Adventure Time in Hiawassee
Hiawassee is an area I hadn’t explored much until recently. I’ve hiked around it quite a bit, visiting places like Unicoi Gap and Powell Mountain, but never really went much further north. It was sort of my last frontier of North Georgia mountain towns. It’s a little smaller than Dahlonega or Clayton, but makes up for that with its own charm and gorgeous scenery. James and I decided to make a day of Hiawassee over the Memorial Day weekend after our planned backpacking trip got derailed (more on that in another post…maybe).
The first thing you’ll notice driving from the south is the beautiful Hiawassee River and then Lake Chatuge. You know I am typically not a lake person and am choosy about swimming in lakes. Lake Chatuge quickly jumped to the top of my very short list of favorite North Georgia lakes. It’s surrounded by some of the tallest mountains in Georgia and the water is a beautiful turquoise color. We spent some time swimming in the lake at the Towns County Recreational Beach, which was a nice, clean facility and free to boot. The Rec Beach has a designated swimming area, as well as some tree shaded coves perfect for hammocks. The Rec Beach is not dog friendly, however. During a subsequent trip to Hiawassee, I also visited the Lake Chatuge Recreation Area and walked it’s mile long trail along the lakeshore. This is a great place to take dogs and enjoy lots of peace and quiet. This area of the lake seems a little more sheltered, so I saw a few kayakers and fisher folk as well.
And then, of course, there’s Bell Mountain. We caught a view of it from our lake side hammock spot and took up a trip up its steep road after swimming. I had been resistant to visiting Bell Mountain for a long time, since I feel the reputation of the mountain is tarnished due to all the graffiti found on the summit., not to mention years of prior abuse to the mountain. You can read more on its history in this article by Wander North Georgia. There’s also no hiking involved to reach the summit, so it was never that interesting to me. That being said, it’s probably one of the most stunning views in all of North Georgia. We initially planned to watch sunset at Bell Mountain, but our timing was a little too early and we headed back down after taking in the views of the mountains, lake, and yes, graffiti. If you choose to visit Bell Mountain, please don’t engage in reckless, abusive behavior and show some respect for this place!
With a day long trip to Hiawassee, of course, you need places to eat, drink, and be merry. We stopped by Hiawassee Brew for some drinks and snacks. They have a taco truck with lots of food options, mainly Tex-Mex, however, I ordered a great veggie burger. Hiawassee Brew has a few house made beers, a delicious blackberry cider, and also have guest taps from other breweries as well. The vibe is super chill with a rooftop deck overlooking the lake and mountains, music, and sometimes they even have a mobile axe-throwing truck onsite! They also welcome dogs! There are several other restaurants on the north side of Hiawassee driving toward Young Harris, as well. I’ve also heard great things about Nocturnal Brewing in neighboring Hayesville, NC. We’ll have to make another trip to check out some other places!
Last but not least, my favorite feature of Hiawassee is Trailful Outdoor Co. Yes, I’m a little biased because it’s owned by my pals from Atlanta Trails and I am so excited to see them taking their passion for hiking off-line and into a brick and mortar store. Since the Appalachian Trail runs through Hiawassee, a outdoors oriented shop was needed! Trailful offers a variety of outdoor gear, apparel, and unique gift items and since it’s run by some of the most knowledgeable hikers in North Georgia, you can get lots of free advice about local trails as well. As of this writing, Trailful does “Free Coffee Sundays”, so I’d recommend stopping by on a Sunday for sure! They also have an adorable dog named Jake, who is often in the shop, so feel free to bring your well-behaved dogs as well. Trailful just had their formal grand opening celebration, so I went to that as well with a group of ladies from Girls Who Hike. I love celebrating with my hiking communities!
While there are plenty of places to hike in and around Hiawassee, there are lots of other things to do as well. During my recent trips, I haven’t even really hiked too much! James and I will be back to explore further, hike some trails, and possibly make a long weekend out of it, by either camping or staying in a cabin. if you want to do the same, here are some of my favorite hikes in and around Hiawassee: