TAKE THE ROADS LESS TRAVELED: FEWER CROWDS, HIDDEN GEMS HIGHLIGHT GEORGIA DESTINATIONS FOR FUTURE TRAVEL PLANS (PART 2)

Alpine Helen-White County

Part scenic Bavarian village and part heart-pumping outdoor mecca, Alpine meets Appalachian in Helen, Georgia “Georgia’s Official Outdoor Adventure Destination.” This north Georgia city by the Chattahoochee River strikes the perfect balance between fun mountain town and legit cardio adventure. Yonah Mountain in White County is one of the top three rock climbing spots in Georgia. Outdoor enthusiasts will also find hiking, mountain biking, fishing, tubing, zip lining and horseback riding. If Smithgall Woods State Park appears to be a secret fishing and hunting retreat, it’s because it was, thanks to a noted conservationist. Five miles of trails and 18 miles of roads allow hikers and bicyclists to explore hardwoods, trout streams, wildflowers and wildlife. Unicoi State Park and Lodge within the Chattahoochee National Forest offers beautiful trails leading to popular attraction points including Lake Unicoi and Anna Ruby Falls. Dukes Creek, Raven Cliff and Horse Trough are other popular waterfalls.  A two mile out-and-back along the new ADA accessible Helen to Hardman Heritage Trail reveals a glimpse of Hardman Farm State Historic Site with its iconic gazebo built atop an ancient Indian mound. A variety of wineries with outdoor spaces overlooking scenic vistas, as well as restaurants–some overlooking the flowing waters of the Chattahoochee–offering outdoor seating, welcome visitors to enjoy a breath of fresh air. Folks traveling with pets will find many dog-friendly options from restaurants to parks and trails, even lodging. For more information, www.HelenGA.org

Blue Ridge/Fannin County

Just 90 minutes north of Atlanta off Interstate-575, Blue Ridge is at once outdoorsy, earthy, upscale, contemporary and historical. Centered around the Blue Ridge Depot, downtown’s historic buildings blend perfectly with modern industrial and mountain architecture, showcasing the arts, galleries, antiques, unique shopping and dining. Yet 40 percent of the county is located within the Chattahoochee National Forest, sweeping visitors a million miles away. Hikes to five refreshing waterfalls range from just .1 mile to 9.5 miles. Two bucket-list hiking adventures, the Appalachian Trail and the Benton MacKaye Trail begin in southern Fannin County at Springer Mountain in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Trek across the 270 foot long Swinging Bridge on the Toccoa River, the longest east of the Mississippi. The Toccoa offers tubing, canoeing, kayaking and rafting, while the Ocoee River is an exhilarating whitewater rafting experience. Both rivers have made Blue Ridge the Trout Fishing Capital of Georgia. On Lake Blue Ridge, visitors and locals pontoon, paddleboard or kayak, lingering on the water for stunning sunsets. In the mood for entertainment? The Swan Drive-In Theatre is one of three remaining in Georgia, offering first run movies on weekends. For more information, www.BlueRidgeMountains.com