10 of the best scenic day hikes to enjoy this fall from Atlanta

Women look out at the summit of Blood Mountain. Contributed by Kaleb East Photography
Kaleb East Photography

Fall is right around the corner and it’s almost time for the leaves to start changing into colorful and eye-catching, bright orange, red and yellow. Georgia provides some of the best scenic hikes to experience the beauty of autumn and the season’s vibrant foliage.

These mountainous trails will lead you along creeks, towering tree-lined forests, have you chasing waterfalls, and reward you with unforgettable views at the top of the summit. Get your hiking boots on and let’s start exploring some of Georgia’s most amazing hikes you can enjoy this fall!

Blood Mountain

With a height of 4,458 feet, Blood Mountain is Georgia’s sixth-tallest mountain and is the highest peak on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. It is a rather steep journey up to the peak of Blood Mountain and an overall terrific trek. As you make it to the top of the summit, you’ll experience some of the most amazing views, especially during the fall season with all of the vivid leaf colors and valleys in the distance. Take note that autumn is the trail’s busiest season, so be sure to get there early!

Location: Blairsville, GA - 12829 Gainesville Highway; Website: atlantatrails.com; Contact: 706-745-9454

Kennesaw Mountain

Just north of Atlanta is the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, which was once a site of a 14-day Civil War battle during the Atlanta campaign in 1864. The mountain’s history is preserved with some remaining canons, trenches, memorials and monuments. Hikers of all skill levels will enjoy their varied hiking paths in length and difficulty. At the top of Kennesaw Mountain, you’ll see beautiful views of Atlanta in the distance, as well as sprawling trees and Little Kennesaw Mountain, the neighboring peak.

Location: Kennesaw, GA - 12829 Gainesville Highway; Website: kennesaw.com; Contact: 770-427-4686

Cloudland Canyon State Park

About a short 2-hour drive from Atlanta is Cloudland Canyon State Park in Northwest Georgia offering breathtaking views. With short, moderate and strenuous hikes, there are trails for everyone here. Cloudland Canyon features some of nature’s most enchanting sights with cascading waterfalls, wildlife, creeks, cliffs and canyons. Throughout the state park, there are also horseback riding trails, biking, fishing, cottages, yurts and campsites.

Location: Rising Fawn, GA - 122 Cloudland Canyon Park Rd.; Website: cloudlandcanyon.org; Contact: 706-657-4050

Rabun Bald

To see spectacular 360-degree panoramic views, hike the Bartram Trail to Rabun Bald, Georgia’s second-tallest summit. The trail is named after William Bartram, a writer and naturalist who traveled on the route in the late 1700s. Although getting to Rabun Bald requires a little more work, the reward is well worth it with gorgeous scenery (especially in the fall). Once you arrive at Rabun Bald’s peak, you’ll take in expansive views of the surrounding Georgia and North Carolina wilderness.

Location: Dillard, GA - Kelsey Mountain Rd.; Website: atlantatrails.com; Contact: 706-657-4050

Sope Creek Paper Mill Ruins

Sope Creek Ruins, located right outside of Atlanta, has more than three miles of beautiful hiking, mountain biking and jogging paths. Today you’ll find the old multi-story stone ruins of a Civil War-era paper mill that had been destroyed by Union troops. Sope Creek flows along the paper mill ruins, through the towering trees, and down to the Chattahoochee River. Along the hike, you’ll find a tranquil pond with serene views of the trees and their vibrant fall foliage.

Location: Marietta, GA - Paper Mill Rd. SE; Website: atlantatrails.com; Contact: 678-538-1200

Fort Mountain Lookout

At Fort Mountain State Park, you’ll find interconnecting trails that lead you to the majestic Fort Mountain Lookout. Along the way, you’ll learn a little bit of history and discover a restored stone fire tower that dates back to the Great Depression. Just two hours north of Atlanta, this is a great hike for the whole family that’s relatively short and easy.

Location: Chatsworth, GA - 181 Fort Mountain State Park Rd.; Website: gastateparks.org; Contact: 706-422-1932

Yonah Mountain

Located in Georgia’s Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, the Yonah Mountain ridge is nestled right in between Helen and Cleveland. The Yonah Mountain Trail offers one of North Georgia’s best hikes with stunning views, steep drop-offs and a moderate yet incredibly scenic climb to the summit. Overall, it’s a little over four miles round trip of a hike from the mountain’s base to the top and back, and totally worth the magnificent scenery.

Location: Cleveland, GA - GA-75; Website: fs.usda.gov; Contact: 770-297-3000

Tallulah Gorge State Park

For more experienced hikers, Tallulah Gorge State Park’s trails are great for more strenuous hikes. Tallulah Gorge is one of the most picturesque canyons in the eastern United States, it’s almost 1,000 feet deep and two miles long. Featuring several overlooks on different trail paths, visitors can even obtain a permit to hike the gorge floor. As long as you’re not afraid of heights, it’s worth checking out the 80-foot-high suspension bridge offering incredible views of the waterfalls and river.

Location: Tallulah Falls, GA - 338 Jane Hurt Yarn Rd.; Website: gastateparks.org; Contact: 706-754-7981

Raven Cliff Falls

One of the most popular and gorgeous hiking paths in North Georgia is the Raven Cliff Falls Trail, which is brimming with stunning, flowing waterfalls. Follow the trail to a stunning waterfall that flows over a 40-foot-tall, towering cliff. While this is usually considered a moderate trek, it takes an average of 2+ hours to complete. Be sure to wear a good pair of shoes to get you through this mossy and lush forest.

Location: Helen, GA - 3000 Richard B Russell Scenic Hwy.; Website: gastateparks.org; Contact: 706-754-6221

Amicalola Falls State Park

Between Ellijay and Dahlonega sits the 829-acre Amicalola Falls State Park, home to Georgia’s tallest waterfall and the southernmost point of the Appalachian Trail. As one of the most visited state parks in Georgia, the main focal point is the 720-foot cascading waterfall with 425 steps that take you up to the top of the falls. This is a great hike for all levels, even the kiddos! For some extra fun, Amicalola offers many adventure activities like zip-lining, 3-D archery, GPS scavenger hunting and more. On a perfect fall day, you will experience some of the most phenomenal views that Georgia nature has to offer here.

Location: Dawsonville, GA - 418 Amicalola Falls State Park Rd.; Website: amicalolafallslodge.com; Contact: 706-265-8888

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