Outdoor Adventures Complete Your Vacation in North Georgia
Lucille’s Mountain Top Inn & Spa is surrounded by outdoor adventures that range from mild to wild. Outdoor enthusiasts will find an abundance of activities just down the road, ranging from mountain biking on a beginner’s or black diamond bike trail, whitewater rafting or kayaking down the rapids of a mountain river, horseback riding through a mountain valley, hiking on the Appalachian Trail, to zip-lining through a hardwood forest.
Those looking for a little less adrenaline in their outdoor activities will also find a great variety of things to do, including hiking to waterfalls on well-marked trails, floating down a cool mountain river on a tube, fly fishing for rainbow trout, playing a round of golf on a scenic mountain course, or taking a scenic drive to discover the historic sites and natural beauty of the area. Give us a call, and we will be glad to help you plan your activities and put you in touch with some of the area’s most outstanding outdoor outfitters.
There are hundreds of hiking trails and dozens of waterfalls in the North Georgia mountains. Here are a few of our favorites that are easy to reach from Lucille’s Mountain Top Inn & Spa:
Dukes Creek Falls – Just off the Richard Russell Scenic Highway through the mountains is a parking area for this trail. An approximately 1 mile trail from the parking area winds through hemlock and rhododendron to an observation deck where you can see the lower falls.
Raven Cliff Falls – Also just off the Richard Russell Scenic Highway is the parking area for Raven Cliffs Falls where an approximately 2.5 mile trail leads to the falls. While the trail does cross several small creeks and switches left then right and undulates up and down, the scenery along the way and the waterfalls are some of the most beautiful in Georgia.
Anna Ruby Falls – The double falls are actually formed by two creeks, Smith Creek and York Creek. A half-mile paved trail is an easy hike that leads to two observation decks for viewing the falls, which are one of Georgia’s most visited waterfalls.
Tallulah Falls & Gorge – You will be amazed the first time you see the Tallulah Falls & Gorge. Legendary aerialist Karl Wallenda crossed the quarter-mile-wide, 1,000 feet deep gorge on a high-wire in 1970. Several trails, some of them paved, are available to reach various viewing points for the falls and the gorge. Ranging from 3/4 mile to 6 miles, most are an easy hike and one crosses a suspension bridge.
Chattahoochee Headwaters Hike – Approximately 12 miles north of our inn the Appalachian Trail crosses Highway 17/75 at Unicoi Gap. Follow the ridge-running Appalachian Trail on the west side of the highway for approximately 5 miles (ten miles round trip) to the springs that are the source of the mighty Chattahoochee.
Amicalola Falls – Meaning “tumbling water” in Cherokee, Amicalola Falls is aptly named as it is the highest waterfall in Georgia. Located in Amicalola State Park, several trails less than a half-mile long lead to observation areas. Approximately 8 miles of additional trails in the park are also very scenic.
Smithgall Woods State Park – Several hiking trail meander through this wildlife management area. The Martin’s Mine Trail goes over Duke Creek via a covered bridge and past the former site of one of Georgia’s most productive gold mines. Stop by the Visitor’s Center for an interpretive brochure of the Laurel Ridge Trail, a 1.6 mile loop to the top of the ridge that has a seasonal view of Mount Yonah.
Unicoi State Park – Several hiking trails wind their way through Unicoi, including the relatively flat 2.5 mile Lake Trail that loops around Unicoi Lake. The Bottoms Loop Trail leads you on a moderate hike around the low hills and valleys of Smith Creek. All of Unicoi’s trails are great for seeing the brilliant colors of the Fall foliage of the North Georgia mountains.
See our interactive map for hiking and trails near Lucille’s Mountain Top Inn & Spa.
Want some guidance on your Outdoor Adventure? Appalachian Wilderness Guides offer a variety of Day Hikes, Backpacking Trips and Wine Tasting Treks that our guests find exciting and relaxing when combined with a stay or spa treatment at Lucille’s. They also offer Inn-to-Inn Treks that stay each night at comfortable inns such as Lucille’s and they can even design custom itineraries that use Lucille’s as a home-base for several days of hiking in the beautiful country surrounding the inn.
Appalachian Wilderness Guides – 678-262-8406
The Innsbruck Golf Club is located approximately four miles from Lucille’s Mountain Top Inn & Spa and offers 18-holes of golfing exhilaration. Listed by Golf Digest as one of the best places to play in Georgia, the Innsbruck course is nestled in the hillsides with scenic mountain lakes and beautiful mountain views throughout the course. The Bavarian themed clubhouse is picturesque and offers a pro shop and bar and grill.
Innsbruck Golf Club • 800-642-2709
Fly fishing is a popular activity for many guests of Lucille’s Mountain Top Inn & Spa. We are situated between two of the best fly fishing rivers in the southeast – the Soque and the Chattahoochee (yes, the same river that flows south through Atlanta is actually a superb trout habitat in North Georgia). Several other mountain creeks in the area are also popular with experienced fly fishers. For newcomers to the sport, or those needing assistance with equipment, several outfitters are able to help you providing expert guide services and have a good variety of equipment to help you outsmart the fish.
