First to Review
Wonderful AT thru hiker stop

Our family stayed at this cabin on a camping/driving trip down Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. We were driving a long way that day and wanted to stay in something that was not as rustic as car camping and not as fancy as a cheap motel room. This spot fit the bill perfectly. The owners were super flexible about us getting in after dark and let us rent out the entire space, which included a kitchen, sitting room and upstairs bunk room which could hold 6 people. We were also allowed to bring our dog. They had food in the freezer like pizza and other stuff for sale. There are a ton of resources on the AT in the cabin. We also met some hikers on their way to Maine as the trail is only 150 yds away. 

There is a fancier B&B Victorian house on the property that has been restored and also reasonably priced. While we were there we saw that they were fixing up more areas of the house to accommodate guests and the renovations are lovely and in keeping with the history of the main house.

The little cabin where we stayed was perfectly charming and set us up to camp our way down through Shenandoah NP and the Blue Ridge Parkway. We were able to dry out our gear from previous night's rain and relax. Highly recommended for a glamping stop .

My spirit place (but that's just me)

This location will likely get less stars from other campers. It seems like it's in the middle of nowhere up a winding dirt road but once you get there people seem to be all over the place. The flat, wooded, dispersed campsites have a little too much trash to be so far removed and the entire site centers around this behemoth of civil engineering- the large cabled swinging bridge that spans the Toccoa River.

But this will forever be my first love of North Georgia. I stumbled into this site on a winter night during a downpour on the Benton Mackeye trail. I had a trash bag for a backpack cover and had just started working at a wilderness camp for troubled youth. It was the 90s when such a thing could be done. I had just moved back to the deep south with a broken heart and the elements of southern Appalachia in winter seemed to match my internal pain. I had no idea where we were, I just knew from the group of miscreants that we had reached our destination and quickly went to work setting up my 2 pole wal-mart tent with a tarp for a rain fly. In the drowning rain, I used the last dry clothes I had to mop up the puddles inside my tent around my sleep pad. My down sleeping bag was soaked at the head and foot. I remembered an old school trick to fight off hypothermia and stripped down naked and crawled into a fetal ball in the dry center of my sleeping bag and fell asleep for the night.

The next morning the rain had stopped but the sound of rushing water felt like being rebirthed as I emerged from my tent like a wet rat to find this magical river, forest of trees, mountain laurel, a lovely waterfall and the little slice of civilization- the bridge to remind me that I was still in an earthly place. We stayed there for 4 days while the troubled kids staked out their solo sites and journaled. The sun came out during the day and dried everything out and the night campfires warmed my core. I wandered by the river like a haunted widow, checking in on my charges. Each day I became a little less broken. For me, it was a place to unthaw my heart.

I returned in 2005 with my then boyfriend now husband. This time it was by inner tube on the river. It was at dusk and we were behind schedule in reaching our car so we got out and walked the 1+ mile dirt road in the dark with no shoes or flashlight back to the highway to call for help. When my best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer she flew to Georgia to see me and I brought her here. She pressed her broken breast to the trees and we listened to the river. She is now in remission 13 years later. When I got married my bachelorette party was here and we all jumped In the river naked after dark squealing with delight at being women.

This place feels like the back country because it is up a road that, in my opinion should be driven by a 4x4. But I saw plenty of mini vans and sedans. The round rocks lining the lovely waterfall and little islands in The river make for great places to just be in the quiet; but there are almost always people there in the summer. Between boaters and fisherman and day trippers it is not as secluded as the spot seems to want to be. But it is worth a visit. Campsites are plenty. They are nice and flat and dispersed. But bring an extra trash bag and try to leave it better than you found it. The land deserves it.

Ranger Review of Primus Stove at Nacoochee Adventures

Campground Review: Nacoochee Adventures is located just before Helen at the beginning of the Nacoochee Valley. They offer small primitive camping in vardo type wagons and tree houses as well as zip lining. We went as a family of 4 and half of us did the moonshine canopy tour while the other half did the quick zip, a half mile zip down the mountain. My son did both lines and preferred the quick zip. The canopy tour takes you back into the woods to view and old reclaimed moonshine still and gives you a great view of the wild ferns on the forest floor. The guides are all very friendly, great with kids, and generally positive people. They also offer smaller zip lines for kids, parties, and a giant swing. You can buy local beer and wine after your tour on site.

We stayed in the creek tree house and to our surprise, they gave us an off road golf cart with our treehouse to transport our stuff up the mountain to our site. If you ask, they will give you directions on how to drive your cart through the trails to get to the Nacoochee Tavern for pizza and more local beer and wine as well as some great shopping.

