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Georgia Mountain Laurel Magazine

Autumn Road Trip Through Rabun County & Beyond

Oct 07, 2016 04:14PM ● By Melanie Heisinger

Warwoman Road by Peter McIntosh

By Peter McIntosh 

 On this adventure we're hitting the road for a leaf peeper loop tour that takes us from Rabun County to White County to Towns County and back to Rabun. And since this is a loop, you can start anywhere, Helen/Robertstown, Hiawassee, Clayton or any community nearby. I'm starting in Clayton, with all the roads being major thoroughfares so you can follow this route with a simple map or GPS. And you hikers fear not, there are several great hiking excursions along the way.

 Let's get started. From downtown Clayton, we're heading south on Main Street which is also Old Hwy 441. in 2.5 miles we come to Tiger Mountain Vineyards where you can stop in for a wine tasting or a snack at the Red Barn Cafe. 

Bridge Creek barn

 1/2 mile further up we come to the four way stop in Tiger. The Tiger Food Mart here serves up some very tasty burgers. We now turn right on Bridge Creek Road and in a little over three miles we come to another roadside attraction, the Bridge Creek Fresh Market and Stonewall Creek Vineyards tasting room where Pat Crunkleton serves up lots of delicious goodies, fresh from local farms. Bridge Creek Road dead ends into Burton Dam road where we take a right and head over to Hwy 197. 

 We turn left on Hwy 197, heading South fro 3 miles to the intersection with Hwy 356. We turn right on Hwy 356 following the signs to Unicoi State Park. (Please keep in mind this adventure is about the journey, not a destination, so take it easy, pull over to take photos, etc.) After 9 miles on Hwy 356 we come to Unicoi State Park, crossing over Unicoi Lake. There's a parking area on the far side of the lake that offers access to the Lake Loop Trail, a 2.5 mile footpath circling the lake with some nice bridges and fishing docks along the way. Anna Ruby Falls is also nearby if you're so inclined. 

Unicoi Lake

 We continue on Hwy 356 to its end at Hwy 17/75. Just before this intersection, look for Fred's Famous Peanuts on the right, a great place to stop for a snack. We turn right on Hwy 17/75 and go north for 1/2 mile the intersection with Alt. Hwy 75 on the left, crossing over the Chattahoochee River. There's a flea market here and a zip line course that takes you back and forth across the river. We turn left on Alt 75 and go a little over 2 miles to the intersection with Hwy 348 on the right, aka the Richard Russell Scenic Highway. This is a really beautiful stretch of road, and freshly paved I might add. 

 In 1.7 miles on Hwy 348, look for the Dukes Creek falls parking area on the left. (another hiking opportunity, 1/2 mile each way) Continuing on, it's about a mile the Raven Cliffs parking area, also on the left. (This is a moderate trail, 2.5 miles each way, leading to Raven Cliffs Falls. This is a beautiful footpath with several cascades along the way.) Onward and upward we come to a scenic overlook on the left but go just a little further to a much better overlook, offering the same view of Mount Yonah and the foothills below. 

Brasstown Bald

 Higher up we go and soon come to the high point on the road, Hog Pen Gap and the Appalachian Trail. Now the road descends down to its termination point at Hwy 180. (Lots of pretty views on this section of road.) We turn right on Hwy 180 following the signs to Brasstown Bald, Georgia's highest mountain. In a little less than 9 miles, we reach the access road to Brasstown Bald on the left. It's 3 miles to the parking lot and a 6/10 mile steep hike to the observation tower at the top. During the day, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, there is a shuttle to the top. There is a visitors center/gift shop and restrooms at the parking area. There are restrooms and a theater at the top. The 360 degree view from the platform on the top of this 4,784 foot mountain is spectacular.

 Now back down to Hwy 180 where we go left, heading back to Hwy 17/75. (The sign says Helen but we're not going that way.) At Hwy 17/75, we turn left again, going north to Hiawassee and then right on Highway 76, heading east back to Clayton. We ascend to Dick's Creek Gap where we again cross the Appalachian Trail and then descend. After about 5 miles look for the Popcorn Overlook on the left, one of my favorites. 

 Now back on the road and back to Clayton where you can celebrate your adventure at one of the town's many fine eateries. 

 Happy driving!

Raven Cliffs 

This article ain't over until you hear my poem for October:

The cool autumn breeze blows through the trees,

And the bright colored leaves start to rustle.

The leaves that are falling are just nature calling,

So let's go but there's no need to hustle!


Unicoi State Park:

Brasstown Bald Info: 706-896-2556

All content & photos by Peter McIntosh. 

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