Blackhawk Fly Fishing – The experienced guides at Blackhawk operate on the Soque River, a hidden gem little known by many outside of this area. The Soque is a beautiful mountain river that winds its way out of the Blue Ridge Mountains, eventually merging with the Chattahoochee River, and has plentiful rainbow and brown trout in sizes typically found in North America only in Canada and Alaska.
Unicoi Outfitters – The folks at Unicoi have been in the fly fishing business longer than anyone in the area and offer guides, classes and a full-service shop. They operate on a 1 1/2 mile stretch of the Chattahoochee River on the edge of the Nacoochee Valley and can also arrange guided tours on several private trout streams.
Horses grazing in the pastures that dot the surrounding valleys are always a picturesque sight, especially with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background. Horseback riding along the foothills and across a valley floor is an exciting way to experience the outdoor beauty of the area surrounding Lucille’s Mountain Top Inn & Spa. Two nearby horseback riding businesses are:
Sunburst Stables and Ziplines • 3181 Hwy 255, Clarkesville, GA • 706-947-7433
Chattahoochee Stables • 2180 Hwy 17, Sautee Nacoochee, GA • 706-878-7000
We think this is one of the most pleasant and relaxing ways to spend an afternoon or early evening in the mountains. Take a leisurely ride down a shady valley lane in a horse drawn carriage, enjoying the view across wide open pastures and distant mountain vistas. Sautee Express Carriage Rides has a variety of handsome carriages and beautiful teams of horses that are well cared for by their veterinarian owner. Have them take you on a trip you will remember for years to come, back to a time when things were simpler in the beautiful Sautee Valley. By reservation only. Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons through October.
Sautee Express Carriage Rides • 706-969-4036
Burn a little adrenaline riding a steel cable through the North Georgia forest canopy and across streams and ponds. Two companies offer zip line adventures just a few miles from Lucille’s Mountain Top Inn & Spa. Reservations are recommended.
Sunburst Stables and Ziplines • 706-947-7433
ZipNTime • 706-878-9477
The mountain rivers near Lucille’s Mountain Top Inn & Spa provide a natural playground for whitewater river enthusiasts. Floating in a tube down the light rapids of the cool Chattahoochee River as it winds through the mountains is a popular pastime that almost anyone can enjoy during the summer. The more adventuresome can take on bigger rapids in the Chattahoochee or Chattooga Rivers in a guided rafting tour or by kayak. Bring your favorite style of boat or several outfitters arrange tours and rent equipment, including:
Southeastern Expeditions Whitewater Adventures – Guided whitewater rafting trips down the Chattooga River • 800-868-7238
Wildwood Outfitters – Kayak and raft rentals and guided trips down the Chattahoochee River • 706-865-4451
Cool River Tubing Company – Tube rental for floating the Chattahoochee River and water slide • 706-878-2665
Helen Water Park & Tubing – Tube rental for floating the Chattahoochee River and water park • 707-878-1082
There are dozens of mountain bike trails in the North Georgia mountains and this has become one of the most popular outdoor activities for our guests. Mountain biking is a great way to enjoy the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains and Chattahoochee National Forest and is suitable for all fitness levels. It is also a great way to see many of the nearby waterfalls, peddle alongside the Chattahoochee River, and have a picnic lunch.
Mountain Bike Rentals
Mountain bike rentals and trail ride guidance are available at Woody’s Mountain Bikes only 5 miles from the inn. A typical rental and trail ride package includes the bike, helmet and a shuttle ride to a trail, and can last from 2 hours to all day. Woody’s makes it easy to see the countryside and get some exercise while you are here.
Woody’s Mountain Bikes • 706-878-3715
A few of our favorite trails include:
Upper Chattahoochee Loop – A moderate 15.6-mile loop trail follows a Forest Service road that runs parallel to the head waters of the Chattahoochee River. Includes a fun series of downhill twists and turns.
Hickory Nut Mountain Bike Trail – A 19-mile loop trail that has an elevation gain of 2,500 feet, crossing Tray Gap over the Blue Ridge Mountains. This is an Advanced (single black diamond) trail and lets you earn some bragging rights.
Jasus Creek Mountain Bike Trail – A 12-mile loop, this is a great Beginner level trail with good scenery, including a stretch that follows the Chattahoochee River for several miles. The beginning is strenuous, but take your time because the downhills on the back half are worth it.
Unicoi State Park Mountain Bike Trail – An 8-mile Intermediate loop trail in Unicoi State Park. This trail changes elevation throughout the course and keeps your attention, but lets you practice your skills without getting on a black diamond trail.
Wildcat Creek Mountain Bike Trail – An 18-mile Advanced loop trail that includes a steady climb for 8 miles (1,100 feet) along the cascades and falls of Wildcat Creek. Has a strenuous climb in the middle followed by a steep downhill, but an easy downhill coast on the back half along Dicks Creek, including a few shallow stream crossings.
