With springtime blooms and warmer temperatures, there is no greater escape than the peace and tranquility of the North Georgia Mountains. The air is clean, the sun is typically shining and the birds are chirping.
The small town of Ellijay, about an hour outside of Atlanta, has just the right mix of ambiance, outdoor attractions, and charm to allure most any visitor. Known as the Apple Capital of Georgia, Ellijay has plenty of farms and wineries to explore.
Come for the apples
With more than 10 roadside apple houses and 500 acres of orchards producing 650,000 bushels of apples each year, apples are big business in Ellijay. Officially apple season is August through November, but springtime visitors can enjoy the apple trees in full bloom and stop in at one of the year-round markets such as R and A Orchards or Mercier Orchards (in Blue Ridge) to sample freshly-made apple bread or a famous fried pie.
Interestingly, Ellijay is home to a handful of unique wineries. Long known for muscadine wines, North Georgia is emerging as quite the wine destination with its rich terroir, beautiful mountain views and award-winning wines. Locally grown and produced cabernet sauvignon, seyval and vidal blanc, chambourcin, chardonell, trimonette and lenoir grapes lend way to some great tasting wines. Both Chateau Meichtry and Ott Farms and Vineyard are family-owned, offering tasting rooms, live music and food trucks on weekends, making each a perfect place to kick back and relax.
Chasing waterfalls and Big Foot
Spring is the perfect time to get out on a trail and explore nature. Tumbling Waters Nature Trail at Carters Lake is an easy hike with a cascading waterfall and 150-foot-long bridge across Tails Creek. At Fort Mountain State Park, a 1.6-mile trail leads to a rock wall, stone tower and overlook. Nearby Amicalola Falls State Park boasts the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast with several trails to the top and around the base of the falls. Another easy-to-moderate hike is Fall Branch Falls on Stanley Gap Road, near the Toccoa River.
This is one of those roadside attractions that begs a stop. Expedition: Big Foot in Cherry Log is a one-of-a-kind deep dive into all things Sasquatch. Billed as “North Georgia’s biggest family attraction,” it’s part museum, part research and reporting center taking information from those who have had an “encounter” with the famed part ape/part human with videos and documents detailing those experiences.
For more information, visit pickellijay.com.
With only a handful of hotels, a cabin rental is the way to go and with more than 800 rentals available, there’s a wide range of options. Blue Sky Cabin Rentals has hundreds of pet-friendly and water-view cabins.
Emily’s Bar and Restaurant offers craft cocktails and a seasonal menu from local farms.
Charlie’s Italian offers authentic Italian comfort food.
The Roof is Ellijay’s only rooftop venue with great views of the town. It’s a popular local happy hour hang out.
Another local favorite, Cantaberry Restaurant offers a great selection of sounds, salads, sandwiches and daily specials.
La Cantrina on Main Street serves up authentic Mexican food, including street tacos, and margaritas.
Ott Farms and Vineyard
B.J. Reece Orchards
9131 Hwy 52 E., Ellijay
Hwy 515 S., Ellijay
5505 Hwy 52 E., Ellijay
8660 Blue Ridge Dr., Blue Ridge