Need to get out of the city for a few days? Only have a 3-day weekend to spare? Here is my 3-day guide to Blue Ridge, GA
When I have to pack a ton of things in a short amount of time, I like to get an early start. Blue Ridge is an hour-and-half drive from Atlanta so get up and get out. Cram an Entenmann’s doughnut in your mouth, pack your coffee in your travel cup and hit the floor running.
Day 1 – Be on the road in enough time to arrive in Blue Ridge at lunchtime. We left our house at 10 AM. If you leave earlier you could stop by Hillcrest Orchards in Ellijay on way.
- Grab lunch at The Moose Caboose, Serenity Garden Cafe, or Harvest on Main. These restaurants vary in price and overall fancy smanciness.
- If you want a hotdog or burger while you walk around the town choose the Moose Caboose. (such a cute name!) I recommend the warm pretzel and if it is cold out, I recommend the hot chocolate, you won’t be sorry you did. The Moose Caboose is right beside the train station and their tagline is “Track-side food”. ProTip: if you purchase a train ticket you get a coupon for a free coffee at the Moose Caboose. It was good coffee.
- Serenity Garden Cafe – has the usual country cooking fare. Meatloaf, burgers, Reubens, pork chops, and such. The food is good, but they are not in a huge hurry, so if you are, opt for somewhere else. This is a relaxing environment and they leave you be to have a good talk while you wait.
- If you want something higher end then head to Harvest on Main. If it is cold out get the 3 Onion & Apple Soup… it’s to die for. The Blue Ridge Hot Brown is pretty ding-dang tasty as well. Dinner here is fairly expensive, lunch is more moderate.
- After lunch – get your shopping on. Blue Ridge proper is pretty touristy but if you are into shopping there are quite a few stores for you to take a gander at. Check out the jerky shop as well as the candy shop along with little boutiques and antique shops.
- 4 P.M. High Tea time! Stop by Tupelo Tea and grab a freshly brewed cup of your choice. The brew cold and hot tea and it smells divine inside.
- 4:15 P.M. Head over to Morganton Recreational Area. Park at the beach and walk along the rocky shoreline of the park. Stay for sunset. This is when the show begins as the sun sets over the mountain tops. It is a spectacular sight to see. We camped here overnight and it was quite lovely. Morganton is only a few miles away from Blue Ridge proper so it won’t take you but 10 minutes to drive there. Along the way look for Blue Ridge Dam peeking between the trees on the right side of the highway. You can get to it by turning right on Lakewood Road. At the stop sign turn right to go to the dam and left to head to Morganton Recreational Area.
As the sun hits the horizon you may have a rumbly in your tummy, so head back into Blue Ridge for supper. Stop by the Sweet Shoppe of the South before dinner for a cupcake (they close at 8 P.M. on weekends). The cupcakes here are really good. So moist and delicious. Have your dessert first or save for after dinner at Treo Blue Ridge. Treo is pricey and it is worth it. If it is warm enough, sit outside at Treo. It is a gorgeous setting. The Sweet Shoppe is right across the alley from Treo, and I took a peach cupcake to go. I ate it by the campfire later that evening and it was wonderful!
Day 2 – GET UP! and GET OUT! We have a full day ahead and you gotta get going.
- Breakfast at Mercier’s – You can dine in the cafe for a full breakfast or grab a warm apple cider doughnut or the fresh-made fried pies. The peach and blackberry pie are my favorites, Shane loves the sweet potato. Also, pick up the sparkling apple cider to drink on the train later and extra fried pies for breakfast tomorrow! They are so incredible like nothing else in the world simply and completely amazing.
- 10 (or 11) AM – Blue Ridge Scenic Railway – You can cross “
Ride a Train” off your bucket list. Take the 12 mile – 1-hour train ride from Blue Ridge to sister towns of McCaysville, Georgia, and Copperhill, Tennessee. (Now’s the time to enjoy your sparkling apple cider as you look out at the GA mountains, from the comfort of your train car.) You can sit in a climate controlled car or an open-air car. Depending on the time of year, the train either leave at 10 AM or 11 AM, check the website for details.
- Pro Tip: If you are a first responder they will give you a discount on tickets, make sure you ask. Tickets run $44/per person – $38/first responder in “off-season” and are $10 more during peak foliage season. Ouch! Is it worth it? Hmm, well it is more than I would want to pay but, it was relaxing, the car guide (tour guide) was knowledgeable, and the scenery was pretty. It costs a ton to run those trains too!
