Pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and hay rides are just the beginning to autumnal fun

The North Georgia Mountains become a blaze of color during fallThe North Georgia Mountains become a blaze of color during fall — Photo courtesy of ANCHASA MITCHELL / iStock Via Getty Images

Fall is the best time to visit the scenic beauty of the North Georgia Mountains. As the southern tip of the Blue Ridge Mountain range, the area is full of cascading waterfalls, lakes and rivers for tubing, cozy cabins, and hikes in state parks and forests.

Family-friendly activities abound around Helen, Georgia’s own Alpine village, and other small mountain towns during the autumn months. The fall foliage is absolutely stunning around Dawsonville, Ellijay, Blairsville, Hiawassee, Blue Ridge, and Dahlonega. Here’s what to see and do for a weekend you won’t forget.

Take a thrilling Alpine roller coaster ride in Helen

The Georgia Mountain Coaster is a fun outdoor adventure for families and thrill-seekers alikeThe Georgia Mountain Coaster is a fun outdoor adventure for families and thrill-seekers alike — Photo courtesy of Karon Warren

There is a lot of Alpine charm in Helen, from the photogenic buildings around town to the gorgeous fall scenery. If you’re more thrill-seeker than shopper, definitely take a ride (or two or three) on the Georgia Mountain Coaster, the state’s first self-controlled alpine roller coaster.

Located in downtown Helen, small cars wind down a mountain along a narrow track. You control your own speed, which is great for families — or more timid roller coaster riders — who want to keep their zooms under 25 miles per hour (the max speed). Share a car or go it alone, either way it’s an exhilarating ride through the trees.

Get lost in a corn maze in Dawsonville

Uncle Shuck's Corn Maze challenges families and friendsUncle Shuck’s Corn Maze challenges families and friends — Photo courtesy of Destination Dawsonville

Nothing says fall like trying to find your way through a corn maze, and Uncle Shuck’s in Dawsonville delivers. It’s actually two corn mazes covering 15 acres with 6 miles of trails (and a few dead ends), so there’s a lot to navigate. It’s only scary on Friday and Saturday nights in October, when The Dark Rows open, the most haunted and twisted trails in the corn field.

For more innocent fun, enjoy other activities on the farm, like a pumpkin patch, hayrides, and plenty of Instagrammable photo spots to commemorate the day. Kids especially love the jumping pad, tire mountain, towering goat walk, and corn cannon.

Pick your own apples at Hillcrest Orchards

There's apple picking and more at Hillcrest Orchards in EllijayThere’s apple picking and more at Hillcrest Orchards in Ellijay — Photo courtesy of Karon Warren

One of the best things about fall is visiting an apple orchard for apple picking and other goodies. Less than two hours from Atlanta, Ellijay is the place for apple everything every autumn.

At Hillcrest Orchards, a family-owned farm that’s been in operation since 1946, you can pick apples, watch pig races, enjoy live music and clogging, and visit the petting farm. Don’t forget to grab some apple cider doughnuts and fried apple pies from the market and bakery before heading home.

The Georgia Apple Festival takes place in Ellijay during the second and third weekends every October. You’ll find handmade food, arts and crafts, and live music at the festival.

Just north of Ellijay, Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge, a 10best Readers’ Choice winner, has apple picking, tractor rides, a winery, and a fantastic farm store for fresh-baked goodies, cider, and more.

Stop for scenic views at Brasstown Bald

The views from Brasstown Bald are breathtakingThe views from Brasstown Bald are breathtaking — Photo courtesy of Ralph Daniel / Explore Georgia

Take in the gorgeous fall foliage from Georgia’s highest point near Blairsville and Hiawassee. Located inside the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests, Brasstown Bald sits at 4,784 feet above sea level, but is easily reached by shuttle or a short-but-steep paved foot trail.

The main attraction is the 360-degree view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and surrounding area, which are full of vibrant fall foliage during autumn. On a clear day, you might even see Atlanta! There’s also a museum full of cultural and natural history exhibits to learn about the history of the area.

Find the perfect pumpkin patch at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm

Pumpkins of all sizes and colors at Burt's Pumpkin Farm in DawsonvillePumpkins of all sizes and colors at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in Dawsonville — Photo courtesy of Destination Dawsonville

For the ultimate pumpkin patch in the North Georgia Mountains, head to Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in Dawsonville, where you’ll find a massive selection of colorful pumpkins of all shapes, colors, and sizes.

Once you find your ideal pumpkin, take a 20-minute hayride around the farm, snap photos at the covered bridge and creek, and make sure to pick up treats in the farm stand before heading home with your newly found home decor.

Take a waterfall hike in the North Georgia Mountains

The cascading waters of Amicalola Falls are the star among the fall foliageThe cascading waters of Amicalola Falls are the star among the fall foliage — Photo courtesy of Chris Greer Photography

As the weather turns cool, fall becomes an ideal time to hike to some of the best waterfalls in the area. At Amicalola Falls State Park near Dawsonville, you can hike to the third-highest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River.

Set in the Chattahoochee National Forest, the 729-foot Amicalola Falls cascade down the mountainside with a short, moderate trail hike for close-up viewing.

Just outside of Helen, hike to Anna Ruby Falls, twin falls that cascade more than 150 feet among the trees. While you can hike both year-round, these falls are especially beautiful when surrounded by the colorful fall foliage.

Enjoy Oktoberfest and other fall festivals around Helen

Dancing to live music is just part of the fun at the Helen OktoberfestDancing to live music is just part of the fun at the Helen Oktoberfest — Photo courtesy of Alpine Helen-White County Convention & Visitors Bureau

The North Georgia Mountains is home to a number of fall festivals that are great for families — and anyone who loves to take in the sights, smells, and revelry of the season.

In September and October, visit the Helen Oktoberfest, the longest-running Oktoberfest in the country. It has everything: Beer, live music and dancing at the festhalle, sampling German food, a parade, and lots of lederhosen.

In Dahlonega during the third full weekend in October, the Gold Rush Days celebrates the 1828 discovery of gold in the area. The two-day event features more than 200 arts and crafts vendors, live music, and lots of great fair food.

Climb aboard the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

A ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway provides a new perspective on North Georgia's fall landscapeA ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway provides a new perspective on North Georgia’s fall landscape — Photo courtesy of Ralph Daniel / Explore Georgia

When the trees start to don their colorful reds, oranges, and yellow hues, one of the best ways to view the fall colors is a ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. The open-air coaches are fantastic for leaf peeping, seeing winding rivers and wildlife, and taking in the charms of small towns.

Choose a two-hour or four-hour journey along the Toccoa River from Blue Ridge to McCaysville. On the longer tour, there’s a layover in the twin towns of McCaysville and Copperhill, Tennessee. Enjoy lunch, grab some souvenirs, and stand in two states at once before returning to Blue Ridge.

Search for ghosts in the North Georgia Mountains

The streets of downtown Dahlonega are full of stories and ghost talesThe streets of downtown Dahlonega are full of stories and ghost tales — Photo courtesy of Geoff L. Johnson / Explore Georgia

For a haunting good time, take the historic ghost tour through downtown Dahlonega. Dahlonega Walking Tours takes you through 15 stops ranging from restaurants to residences, the town’s historic courthouse, and much more. You’ll hear about the area’s history and most colorful characters, and gain a few good stories along the way. Children are welcome at their parents’ discretion.

For those who want to hear Dahlonega history without the ghosts, from its time as tribal lands for the Eastern Cherokee Nation to the gold rush, Civil War, and beyond, check out the history walking tour.

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