Georgia's national forests are said to be a hiker's paradise. Winding trails lead visitors through scenic mountains and rolling hills, by wild rushing rivers and cascading waterfalls. They also lead visitors through the history books: Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto's futile search for gold, the United States' first frenzied gold rush; the Cherokee Indians' struggle to hold on to their lands; and major battles of the Civil War.
Ten wildernesses, 1,367 miles of trout streams, and 430 miles of trails enrich the Chattahoochee National Forest. The famous 2,178-mile Appalachian Trail begins here and hardy hikers don't see the end until they reach Maine!
Drive along the Ridge and Valley Scenic Byway, which tours the Armuchee Ridges of the Appalachian Mountains. Several major Civil War battles were fought in this area, most of them centered around the railroad, which stretched from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Atlanta, Georgia.
Across from the Armuchee Ridges lie the Blue Ridge Mountains. Lake Conasauga sits here, the State's highest lake at more than 3,000 feet above sea level. This clear cool mountain lake is surrounded by white pines and eastern hemlocks.
Don't forget to stop at Brasstown Bald, Georgia's highest peak at 4,784 feet. Trails traverse the mountain and the observation deck offers breath taking panoramic views of mountains and valleys.
Unlike the tall peaks of the Chattahoochee, the Oconee National Forest is relatively flat with small hills. Visit Lake Sinclair, 15,300 acres, popular for swimming, fishing, boating, and camping. Near Lake Oconee, an easy 1-mile trail leads to one of Georgia's ghost towns, Scull Shoals.
If a wealth of trails is the hallmark of the Chattahoochee, bountiful game is the signature of the Oconee. There are also plenty of excellent fishing opportunities.
The unique features of Georgia's national forests make these lands a place of exploration and wonder. They are unique lands rich with recreation opportunities, history and spectacular scenery.
Georgia Forests Recreation Opportunities
Chattahoochee National Forest
Hiking and Riding: With over 430 miles of trails on the Chattahoochee, it's hard to find an area without some type of footpath! From short day hikes to more arduous trips, for novices or experts, there is a trail for every level, every purpose, The four long-distance trails on the Chattahoochee are great for backpacking: the Benton MacKaye(53 miles), Bartram (37 miles), Duncan Ridge (35.5 miles), and Appalachian (79 miles).
Water Recreation: The Chattooga Wild and Scenic River is most popular for guided rafting trips. This premier whitewater river offers some of the most challenging rapids in the Southeast. The Chattahoochee and Toccoa rivers are popular for canoe or kayak. Unlike most Georgia rivers, the Toccoa flows north instead of south, and is considered to be the state's loveliest river.
Fishing: Nearby Lake Blue Ridge is the only place in Georgia where anglers can catch muskellunge. This 3,290-acre lake is bordered by two Forest Service campgrounds and has a privately owned marina for boat rentals. Nottely Lake, Lake Chatuge, Lake Burton,and Lake Rabun also touch the Chattahoochee and provide good trout and bass fishing. With over 1,300 miles of trout streams on the forest, there are plenty opportunities to catch trout, walleye, bluegill, and bass.
Scenic Drives: The Ridge and Valley Scenic Byway is a 47-mile loop through the Armuchee Ridges. "Armuchee" is a Cherokee Indian word meaning "land of flowers," still an accurate description. John's Mountain Overlook has outstanding views reaching into Alabama and Tennessee. A nature trail from the overlook leads to Keown Falls Scenic Area, where twin waterfalls can be seen from an observation platform.
Spectacular fall colors burst in the trees along the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway. This 38-miles loop has many interesting stops along the way. Dukes Creek Falls trail leads to the bottom of a gorge, where the air is cooled by the misty spray from the waterfalls. The never ending sound of the cold water tumbling down 250 feet provides a relazing setting for weary hikers.
Farther along the drive is the Raven Cliffs Trail, which twists for 2 ½ miles around several waterfalls, including one of the most unusual falls in the forest where water pours out of a crevice in a massive cliff about 90 feet high. Brasstown Bald is another popular stop on this drive.
Points of Interest: Brasstown Bald is the highest peak in Georgia. Shuttle vans carry most visitors from a parking lot to the top, but hardy hikers climb the path to the crest. Winds are always present on the lofty summit, which provides breathtaking views from the Visitor Center's observation deck.
The cool, still hush of the surrounding lush forest is broken only by the thundering water of Anna Ruby Falls. This unique double waterfall cascades off of Tray Mountain in a spectacular 153-foot drop. The Lion's Eye Trail for the Blind adds a special dimension to one of Georgia's most visited spots.
Historic Sites: In the Northwest portion of the Chattahoochee, on the other side of Interstate 75, the mountain peaks are lower and shaped in long, narrow ridges,separated by valleys. These valleys have been used for centuries as human and animal passageways. Great armies clashed here during the Civil War as Union General William Tecumseh Sherman led his troops towards the fateful battle of Atlanta, which sealed the Confederacy's doom.
Oconee National Forest
Hiking and Riding: Hiking trails are near major recreation areas. Three trails are suitable for horseback riding near the Ocmulgee River. The 1-mile Burgess Mountain Trail reaches the highest point on the forest at 645 feet above sea level, and is open to horseback riding.
Water Recreation: Lake Sinclair is a popular lake for swimming, fishing, and boating. The Oconee River is an excellent canoeing river, with the Oconee River Campground the favorite launching point.
Fishing: Spring catches of red-breast sunfish, particularly in the Ocmulgee River, are considered exceptional. Lake Oconee is well known for its crappie and other fish.
Historic Sites: The site of Georgia's fist cotton gin and paper mill, Scull Shoals is crumbling ghost town near lake Oconee. The remaining walls of the old warehouse and other ruins still stand amidst the lush forest and quiet waters.