- NOTE: Trains run once a day in offseason at 11 AM and twice a day in the peak season at 10 AM and 3 PM. Pro tip: If taking the 3 PM train during November or December, remember that the sun sets early so sit on the right side (side closest to the Moose Caboose) of the train going to McCaysville. This is the side the river is on, the sun shines in and it will keep you warm as the car was a bit chilly and it will be dark on the ride home.
- 12 PM – “Walk the Line” in McCaysville, Georgia, and Copperhill, Tennessee. The train stops here for a 2-hour layover. As the train pulls into the whistlestop, half the train will be in Georgia and the other in Tennessee.
- Make sure you walk the line as you get off the train. You can’t miss it. It is a blue line that runs right through the towns. You may think 2 hours isn’t much time to eat and see the town(s) but trust me… it is. There ain’t much here but shoppin’ and eatin’ and it smells highly of a tourist trap if I ever saw one.
- NOTE: We were bombarded by people handing out flyers to the stores in the town. This annoyed me because there is no need really, there are maybe 40 businesses here, we will see it all no need to cram a piece of paper in my hand. My advice: smile politely and decline the paper that will just be trashed.
- If you are into old steel bridges make sure you see the “Steel Bridge to Georgia“ while in town. It reminded me of a bridge in Alabama that we called “Grandaddies Bridge”. When we passed it, we knew we were close to Grandaddy Pate’s home.
- Grab lunch – To get away from the other 300 people who exited the train with us, we immediately walked all the way to the edge of Copperhill, TN. Down here we were able to get into The Copper Grill very quickly before the crowds made their way down to this end of the street (yes, it is one single street). There are a number of restaurants, but we wanted to walk as far down as possible to get away from the crowds. We sat outside on the patio in the cool air and watched passersby. Shane had the chili cheeseburger that looked amazing and I had the bourbon barbecue sammich which was really good. It is not served with BBQ sauce, which surprised me, but is seasoned so well that it isn’t needed. Julia had the Reuben which she said was also very good.
- After lunch, we visited a few stores that were very touristy. One store had quilts and homemade furniture, and there is a jewelry shop with trinkets. Julia picked up a shirt that says, “I walked the line”, we stopped and snapped a few photos of the town and made our way back to the train depot. While we waited to board the train Julia and I played a game of checkers outside Ole Copper Creek Store and we nom-nommed on very generous scoops of ice cream that was hand dipped inside.
My review of the town(s): thumbs down. The food was good and I snapped a few “quaint town” photos, but it was a tourist trap. If you are a follower of my blog, you know that I look for the backwoods, off the beaten path type of places and this was just too “staged” for my liking. I am just not into shopping for touristy trinkets, overpriced clothing you know, that sort of thing. We did enjoy playing checkers outside the little restaurant.
The return train trip: If you missed a shot going, you get a second chance to get it on the way back. I walked to the next train car which was open air and shot a few photos without the glass between. Depending on how crowded the train is, this is acceptable. When I returned to our car I found Shane fast asleep, lulled by the slow steady movement of the train. You see the same thing coming as you do going, so he didn’t miss anything.
If you take the morning train you will return to Blue Ridge by 3 PM. Still, plenty enough time to see more!
- If you want to just chill, grab a beer at Blue Ridge Brewery or sample wine at Serenberry Vineyards.
- If you are more into the great outdoors, head to Fall Branch Falls – climb a .5 mile trail to view the two-tier waterfall here. This is a quick and easy trip to a waterfall. On the way to the falls, you will travel Aska Road which is beautiful. Once on Stanley Creek Road, make sure you check out Warden Stanley’s old homestead and the cabin with the hitching posts. What a neat area it is to explore, this area is a gold mine for photo shots.
- Check out the Stanley Settlement that is near the Falls, plug “Harrison and Ada Road” into your GPS to find it.
- Here you will see the Stanley church that is now used only once a year for Decorator Day, a big ole Family reunion of all Stanley’s. See the long table built for the reunion and read about their history.
- Visit the grave of Moses Jackson, a lost black child who was taken in by the community and raised among them during the late 1800’s. Some say he was the child of runaway slaves, born free, but lost in the Georgia mountains. The Stanley settlement is proud to say they did not own slaves and Moses was educated alongside the other children of the settlement. He grew up here and died here part of the settlement.
