Autumn is the time to hit the road, head into the mountains, and enjoy the bright colors of changing leaves and a sweet bite of a fresh apple.
According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, late October and early November are peak times to admire the colorful leaves on Georgia mountainsides. October also is prime time to visit an apple orchard, according to the chamber of commerce for Gilmer County, which calls itself the Georgia’s Apple Capital.
Georgia’s state parks offer some of the best leaf-peeping around. And the state helps guide tourists to the places where they can find the best fall color on any given day with a website called Leaf Watch. For regular updates on where the leaves are at or near their colorful peaks, go to gastateparks.org/LeafWatch/Best-Parks.
There are a few places within about a two-hour drive of Reporter Newspapers communities where you can find fall color. Along with them, we’ve listed a few other places nearby where Gilmer County apple promoters say you should be able pick up a bushel of freshly-picked apples or a just-made hot apple pie.
DNR recommends 15 state parks for peak fall color. Here are five of them in northwest Georgia, not too far from the orchards surrounding Ellijay and East Ellijay.
Cloudland Canyon State Park
The park features stunning canyon overlooks and, for those willing to brave the long, steep stairway to the bottom, two picturesque waterfalls.
122 Cloudland Canyon Park Road, Rising Fawn
Directions: I-75 N to Exit 320, then Ga. 136 W to Cloudland Canyon Park Road.
Fort Mountain State Park
Along with trails providing both challenging and easy walks in the woods, Fort Mountain provides a chance to see a true mystery, the mountaintop rock wall that gives the park its name.
181 Fort Mountain Park Road, Chatsworth
Directions: Take I-75 N to Ga. 441 N, then take Ga. 52 E to Fort Mountain Park Road.
James H. “Sloppy” Floyd State Park
This quiet park offers two stocked fishing lakes, a boardwalk and rental pedal boats, the DNR says.
2800 Sloppy Floyd Lake Road, Summerville
Directions: Take I-75 N to Ga. 140 W, take Ga.1/U.S. 27 N to Sloppy Floyd Lake Road.
Amicalola Falls State Park
In addition to fall color, this park offers views of the 720-foot-tall Amicalola Falls, which state officials call the Southeast’s largest cascading waterfall. It also has a 56-room lodge, restaurant and a 20-room inn accessible only to hikers.
418 Amicalola Falls Lodge Road, Dawsonville
Take Ga. 400/U.S. 19 N to Ga. 369, follow Ga. 369 W to Ga. 9 N, turn right onto Ga. 342, then left onto Ga. 52, and follow to Amicalola Falls State Park Road.
Red Top Mountain State Park
The park, less than an hour’s drive from metro Atlanta, contains an easy 4-mile trail open to bikers and walkers, and provides lake views, the DNR’s website says.
50 Lodge Road SE, Cartersville
Directions: Take I-75 N to exit 285, turn right onto Red Top Mountain Road.