Last Updated on April 10, 2023

Tucked into the North Georgia Mountains, the town of Blairsville is immersed both in history and natural beauty. It was founded in 1835 and named for Revolutionary War hero James Blair. What is there to do in Blairsville, Georgia – GET OUTSIDE!

Due its proximity within the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest and the Blue Ridge Mountains, Blairsville is a natural wonderland and outdoor lover’s paradise. The Appalachian Trail also passes through this scenic area.

While Blairsville has its share of charming restaurants, shops and all the necessary accruements of a small town, exploring the outdoors is the main reasons visitors come to North Georgia. Blairsville and its environs offer a myriad of experiences for nature enthusiasts.

Because I had family living in the area, my husband and I would often venture from our home in South Carolina to meet up with siblings who, like us, were outdoor adventurers. We made a lot of trips to Blairsville and enjoyed many memorable experiences from white-water rafting, boating, camping, hiking, and horseback riding.

These were our favorite memories.

Free Things to Do in Blairsville, Georgia

Brasstown Bald Summit

View from the Brasstown Bald Summit.
View from the Brasstown Bald Summit. Photo by Noreen Kompanik

Brasstown Bald is the highest point in the state of Georgia, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Blairsville. It stands at an elevation of 4,784-feet above sea level and offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding area.

The first time our family visited Brasstown Bald, we drove on a paved road leading up to a parking lot near the top. From there, we took the short hike up to the observation tower which provided a 360-degree vista of the landscape below.

The tower also houses a small museum showcasing the history and culture of the region with exhibits on the native Cherokee people, early settlers, and the local flora and fauna.

On a subsequent visit, our more experienced hikers tackled the Brasstown Bald Trail, a short, but steep 1.2-mile challenging trek that was invigorating on a cool morning. It was a picture-perfect clear day and we were able to see as far as four states: Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Hiking to Helton Creek Falls

Helton Creek Falls.
Helton Creek Falls. Photo by Noreen Kompanik

This stunning waterfall is located in the Chattahoochee National Forest near Blairsville, Georgia. The falls are about a 30-minute drive from the town, and they are a popular destination for hikers and nature lovers.

Two separate, but closely-located cascades, the upper falls and the lower falls, create the appearance of a single waterfall. The taller stands at around 50-feet, the lower at 30-feet. Both are easily accessible by trails that wind through the verdant woods alongside the falls.

If you want to introduce kids to a hike, I always say “just add water.” Once informed, it didn’t take long for our son, daughter and three of their cousins to jump at the chance to visit a waterfall.

The trail to the falls was a moderately easy 0.6-mile hike meandering through a forested area with scenic views of the creek and surrounding mountains. There were several spots to stop and enjoy the view, including a wooden bridge crossing the creek.

Both the kids and the adults loved the prize at the end of the hike – cool, refreshing water cascading down the rocks and into a pool. Needless to say, everyone got wet.

Fishing and Boating on Lake Nottely

In 1942, a 4,000-acre reservoir was created as part of a hydroelectric project on the Nottely River. This many-fingered lake sports over 100 miles of forested shoreline.

Lake Nottely is a popular destination for boating, fishing, and other water-based recreational activities. The scenic lake is home to a variety of fish species including bass, catfish, and crappie, making it a popular spot for anglers. Visitors can also rent boats, kayaks, and other watercraft from local marinas to explore the lake.

Because my husband and I and one of my brothers owned boats, we brought our own skis and water rafts for fun days of adventure on the lake. Packing picnic lunches was a lot of fun, and the food, snacks and drinks were much appreciated by our hungry skiers and rafters coming off the water.

Whitewater Rafting near Blairsville, GA

Less than an hour’s drive from Blairsville, the Ocoee River just across the Tennessee border is an amazing white-water destination.

The river features over 20 miles of rapids, ranging from Class II to Class IV, making it a popular destination for both beginners and experienced rafters. There are several outfitters in the area that offer guided rafting tours, including Ocoee Adventure Center and Carolina Ocoee.

We have done the easier parts of the river and the more challenging Class IV rapids. The Class IVs involve turbulent water with crashing waves, large boulders, strong funneling currents and other unpredictable obstacles. Rafters need to have good paddling and maneuvering skills to navigate successfully (and safely) through these rapids. But boy is it ever fun.

Even with an expert guide and proper safety gear, both my husband and brother were each thrown from the raft, though guide rescue skills and teamwork had them quickly back in the raft.

Beginning or inexperienced rafters should start out with the easier class rapids then advance as they become more familiar with the sport and the river. But wow, were those thrilling experiences unforgettable!

It’s something we’ve talked and laughed about, even years later.

Tubing Toccoa River

Tubing and Kayaking on the Toccoa River.
Tubing and Kayaking on the Toccoa River. Photo by Noreen Kompanik

Sometimes, it’s nice having a relaxing outdoor adventure the whole family can enjoy.

Toccoa Wilderness Tubing is an outfitter located in Blue Ridge, about a 30-minute drive from Blairsville. The venue offers tubing trips on the Toccoa River ranging from 1.5 to 6-hours in length. Tubes, life jackets, and shuttle service to and from the river are provided.

The Toccoa River is a gently moving body of water ideal for family tubing. We entered the river at the put-in point, awed by the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains and forests. Kayakers enjoy navigating the Toccoa as well.

The speed of the river is dictated by the amount of rain. Thankfully, we were tubing in the summer after an adequate amount of spring rainfall.

Most of the water moved at a fairly slow to moderate pace, but not infrequently, small rapids along the way provided some excitement for the grandparents and the smaller kids. Our trip ran about two hours which was the ideal length for the big kids and the littles.

With its location in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Chattahoochee National Forest, nature’s blessings and a diverse range of outdoor activities, it’s not hard to understand why outdoor enthusiasts love this magnificent part of the U.S.

Author

  • Noreen Kompanik

    Noreen Kompanik is a retired registered nurse, legal nurse consultant and military spouse turned travel writer. She launched her travel writing career in 2014 and has over 1,000 published articles in a variety of digital and print publications.