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Georgia Rocks
Exploring the Peaks and Gorges of the Blue Ridge by Cliff Ransom

Map: Georgia, U.S.
They sure aren't the biggest peaks in the country, but few ranges are as celebrated—in banjo music, anyway—as northern Georgia's lush, convoluted Blue Ridge Mountains. Start your exploration 96 miles (155 kilometers) north of Atlanta with a hike into misty Tallulah Gorge, which plunges a thousand feet at its deepest point (Tallulah Gorge State Park; +1 706 754 7970). Once you've left the belly of the mountains, see them from above at Black Rock Mountain State Park (+1 706 746 2141), 15 miles (24 kilometers) up the road. Hike the Edmonds East Fork Trail up Lookoff Mountain to take in a classic view of the range's namesake blue ridges, then loop back on the west fork to the backcountry campsite at Creek Ridge ($3), a cove flanked by colossal Appalachian rhododendrons.

April is the height of Georgia's white-water season; head to the town of Clayton to join Southeastern Expeditions' rollicking five-hour trip on the Chattooga, the National Wild and Scenic River made famous by the film Deliverance ($86 and up; www.southeasternexpeditions.com). Post-run, river guides descend on Clayton's Peking Gourmet (+1 706 782 0136); another choice is Grapes & Beans (+1 706 212 0020), a tofu-and-hummus-oriented café. Spend the night in Clayton's quirky Small Motel ($50; www.asmallmotel.com)—ask for the "hunting" room and you'll score a fireplace.

Mmm, biscuits and sausage gravy . . . Start the day right at the Clayton Café (+1 706 782 5438), then head north on U.S. Route 441 to the Foxfire Museum ($5; www.foxfire.org), dedicated to all things Appalachian. Continue north to begin a scenic drive west from Dillard on the hairpins of Patterson Gap Road and down winding Persimmon Road. Make your way to the State 180 Spur to reach the overlook on 4,784-foot (1,458-meter) Brasstown Bald, Georgia's highest peak. Enjoy the summit views, then wander down the Arkaquah Trail for some of the most ebullient wildflower displays in the state. End the day in a cabin in Unicoi State Park ($99 and up; +1 706 878 2201) outside the faux-Bavarian village of Helen—which was inspired by a local who served in the military in Germany in the 1960s.

Mountain bike trails in northern Georgia are generally steep descents preceded by equally steep climbs. Woody's Mountain Bikes in Helen (+1 706 878 3715) provides an out by shuttling riders to the top of locally acclaimed Hickory Nut Ridge for a nine-mile tooth-rattling descent ($35 for a bike, $100 for a four-person shuttle). Next, take a run on the former NORBA World Cup finals course in Unicoi State Park and you'll be ready for a rack of cherrywood-smoked baby back ribs at the Black Bear BBQ (+1 706 219 3820), south of Cleveland, before returning to Atlanta.

Map courtesy of Computer Terrain Mapping

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April 2004

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