Blue Ridge, Ga.: Happy trails to you

Blue Ridge, Ga.: Happy trails to you

August 19th, 2012 in Glimpse 2012-a

Passengers exit the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway after returning from a four-hour round trip to Copper Hill, Tenn., and McCaysville, Ga. from Blue Ridge, Ga., Thursday afternoon.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

Blue Ridge, Ga., is a picturesque town at the base of the Appalachian Trail where visitors find scenic hiking trails that intersect with the Blue Ridge Art Trail.

An outdoor enthusiast's paradise, Blue Ridge offers fishing, hiking, kayaking, tubing, rafting and horseback riding.

Visitors interested in cultural arts should stop in the historic Fannin County courthouse to pick up a Blue Ridge Art Trail map. The trail starts from the courthouse, listing galleries around town. They range from The Galleries on West Main, which represents 500 artist members, to the eclectic works in High Country Art & Antiques.

"Blue Ridge is a great place for people who love art, good food and the great outdoors," said Jan Hackett, president of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce.

BEST THING TO DO:

Trout Capital of Georgia

• The waters of the Toccoa River beneath Lake Blue Ridge Dam are known for some of the best fishing in the Southeast - especially Tammen Park, below the dam on the Appalachian Highway.

• A popular fishing hole for anglers is beneath Shallowford Bridge on Aska Road. This is a delayed-harvest area, stocked in early November for catch-and-release only through mid-May.

Call in advance for water-release information: 1-800-238-2264.

Source: blueridgemountains.com

60,000 riders can't be wrong

• The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, 241 Depot St., runs from Blue Ridge to McCaysville following the Toccoa River. The tourist attraction draws 60,000 riders a year, according to the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce.

• Ride the rails: Four-hour round-trip, 26 miles, Monday-Saturday 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.; Sunday 1:30 - 5 p.m. $33 adults, $17 children.

• Fall foliage fares: Oct. 1 - 30, $43 ages 13-64, $22 children 2-12. For tickets: 1-877-413-TRAIN.

BEST KEPT SECRET

July tops in tourism

• Jan Hackett, Fannin County Chamber president, said more than 1,000 mountain cabin rentals are available around Blue Ridge.

"Our main tourism season is summer, with July being the biggest month. Families rent cabins to have the mountain experience tubing, rafting, hiking or horseback riding."

• October is the second-biggest month for tourism when foliage and festivals draw visitors.

LIST OF FESTIVALS

Apple-Pumpkin Tributes

• Sept. 21-22: Blues and Barbecue Festival, $5, Blue Ridge City Park, 480 W. First St.

• Oct. 13-14: Fall Arts in the Park, $5, Blue Ridge City Park

• Oct. 28: Pumpkin Picking Special; ride the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway to Farmer Brown's field where kids can pick out a pumpkin. Departure times: 1 and 3 p.m., tickets $20 for everyone.

BEST PLACE IN TOWN TO EAT AND WHY

An apple pie a day ...

• Mercier's Orchard boasts 45 apple varieties to tempt visitors.

• If the fresh fruit isn't enough, check out the orchard's bakery and country store, which lure folks from all over the tri-state region who cannot resist fried pies. There are roughly two dozen kinds, from apple and other fruits to coconut, chocolate and even pecan.

• In the bakery and country store guests also will find fritters, whole pies, pastries and breads.

• Wash all of goodness down with homemade cider. 706-632-3411.

FACTBOX

Tourist/railroad town then and now

• Population: Part of county population of 23,682

• Biggest employer(s): Fannin County School System, tourism

• Number of miles from downtown Chattanooga: 81

• Landmarks or geographic features: Lake Blue Ridge, Toccoa River, Chattahoochee National Forest

• Date founded: 1886

• Historic info: The town was founded with the arrival of the Marietta and North Georgia Railroad in 1886. Tourists would ride the train to town and visit the mineral springs. Blue Ridge was originally promoted as "The Switzerland of the South." Then and now, it is still a railroad/tourism town.

• Most famous resident: Country singer Mark Wills

• Unique traditions: Tractor tours of Mercier Orchards, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

• Fun fact: Blue Ridge is one of three cities that make up Fannin County, which sits on the state lines of Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina.

Source: Jan Hackett, president, Fannin County Chamber of Commerce

Compiled by staff writer Susan Pierce spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6284.