- There are two National Forests in Georgia, the Chattahoochee and the Oconee. The Chattahoochee National Forest covers 749,000 acres stretching from the Wild and Scenic waters of the Chattooga River on its northeastern boundary, through the Blue Ridge Mountains and across the ridges and valleys of northwest Georgia. The Chattahoochee adjoins the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee, the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina and the Sumter National Forest in South Carolina to create one of the largest expanses of public lands in the eastern United States.
Copyright: USDA Forest Service
Fall colors in the Chattahoochee hills
Georgia's National Forests are said to be a hiker's paradise. Winding trails lead visitors through scenic mountains and rolling hills, by wild rushing rivers and cascading waterfalls. They also lead visitors through the history books: Spanish conquistador Hernando do Soto's futile search for gold, the United States' first frenzied gold rush, the Cherokee Indians' struggle to hold on to their lands, and major battles of the Civil War.
Ten wildernesses, 1,367 miles of trout streams, and 430 miles of trails enrich the Chattahoochee National Forest. The famous 2,135-mile Appalachian Trail begins here and hardy hikers don't see the end until they reach Maine.
Drive along the Ridge and Valley Scenic Byway, which tours the Armuchee Ridges of the Appalachian Mountains. Several major Civil War battles were fought in this area, most of them centered around the railroad, which stretched from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Atlanta, Georgia. The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway is a good place to view fall colors. The 38-mile loop has many interesting stops along the way, including the Duke Creek Falls Trail.
Across from the Armuchee Ridges lie the Blue Ridge Mountains. Lake Conasauga sits here, the state's highest lake, at more than 3,000 feet above sea level. This clear cool mountain lake is surrounded by white pines and eastern hemlocks.
Don't forget to stop at Brasstown Bald, Georgia's highest peak at 4,784 feet. Trails traverse the mountain and the observation deck offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Recreation - Hiking and Riding: With over 430 miles of trails on the Chattahoochee, it's hard to find an area without some type of footpath. From short day hikes to more arduous trips, for novices or experts, there is a trail for every level and purpose. The four long-distance trails on the Chattahoochee are great for backpacking: the Benton MacKaye (53 miles), Bantram (37 miles), Duncan Ridge (35.5 miles), and Appalachian (79 miles on the Chattahoochee).
Fishing: With over 1,300 miles of trout streams on the Forest, there are plenty of opportunities to catch trout, walleye, bluegill and bass. Lake Blue Ridge is the only place in Georgia to catch muskellunge. This 3,290 acre lake is bordered by two Forest Service campgrounds and has a privately owned marina for boat rentals. Nottely Lake, Lake Chatuge, Lake Burton, and Lake Rabun also touch the Chattahoochee and provide good trout and bass fishing.
Water Recreation: The Chattooga Wild and Scenic River is popular for guided raft trips. The Chattahoochee and Toccoa Rivers are popular for canoes or kayaks.
Climate - The climate of the north Georgia mountains is temperate with moderately cold winters and warm, humid summers. Precipitation is fairly well distributed throughout the year; there are no wet or dry seasons. October has the least rainfall, July the most. Snowfall is quite variable from year to year, and some winters have relatively little. Thunderstorms occur most frequently in spring and summer but can occur in any month.
The Chattahoochee National Forest is spread across the mountains of north Georgia. The Chattahoochee and the Oconee National Forests are both headquartered in Gainesville. The Chattahoochee lies around the towns of Chatsworth, Lafayette, Blairsville, Dahlonega, Blue Ridge, Clarkesville, and Clayton, Georgia, with District offices in these towns.