- Eric Champlin For the AJC
That familiar crispness is in the air. The sky is brilliant blue. The days are getting shorter and cooler, and the leaves are changing.
Cooler weather and dazzling leaf colors make fall one the most popular seasons for hiking.
Head to one of these great north Georgia trails to soak up some classic autumn beauty:
Just outside of Atlanta, the Arabia Mountain summit offers spectacular long-range views. From the summit of this massive monadnock mountain, you'll spot brilliant red, gold and orange leaves in the forests below and on the far horizon.
The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area offers many miles of hiking trails along the Chattahoochee River's banks in metro Atlanta. Experience beautiful reflections of colorful leaves reflected in the still, slow-moving waters of the river on the Gold Branch Trail, or sit high atop rocky bluffs on the East Palisades Trail and catch the changing leaf color on the river's opposite bank.
Hike the Red Trail at Sweetwater Creek State Park past historic Civil War mill ruins and along the shore of a whitewater-filled creek. Explore the creek's sandy banks and climb over stone outcrops to get high views of the autumn-dappled landscape below. (There's plenty of outdoor adventure to be found at Sweetwater Creek. Let the fall fun continue with s'mores and ghost stories around the campfire, and overnight in one of Sweetwater's new yurts.)
Fort Mountain State Park offers stunning, far-flung views of forest and farmland below, covered in the striking colors of autumn. Hike Fort Mountain's Wall, Overlook and Tower Trails to explore a newly renovated 1930s fire tower, and then catch one of the most beautiful fall views in north Georgia from a lofty observation deck.
Hike to Georgia's tallest waterfall, Amicalola Falls, and take in autumn's leaf change from the overlook above the falls. It's a beautiful view in any season, but the waterfall is particularly stunning framed by fall's brilliant color.
Blood Mountain, one of the Appalachian Trail's most popular and scenic views, offers open, sweeping vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Hike the Byron Reece Trail to the Appalachian Trail to climb Blood Mountain, the highest peak on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia.
Hike the Sitton Gulch Trail at Cloudland Canyon State Park to see outstanding views from the canyon's rim, and then drop into the valley below through forests bursting with fall color. It's a difficult six-mile hike, but you'll experience some of the most scenic and serene parts of the canyon.
For more fall adventure around town, check out these beginner-friendly trails and easy waterfall hikes near Atlanta. Or soak up some fall scenery throughout the Southeast at these five leaf-peeping destinations.