ga., a mountain town reminiscent of an Alpine village near trails, mountains, forests and riverbanks.

Where: From Helen, Ga., head west on Georgia 17 N/Georgia -75 N/N Main St./Unicoi Turnpike toward White Strasse. Turn right onto Georgia-356 E. Make a slight left onto Anna Ruby Falls Road. Turn left to stay on Anna Ruby Falls Road.

Lula Lake Land Trust

You must make reservations before going to the Lula Lake Land Trust. (Photo by Andrew J. Clark

The Lula Lake Land Trust was established by the will of Robert M. Davenport. Its goal is to protect and preserve the natural beauty and abundant resources within the Rock Creek watershed. As early as 1958, Davenport began acquiring pieces of property that would become the core of the land trust project. These original acquisitions included Lula Lake and Lula Falls. By the time of his death in 1994, Davenport had acquired more than 1,200 acres surrounding Lula Lake. Since then, the Land Trust has increased protection within the watershed to 12,000 acres.

Note: Lula Lake is open to the general public only on the first and last weekends of each month. Reservations are required to visit.

Where: 5000 Lula Lake Road, Lookout Mountain, Ga.

Minnehaha Falls

Travel to Rabun County, Ga., to see Minnehaha Falls. (Photo by Andrew J. Clark

Find Minnehaha Falls in a Rabun County, Ga., cove covered with rhododendron. Though the area is beautiful any time of year, it is especially gorgeous in spring when the rhododendrons are blooming. 

Where: Take US 23/441 north from Tallulah Falls for 3 miles to the Rabun Beach Recreation Area sign. Turn left onto Old 441. Go 2.5 miles and take a left on Lake Rabun Road.  Go 1 mile past the Recreation Area. Take a left on Low Gap Road at Flat Creek Community sign.  Follow Bear Gap Road, which forks to the left. Go 1.5 miles to the sign marking the trail on the right side of the road.  It’s about a five-minute walk from the parking area on Bear Gap Road.

Mud Creek Falls

Mud Creek Falls is one of seven waterfalls in Rabun County, Ga. (Photo by Andrew J. Clark

The Mud Creek Falls drop 100 feet and flow into Estatoah Falls in Dillard, Ga. The best news: There is no need to hike to get to the falls.  Also good news is that there are two picnic tables available, first come first served.  

Where: Travel north from Clayton on U.S. 441 and turn right on Georgia Highway 246 toward Sky Valley. Turn left at Sky Valley’s entrance gate, then right on Tahoe Road and continue to the falls.

Tallulah Gorge State Park

Find six waterfalls in Tallulah Gorge. (Photo by Andrew J. Clark

The town of Tallulah Falls is home to Tallulah Gorge, a 1,000- foot chasm carved over millions of years by the Tallulah River. Tallulah Falls actually comprises a series of six waterfalls cascading down through Tallulah Gorge.

Where: Tallulah Gorge State Park, 338 Jane Hurt Yarn Drive, Tallulah Falls, Ga.

Off the Beaten Track in Fannin and Gilmer Counties

There is more than one way to head up from Atlanta to the North Georgia mountains. We will take the route that leads from I-75 north to I-575 north, which becomes Georgia State Route 515 around Jasper, Ga. Continue on Route 515 to the town of Ellijay, Ga. Proceed to the third and last stoplight on Route 515 in Ellijay. At that stoplight, notice the signs for Georgia State Route 52.

Take a left at the stoplight. Travel a short distance to another traffic light then turn right, and you’ll be on State Route 52. Travel 5.3 miles to Big Creek Road, where you’ll turn left at the Dollar General. But before you go that far. . .

Boiled Peanuts

If you are a fan of boiled peanuts, you’re in luck if you are traveling on a weekend, which is when the boiled peanut stand on State Route 52, is open. Look for it on your right. Stop, get a bag or two and start munching.

R&A Orchards

Head to North Georgia for fresh apples in the fall. (Photo by Joleen Pete)

During the fall, you’ll probably hit a traffic slowdown along the way on Route 52. That will be because cars and trucks are turning into R&A Orchards, on your left.  R&A is home to 38 varieties of apples, 30 varieties of peaches and eight varieties of nectarines, as well as fresh vegetables, honey, jams and jellies. Also available are 18 varieties of homemade fried pies, chicken and dumplings, sandwiches and fudge. If you continue on Route 52 past where you will turn onto Big Creek Road, you’ll find more of the Best Apple Orchards to Visit in Atlanta for Fall Fun.