The Sautee and Nacoochee Valleys and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains are rich in history and culture. In fact, the scenic highways leading to Lucille’s Mountain Top Inn & Spa are dotted with historical markers highlighting the recent and ancient past of the region. A few of the notable sites include:
The Nacoochee Valley Indian Mound – Believed to have been built during the Mississippian culture of Native American Indians between 700 A.D. – 1600 A.D., the Nacoochee Indian Mound is one of the most visible land marks in the surrounding valleys. It sits in a wide-open area of the Nacoochee Valley floor. During the later Cherokee Indian settlement of the valley it is believed the mound served as the town center for a large village. In 1870, after European settlers came to the valley, an ornate gothic design gazebo was built on top of the mound. It can still be seen today at the intersection of Highways 75 and 17, prominent in a wide, flat area of the valley floor surrounded by cattle fields, with Mount Yonah in the background.
The Nichols-Hunnicutt-Hardman House – Built in 1870 by retired Confederate soldier Captain James H. Nichols on the edge of the Nacoochee Valley, this Italianate mansion and its gardens were (and are) a masterpiece of architectural design and beauty. Nichols is responsible for building the gazebo on top of the Nacoochee Indian Mound directly in front of the mansion. After his death the house was sold to wealthy Atlanta businessman Calvin Hunnicutt who used it as a summer home, and later it served as the home of Lamartine Griffin Hardman, who was Georgia’s Governor from 1927 to 1931. The Hardman family donated the house and surrounding lands, including 19 other buildings, to The State of Georgia, which has been working to renovate and preserve the site. The State of Georgia Parks Department has recently opened The Hardman Farm home for tours for a glimpse of life in the Nacoochee Valley in the early 1900s. The house is visible from the Highway 17 observation area for the Nacoochee Indian Mound, which is directly across the road.
The Old Sautee Store – Walking through the door is like stepping back in time. Built in 1872, this historic trading post is still in business in the heart of The Village of Sautee. Part museum, part store, it has a large display of old general store memorabilia and a new section retailing outdoor clothing, regional books, gourmet food items and jewelry. The Old Sautee Store also served as the Sautee valley post office until 1962 and the old mail slots are still in place.
The Stovall Mill Covered Bridge – Covered bridges were common in the US from the early 1800s until the mid-1900s and there were many located in and around the Sautee and Nacoochee Valleys. During this period wooden bridges were often constructed with a shed or barn-like structure covering the bridge to protect the wooden trusses from water, which could help it last up to three times longer than a wooden bridge that was not covered. In Georgia there are only a handful of covered bridges remaining, including the Stovall Mill Bridge about 1 mile down Highway 255 from Lucille’s. The bridge was constructed in 1895 and crosses the Chickamauga Creek at the site of a former grist mill and saw mill. It was featured prominently in the 1951 film I’d Climb the Highest Mountain, starring Susan Hayward, William Lundigan, and Rory Calhoun.
In an area chock-full of interesting places, here are just a few that we find quite fascinating:
Betty’s Country Store – This quaint market has a little bit of everything, but it reminds us of a fancy big-city gourmet market that has gone country. Artisan cheeses, gourmet pickles, nice wines, and an excellent meat counter – all sit comfortably beside displays of beef jerky, malted milk balls by the pound, Moon Pies, and hunting and fishing license applications. Wander through to see what an up-scale country market should look like.
18 Yonah Street, Helen, Georgia 30545 • 706-878-2943
Mark of the Potter – An eclectic pottery studio that carries a large selection of handmade pottery, jewelry and regional books. But what makes this pottery studio unique is its location: a old grist mill on the banks of the Soque River. The river is spectacular and the view from the back balcony of the mill/studio looks out on the mountain rapids, teeming with rainbow trout.
9982 Hwy 197 North, Clarkesville, GA 30523 • (706) 947-3440
Nora Mill Granary – Located on the Chattahoochee River, this 1876 grist mill is still driven by water and produces true stone ground grits, flours, cereals, and corn mill. If you don’t know the origin of “keep your nose to the grind stone” then you need to stop by here to find out.
7107 South Main Street, Helen, GA 30545 • 800-927-2375
North Georgia Corn Maze – Wandering through an intricate maze cut through a corn field is a Fall tradition in these parts, and we are lucky to have one of the best nearby. This maze covers 7 acres and also has a petting zoo and a hay ride. Open September through late November.
559 Tom Bell Road, Cleveland, GA 30528 • 800-959-1874
Each year in early June the Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race takes place just a few miles from Lucille’s Mountain Top Inn & Spa. It is the US’s only long distance hot air balloon race and the South’s oldest hot air balloon festival. This three-day event starts with the launching of the long distance race and continues with local balloon events in Helen through the remainder of the festival, many offering opportunities for visitors to enjoy a tethered ride in a balloon, assist in balloon inflation, or as part of a balloon chase team.
Other ballooning activities take place periodically during the year. Call us for any updates on upcoming activities.
A helicopter tour of the Blue Ridge Mountains is one of the most exhilarating ways to see the natural beauty of the area, and get a distant bird’s-eye view of Lucille’s Mountain Top Inn & Spa.
Scenic Helicopter Tours • 8065 S. Main St, Helen, GA • 706-878-4653