- Visit the grave of Elijah and Elv Stanley, two men who didn’t want to fight in the civil war on the confederacies side. They stood for the Union and wanted to take care of their families and grow their crops. Both were shot dead for treason.
- Finally, make certain you visit the grave of Buell Stanley’s arm. That’s right, just his arm is buried here.
- If you are into Geocaching, there is one hidden here.
Day 2 Evening- I have two options for you.
- Take in a movie at Swan’s Drive-In Theater. The drive-in is open only on weekends. There is one screen so if you don’t like what’s showing; tough cookies! The theater was established in 1955, and as you wait for the movie to begin, sing along to the oldies on the radio and picture kids hanging out here in their father’s t-bird. I could picture Danny singing, “stranded at the drive-in” and Risso making the walk of shame from the ladies room with all the kids spreading gossip from car to car. It is neat to do once and you can cross “
see a movie at a drive-in” off your bucket-list. There is a concession stand that serves funnel cakes and deep fried Oreo’s, (oh.. my… gaw…) and they have hot dogs, corndogs, and burgers too.
- ProTip: Swan’s does not take debit or credit. Cash only. Grab it before you arrive as there isn’t an ATM in sight. They keep it as true to the age as possible.
- Protip2: if you have a car full, it is difficult to see from the backseat, brings chairs and a radio to listen to. We even saw people snuggled up in the bed of a truck watching! FUN!
- If a movie doesn’t do it for you? You can run into a grocery store and grab picnic supplies and head over to Horseshoe Bend Park for sunset. This park was visible from the train and allows you an up close and personal view of the Toccoa.
- Make sure you see the old iron bridge in the park, this is the same bridge the train crosses when headed to McCaysville, GA. If you time it right, you can hop off train and head over to the park to see the 3 PM train go by during the peak season.
- Pro Tip: Pickin’ in the Park is a weekly jam session of bluegrass and acoustic musicians every Thursday from Memorial Day week through September in the evenings.
Day 3 – You have a long day ahead, so get up and get going.
Enjoy your coffee and leftover Mercier’s fried pie while watching the sunrise over the mountains. Afterwards, put on your hiking boots or sneakers and hit the trail. You got lots to do today.
Start the drive down beautiful highway 60, but before you do plug all your sites into your GPS before you go because you will lose signal in them dar hills.
- Start by visiting Blue Ridge Dam
- Travel down scenic Hwy 60 through Suches. Make sure to stop to take pictures it is gorgeous!
- Skeenah Creek Campground and Mill – the mill offers picturesque photo opts. This is private property so be gracious and ask before just walking in and heading to the mill. From BlueRidge to Skeenah is 17 miles and took us 30 minutes.
- Tocca Swinging Bridge – goodness this drive to the top is long. It is only 3.4 miles but deep trenches on the dirt road make it slow going and not ideal for low profile vehicles. The bridge is awesome and you can wade in the Toccoa river below. It is worth the drive to the top of the mountain. From Skeenah to the Swinging bridge only is 3.8 miles and took us 30 minutes to drive up First Service Road 816 and of course, 30 minutes back down, I ain’t kiddin’ Y’all the road is rough.
- Tilley Baptist Church – visit a weird and creepy cemetery that is wrapped up in local history and lore. Hillbilly feudin’, mass murder at the church, witches, and hauntings. Creep factor: 9.9 on a scale of 1 to 10.
- Shallowford Iron Bridge – neat old Iron bridge that crosses the Toccoa. See the flip-flop tree and maybe have lunch at the Iron Bridge Cafe. (we packed a lunch but they say it is good.)
- If you skipped going to Fall Branch Fall‘s yesterday: GO! It is a short walk from parking, it is worth the trip, and you pass right by it while headed home.
- Cherry log will point you back to civilization and I-575 to Atlanta.
This entire trip is 51 miles from Blue Ridge to Cherry log along this scenic tour, but you will be driving through the mountains and it is slow going. You should definitely plan on this trip taking 4-5 hours. We stopped along the way to snap photos in addition to stopping at locations above, it may take you a little less, but don’t plan on it.
I hope you get up to Blue Ridge for a visit. It is a packed weekend, but you won’t regret it.
Keep the Lust for Wandering Y’all!
Fran and Shane