Where: 5505 Georgia 52, Ellijay, Ga.

Big Creek Road

The Appalachian Trail, which begins at Springer Mountain, is packed with sights like the one above. You’ll pass the entrance on Doublehead Gap Road. (Photo by Joleen Pete)

When you make the left turn off of State Route 52 at the Dollar General onto Big Creek Road, you are going to travel for 14.5 miles to Newport Road. Along the way, Big Creek Road turns off to the left. You should stay straight. At the point where Big Creek Road turns off, the road you are on becomes Doublehead Gap Road. Keep alert because on your right, you will soon pass the entrance to Springer Mountain, the Southern beginning of the Appalachian Trail. There is room to pull off here and snap a selfie beside the Springer Mountain sign so your thousands of Instagram followers will know you were there. Springer Mountain is the start of the 2,000+ mile trek on the Appalachian Trail to Maine’s Mount Katahdin.

Head into Town or Proceed to the River

This is the view from the Larry Daniel Van Zandt Bridge just past Van Zandt’s store on Newport Road. (Photo by Carol Carter)

When you make the left turn off of Doublehead Gap Road and onto Newport Road, note that in 4.3 miles, you’ll arrive at Aska Road. Here, you have a choice to make. Turn left onto Aska Road and travel 13 miles into the town of Blue Ridge, Ga. If you aren’t ready to go into town yet, stay on Newport Road. Just past Van Zandt’s Store, on your right, you’ll have another choice to make at the stop sign just beyond the Larry Daniel Van Zandt Bridge. You’ll also have an opportunity to pull off the road, walk to the center of the bridge and take a look at the Toccoa River. It’s a good spot for a photo.

Swinging Bridge

If you have read about the swinging bridge in Fannin County and want to go there, turn right onto Dial Road at the stop sign at the end of Newport Road. Proceed to another stop sign where you’ll turn right on Highway 60/Morganton Highway toward the community of Suches, Ga. Keep looking for a sign on your right that indicates the Swinging Bridge. Turn right onto a bumpy, dirt and gravel fire service road, which takes you to a place where cars will be parked in no particular order as there is no parking area. Then you will hike down a bit down to finally see the bridge. At 270-feet long, it is the longest swinging bridge east of the Mississippi River.

Where: On the Toccoa River, Suches, Ga.

Sandy Bottoms and Shallowford Bridge

Here’s the Toccoa River at the Sandy Bottoms canoe launch on Old Dial Road. (Photo by Carol Carter)
Park at Sandy Bottoms, sit beside the Toccoa River or take a walk. (Photo by Carol Carter)

Back at that stop sign at the end of Newport Road, a left turn will put you onto Old Dial Road. Stay on Old Dial Road for 4.5 miles and you’ll find yourself at the Sandy Bottoms canoe launch in the Chattahoochee National Forest. There’s a paved parking area right on the Toccoa River. You can sit a while and watch the river or take a walk. The road is paved. You’ll notice a few camping areas on your right, as well as a public restroom.

The old Shallowford Bridge is just off Aska Road. (Photo by Carol Carter)

At Sandy Bottoms, you are near the old Shallowford Bridge, which is soon to be replaced (and the fate of the old bridge is unknown). So, back in your vehicle at Sandy Bottoms, proceed on Old Dial Road for 2.1 miles to the bridge. You’ll take a left from Old Dial Road onto Shallowford Bridge Road. Cross the one-lane bridge at 5 mph, one car at a time, park in the lot to your left and perhaps walk to the center of the bridge to snap a photo. Just across Aska Road from the bridge is Shallowford Bridge Tubing, where you can rent a tube and float down the Toccoa River in warm weather. When you are ready to leave, turn right out of the parking lot onto Aska Road and proceed into the town of Blue Ridge, Ga.

Toccoa Riverside Restaurant

Shortly after leaving Shallowford Bridge, travel 3/10 of a mile to the Toccoa Riverside Restaurant on your right. If you are there Wednesday through Saturday, it will be open. The food is great, and so is the view. As the name implies, the restaurant sits right on the Toccoa River. Sit inside on the enclosed porch or, in good weather, sit right on the river in a beautifully landscaped area just behind the restaurant. The pecan-crusted trout is really good.

Where: 8055 Aska Road, Blue Ridge, Ga.

For more outdoor fun, check our Guide to Hiking and Backpacking in Atlanta. You can find even more things to do with our Ultimate Guide to Fall in Atlanta.

Journalist Carol Carter writes and edits for Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Discover More

Get to know Atlanta, and discover the best things to do around the city.