From thrill seeking adventures to peaceful, tree-laden trails, this North Georgia community has attractions the entire family will enjoy
About 80 miles north of Atlanta and 65 miles from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Ellijay, Georgia, may be known for its fall fun with its annual iconic State apple festival and beautiful foliage, but don’t miss out on what the warm months have to offer in this stunning piece of North Georgia. Spectacular hikes laced with waterfalls, rapid river sports and some of the Peach State’s best trout fishing are just a few ways to create lasting memories with loved ones. Find out the top five ways to embark on family fun in Ellijay, Georgia, this spring and summer.
1) Mountain Biking
Pedal into a thrilling time on some of the country’s most gorgeous and challenging mountain biking trails. More than 100 miles of single-track trails have earned Gilmer County the official designation as “Georgia’s Mountain Biking Capital.” Local mountains offer nationally recognized mountain biking trails with everything from easy cross-country to technical downhills. Ellijay is also home to the oldest mountain biking trail in the state, River Loop. Mountain Bike Action Magazine called it “…a trail you won’t forget.” Other popular trails include a large section of the Pinhoti Trail, Bear Creek, Mountaintown Creek, Windy Gap and many more. These scenic paths are maintained year-round by a large group of volunteers. Pick up trail maps, rent bikes, join group rides and chat with knowledgeable staff at Cartecay Bike Shop in downtown Ellijay. Just 12 miles from downtown Ellijay in the heart of the Cohutta Wilderness you’ll find Mulberry Gap Mountain Bike Get-A-Way, a rustic haven for mountain bike enthusiasts. Quickly access trail heads from the property or take advantage of their shuttle services to save your legs. Enjoy the cozy cabins, tent and RV sites, hot tubs, great selection of craft beer, and home-cooked meals after a long day in the saddle.
Whether you are a beginner hiker, an experienced explorer or trekking with the whole family, Gilmer County has a trail to suit every outdoor desire. This Appalachian Trail community is home to over a dozen beautiful tree-lined and waterfront trails. Take the family to the Trout Adventure Trail. This “do it yourself” hike is a learning experience for kids of all ages and leads hikers through the legendary trails of the Chattahoochee National Forest in North Georgia. It offers individual hikers and families the opportunity to hike, learn and earn a free decorative, commemorative patch. Or, explore the trails at Fort Mountain State Park where a short footpath leads to the Cool Springs Overlook with a view of the Cohutta Wilderness area. Paths vary from less than a mile to more than eight miles in length. Contact North Georgia Mountain Outfitters for a complete Hiking Trail Guide.
3) Carter’s Lake
Dive into a memory-making excursion at Carter’s Lake. With 3,200 acres of deep, clear waters, your spring or summer vacation is sure to be a splash. Rent a pontoon boat that can fit up to 15 people and cruise past the 65 miles of undeveloped, pristine shoreline. After a long day in the sunshine, guests can cozy up in a waterfront cabin. Grab a fishing buddy and cast a line for spotted or striped bass in the sparkling waters of Carter’s Lake or fish for trout in one of the many cool mountain rivers that flow through Gilmer County. Inexperienced at fishing, but still want to reel one in? Upper River Adventures and ReelEm’ In Guide Service both offer fly fishing lessons. The rivers are also a great place to kayak, tube or swim with the family. Carter’s Lake Marina offers boat and cabin rentals and Cartecay River Experience provides rental river gear.
4) Big Foot
The adventurer will not be disappointed while exploring North Georgia’s biggest family attraction–Expedition: BIGFOOT! This mountain voyage is where entertainment meets education. The 4,000-square-foot complex opened in 2016 and is the country’s largest permanent display of genuine Bigfoot artifacts, life-sized exhibits, photos, sketches and large up-to-date sighting maps. This award-winning attraction also includes the world’s only Bigfoot Research and Tech Vehicle display. Watch a film in the “Sasquatch Theatre,” peruse the gift shop or relax and kick back with one of the many books from the Bigfoot Reference Library. Expedition: BIGFOOT! is open six days a week (closed on Tuesdays) with admission prices at $8 for adults, $6 for kids and free for active duty military.
5) Save the Date for the Apple Blossom Festival
It wouldn’t be an Ellijay vacation without a trip to an apple orchard. You may think of Georgia as the Peach State, but Gilmer County is home of the apple–producing 250,000 bushels every year. Picturesque rolling hills and pastureland make highway 52 East out of Ellijay a magnificent drive any time of the year. The majority of the County’s apple houses are along this stretch, thus the name “Apple Alley.” In spring, the apple blossoms begin to bloom, the year’s first sign of a new crop. R&A Orchards and Panorama Farm Market are open year-round. These family-run businesses serve up some of the State’s tastiest jams, ciders, salsas, barbecue sauces, baked goods and, of course, apples, inside their country stores. If you travel to Ellijay in early May be sure to check out the Apple Blossom Festival.
If you go
The beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains originate in Gilmer County and rental cabins of all sizes dot the countryside, each unique and offering peaceful surroundings. Or try a sleeping in a vintage Airstream or geodesic dome at Elatse’ Yi. Whether you’re looking for a night under the stars at one of the area’s many campsites, a hotel room or a charming bed and breakfast, Ellijay, Georgia, can accommodate every overnight need.