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HIT THE TRAIL AND RIDE THE RAILS IN BLUE RIDGE, GEORGIA

November 16, 2020

Blue Ridge is a mountain getaway under two hours outside Atlanta. The town was built up in 1886 when the Marietta and North Georgia Railroad was extended. It sits in Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, where 300 miles of hiking trails and 100 miles of trout streams beckon outdoorsy types. Ride on an old school train, sip local craft beer and wine, peruse a few galleries, and surround yourself with nature on this overnight trip to Blue Ridge.

To help combat the spread of Covid-19, some venues below may be closed or by appointment or reservation only. Note that masks are required in all venues except when you’re eating.

Things are changing rapidly. We do our best to update openings, closures, and hours. All information published below was correct at the time of writing.

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Lake Blue Ridge

Lake Blue Ridge. Photo by Ralph Daniel, courtesy of Georgia Department of Economic Development

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Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway in Downtown Blue Ridge. Photo by Ralph Daniel, courtesy of Georgia Department of Economic Development

From Atlanta, head north on I-75 N/I-85 N and continue on GA-5 N/GA-515 E/State Rte 515 to E 1st St/Old Hwy 76/Old U.S. 76 in Blue Ridge. Depending on traffic, the drive should take about two hours.

Before you go, book advance tickets for the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. The two-hour “express” is at either 3pm or 4pm; the Winter train is usually at 11am; the Santa Express is at 10am, 12pm, 2pm, and 4pm (until Dec. 23).

Day One: Pizza and Pasta, Strolling Downtown, and A Scenic Train Ride

On arrival, stretch your legs with a stroll around tiny downtown Blue Ridge. If you left Atlanta early and prefer a little caffeine to lunch, go to Das Kaffee Haus. Sit outdoors with a cup of coffee made with the Whirling Dervish Blend (molasses, chocolate, and cherry notes) from roaster Batdorf & Bronson.

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For lunch, walk around the corner to Masseria Kitchen & Bar, a Mediterranean-Continental restaurant serving warming dishes like white bean stew with Tuscan kale, parmesan, house prosciutto, rosemary, and sage, pizza, and house-made pastas. Enjoy it on their covered patio.

The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway departs from downtown and rolls through the surrounding countryside on a track laid down in 1886. It’s a beautiful ride, the rails flanked by forests of trees—green and leafy in spring and summer, aflame with foliage in autumn, and prettily bare in winter. If you’ve booked the two-hour express ride, you’ll have a couple of hours between lunch and your trip.

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Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

Here are a few places to visit in Blue Ridge while you wait for your train to depart:

Blue Ridge Cotton Company: One percent of every purchase at this clothing store is donated to a local charity like Snack in a Backpack, which fights food vulnerability. For sale are Blue Ridge-branded T-shirts in adult and kids’ sizes.

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  • Huck’s General Store: Pick up house-made hot sauce, jam, and salsa, hand-cut bar soap, books, souvenirs, and kids’ toys.
  • E. Quinn Booksellers: New, antiquarian, rare, and secondhand books in a welcoming space run by a very friendly and engaging bibliophile.
  • Tupelo Tea: One hundred different tea leaves spanning nine categories (think black, green, white, etc) fill the shelves at this tea shop. Sip your tea here or take it home along with local honey.

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Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association. Photo courtesy of Fannin County Chamber of Commerce & CVB

Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association: Exhibitions here change every four to six weeks and showcase painting, photography, and ceramics by local artists.

After your ride along the trails, adjourn to Bin 322, a New American restaurant and wine bar with a well-curated wine list representing Hungary, South Africa, France, Austria, Italy, Portugal, Chile, New Zealand, Spain, Israel, and California. Sip a ripe, juicy Central Coast cabernet sauvignon from Roots Run Deep as you tuck into a Spanish or Italian meat and cheese board, or go for crab cakes, shrimp in a spicy-sweet chili sauce, or stuffed tomatoes.

Day Two: Hiking, A Picnic, And A Pint

Get ready for a hike in Chattahoochee National Forest with an acai bowl for breakfast at Blend Superfood Cafe. Order a few chocolate almond butter power balls to keep you going on the trail, then go around the corner to Angelina’s Deli to get sandwiches for a picnic.

Chattahoochee National Forest in fall, Blue Ridge, Georgia

Chattahoochee National Forest in fall, Blue Ridge, Georgia. Film courtesy of Fannin County Chamber of Commerce & CVB

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Lunch provisions in tow, drive to one of the trailheads. The Long Branch Loop is an easy 2.3-mile loop (10 min. drive from Blue Ridge). In autumn, the trees are a riot of red, orange, and gold.

Hiking on the Long Branch Loop, Chattahoochee National Forest. Photo courtesy of Fannin County Chamber of Commerce & CVB

Depending on which trail you choose, you may have time for a pint before you drive back to Atlanta. You’ve got two choices in Blue Ridge: Grumpy Old Men Brewing (try the light, slightly sweet Choco Blanco Wheat Ale) and Fannin Brewing Company (go for hearty Blue Ridge lager).

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Fannin Brewing Company. Photo courtesy of Fannin County Chamber of Commerce & CVB

From here, it’s just under two hours back to Atlanta.

Going to South Carolina? Visit Charleston and Beaufort.

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Hero image: Aska Road through Chattahoochee National Forest, Blue Ridge. Photo courtesy of Fannin County Chamber of Commerce & CVB

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