CMC in North Georgia Parks

NorthGA2011-BlackrockmountainSP

Why would any hiker want to leave Western North Carolina? We have the highest mountains in the east and the best parks and trails.

But this past weekend, 17 Carolina Mountain Club hikers stayed at Unicoi State Park outside of Helen to hike in three North Georgia State Parks.

On Friday, we hiked the Edmonds Trail in Black Rock Mountain SP. The park is touted as the highest state park in Georgia, reaching a high of 3,640 feet. I know, some of you live at a higher altitude. But as we gazed out at the top of Lookout Mountain on the trail (only 3,162 ft.), we realized that it’s not the absolute height that counts. It’s the drop into the valley that counts – and it was impressive. See the top photo.

We then drove to Unicoi and checked in. Lenny and I and a few others camped while the rest of our group had rented cabins. Like most state parks, at least in the south, the campground was impeccable – tent site, picnic table, fire ring which we used to make a fire to go with our pot luck dinner on Friday evening.

NorthGA2011-RavencliffsfallThe next day, we hiked up to Raven Cliffs Falls in the Chattahoochee Forest. I had gotten this recommendation from Jim Parham who wrote the book Waterfalls Hikes of North Georgia, published by Milestone Press.

NorthGA2011-Ravencliffsfalltop The trail hugged the creek and passed several good waterfalls before ending at an impressive rock and cave. See the picture to the right.

The falls are in the slit between the rocks and doesn’t show too well in the photo but was very obvious in real life. I’m sure that better photographers – especially photographers willing to spend the whole day there – would have gotten a different photo.

We walked into Helen, a mountain town, that made up a Bavarian theme to attract tourists – and it worked. This was Octoberfest in Helen and the people spilt over the sidewalk into the street carrying beer mugs on a string around their necks. I settled for a frozen yogurt.

NorthGA2011-TallulahfallsBy Sunday, some of our group left, others went to do their own hike. But for those who stayed, we were rewarded with an amazing walk in Tallullah Gorge State Park.

This park, created to highlight the waterfalls in the gorge, is partly (mostly??) funded by Georgia Power. The interpretive center is outstanding, the trails are manicured and the 1,052 steps that we walked were solid.

Sunday, yesterday, was also my birthday – a big, eventful birthday. As I climbed up the steps, I passed several people stopped on the steps huffing and puffing; they were all younger than my son. I really resisted saying to them – “Hey what are you going to be like when you’re my age?”

The three parks were worth the weekend but Tallullah Gorge is worth another trip. It’s a two-hour drive from Asheville but if you’re going to walk the whole loop, including the steps, it may be worth the drive.

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