The Mountains Were Calling
It was time for a weekend adventure, so when the mountains called we decided to hop in the car and get on the road. Being isolated to home for 4 months was not fun. There are a lot of great things that came out of that isolation time-reflections on living an intentional family life and creating healthy habits while in quarantine. Our day trips kept us going and gave us an outlet. BUT, it was time to venture out and explore beyond the nearby outside attractions.
The summer temperatures are relentlessly hot here in South Carolina so we decided to escape to a destination we could get some reprieve from the sweltering humidity. Believe it or not, temperatures still topped out in the high 80’s and it was still humid, but it felt so good to have a cool morning and evening!
We Rented a Cabin in the Mountain Foothills of GA
COVID-19 is still very much a determining factor, so we chose a single home away from others on this trip. We found a cabin within driving distance of our home that was basically in the middle of nowhere but close enough to outdoor activities for us to enjoy as a family. There are several Northern Georgia towns in the valleys and mountain areas to choose from.
We started off by looking near Helen, GA and landed on a cabin between Helen and Clarkesville. It was perfect for our family of 5 to spread out to sleep, but gather together to cook our meals and play games after dinner.
En route to the Mountains of GA
On our way up to the cabin we stopped at a Paris Mountain State Park, which is in South Carolina. We hiked two trails connected by a road through the park and enjoyed quite a bit of solitude. We only saw a total of 10 people on the trails the whole day. Paris Mountain State Park is located just 5 miles north of Greenville, SC. Greenville is a bustling city with a main street full of restaurants with outdoor seating and shops to wander through. The park itself offers fishing, a designated swimming area, canoe/kayak/paddleboat rentals, and hiking & biking trails. Picnic shelters are scattered throughout the park, along with campsites (some with full RV hookups) located near shower/restroom facilities. We spent a few hours here and enjoyed the trails, but barely scratched the surface. This was a great way to start off our weekend adventure.
Activities in the GA Mountains
Our focus was outdoor activity with as few people around as possible. We traveled during COVID-19 times so we chose to be extra careful about this. The morning after we arrived we set out to Unicoi State Park to conquer their zipline adventure. The group sizes were limited to 10 people, and everyone wore masks including the guides. They sanitized all equipment prior to our time on the course to ensure healthy standards were met and kept. It was a stress-free and super fun environment for a family of adventure teens.
After our time zip lining, we drove over to Anna Ruby Falls to do a short hike and observe the beautiful cascading falls. Although the entries were limited and the parking lot was less than half full, it still felt a bit crowded to us. I think being at home for so long has made us hyper aware of masses of people-something we would never have blinked at prior to this global pandemic. Everyone was courteous and respectful, allowing for spaced out pictures and ample viewing time. This is a very easy hike with a great reward. If you have littles or tired legs from a previous hike, this is a great one to add to your weekend adventure.
Hiking in the Mountains of GA
There is no shortage of hiking trails in this area of Georgia that were perfect for our weekend adventure. We did a lot of research to see where we could hop on the Appalachian Trail, where to find easy parking spots for trailheads and where bathroom facilities were open. We used Atlanta Trails for all the information we needed. Not everything was updated with COVID-19 closings, but it was the best resource we could find. Our oldest wanted to hike on the Appalachian Trail this summer, so we chose Preacher’s Rock as our family hike. It was the perfect moderate hike and it had the added benefit of amazing views at the end (this is an in & out hike). Per usual the rain chased us away sooner than we wanted.
After our hike to Preacher’s Rock we drove to Brasstown Bald visitors center, which is surrounded by the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. This is the tallest peak in Georgia and has some epic views from the observation deck. After you pay your entry and find a parking spot, you will need to hoof it up the .6 mile paved walkway. It’s short, but strenuous as it feels like you’re walking straight up. When you get to the top you’re at the tallest peak in Georgia at 4,784 elevation above sea level. I know for you west-coasters that’s no big deal, but most of us east coasters live at sea level so it’s a jump for us!!
More from our Weekend Adventure
A weekend adventure in the mountains was just what we needed after being cooped up for so many months. The northern GA mountain towns offered all kind of activities and outdoor fun for families with teenagers as well as littles. Most everything was open, but we chose outdoor fun with plenty of space away from others. One of our favorite afternoons was to visit a sliding rock/swimming hole on Wildcat Creek. The creek was very rustic and a bit of a challenge to find, but we practically had the spot to ourselves with only 2 others there. The water was refreshingly COLD and it was perfect for our teens. No pictures from our time there, though, because there was nowhere to set my camera. I was having fun with everyone!
What to Expect from a Typical Weekend Adventure in the Georgia Mountains
While this was an incredibly good feeling getaway for our family, we may have done even more if COVID-19 had not been in full swing. We did not step foot into a single store or shop in any of the towns we came across, which was a shame. These towns are CUTE and have darling shops and restaurants that we would love to return to. Helen, although a bit kooky, is a Bavarian-esque town with put put golf, river tubing and other things. Hiawassee is an outdoors mecca of sorts with lots of outdoor shops, outfitter tour companies and more. Clarkesville is a sweet town we would have loved to wander in. Don’t sell yourself short if you go AFTER the pandemic has subsided. There is so much to do!