We went in June and it was a typical hot Georgia day so we opted to wait until late in the afternoon to head to our campsite and were pleasantly surprised at how much we could do right there from the check in area. We walked across the road and visited the Hardman Farm, a DNR run site with the old Hardman home and buildings across from the famed Indian mound. From there you can either walk or bike the Helen to Hardman Trail to Helen and skip the ridiculous tourist traffic. From there you can walk or bike a good portion of the city of Helen, depending on how deep into tourist land you want to go.

The treehouse is nice and shaded with a fire ring, a hammock, and a path to a small creek. There is an outhouse nearby but they leave a special door open at the main house for you to access bathrooms and showers via the golf cart 24/7. Our tree house had a full bed in the loft and a king bed in the main area and lots of citronella candles outside to ward off the bugs but as soon as it got dark, the mountain air cooled everything off and we could forget the heat while we slept.

In addition to the Hardman Farm, the Sautee Nacoochee Center is nearby as well as the old Sautee Store, just past the Indian mound. By bike, you can access these locations and loop back to Helen on Bean Creek Road which passes a lovely roadside waterfall. If you want to check out Helen from the point of view of how things were before tourists and motorcycles this is he perfect jumping off point, literally. Zip the treetops and then hop on your bike!

Product Review: As a Dyrt ranger, I get to review cool products and on this trip I tried out the Primus Primetek stove set 1.3 L. When I first got this stove I worried it would be "too much stove" for basic backpacking. But I have found that with a family it works perfectly to heat up water fast and enough of it to make coffee and pour into Dehydrated food bags for everyone. I have yet to attempt real cooking on it like pancakes or sautéing but the hear output is very efficient and even and clean, which makes me think it will be fine. The metal hose that connects to the gas sort of winds around the bottom and there is a hook to hold it. It I have had a little trouble repacking it in the bag to sit flat. This is a minor OCD observation. Also, the bag it comes in does not include room for the fuel so when you are packing your stuff you always want to remember your fuel. I have not forgotten fuel yet but can understand how that might happen. Overall, it is a great stove for us and our needs, a little pricey but worth it.

A North Georgia Classic

This popular state park is the jumping off point for hikers headed to Maine on the Appalachian Trail as well as those hiking to Len Foote Hike Inn. The vistas at the lodge are worth the trip inside and there are great viewing decks where you can eat your own picnic or packed lunch. The Maple Restaurant is also inside. There are cottages and campgrounds. The campground sites are nice and roomy for RVs and the loops contain a covered pavilion and horseshoe pit. This is a hiker's state park with lots of trails from moderate to strenuous. The Falls are the real centerpiece with a set of stairs leading to the top which is incorporated into the AT approach trail. There is a also a small reflection pond where people can fish. I went in the middle of the week in the summer and it was not crowded but it is clearly a place that can get crowded due to its popularity. It's an easy car camp trip that gets you high enough in elevation to cool off a little in the summer but is not too far of a drive from Atlanta.

Glamping in an award winning green facility 5 miles off the grid

I have always wanted to visit this place and it did not disappoint. The 5 mile hike starts inside the Amicalola Falls State Park and for a bit shares the trail with AT approach trail to Springer Mountain. The entire Hike to the inn is 5 miles and takes around 3-4 hours. the trail is not strenuous but for one section towards the end and offers vistas to the south but is mostly shaded. I hiked in June the day after a drenching rain and enjoyed the cool vapors of galax in the air with early blooming Mountain Laurel. The temperature at the inn is a god 10-15 degrees cooler than Amicalola, which is welcome in the summer heat. 

If you are planning to backpack up to this spot, you should know that you will need very little once you get there. They have hot showers with soap, linens for the shower and bedding, snacks and drinks on hand, a hot dinner and breakfast. They even will pack a lunch for you the next day for your hike out (for an additional fee). There are signs saying that it is a cel phone free space but they seem to not enforce this as people were taking pictures. There is also a solar powered charging station for your devices. The signs really just encourage people to unplug and use technology sparingly.

The facility consists of 4 buildings- the bunkhouse (where you check in and has a nice lobby), the bathhouse, the dining hall, and the sunrise room. The facility is 70% run on solar power. At 5 PM, a staff member offers a tour of the facility and describes the numerous sustainable practices that the inn uses. At 6 PM is dinner, they ring a bell so you don't have to watch the clock. Then at 7 pm there is a staff led educational program in the dining hall. 

There is a lovely spot to watch the sunrise and the staff actually walks the area outside the rooms just before sunrise with a soft drum that alerts visitors of the sunrise, but I did not find it too jarring for those who wish to keep sleeping. There was however, a slight "hum" to the building that went on all night that appeared to be the evaporation fans for the composting toilets. It was not too bad but might impact light sleepers.

The price is high for a family of four when you think camping or even glamping. The inn offers group programs for students at special rates and also has half price sales in mid summer but a family coming for a night at regular price is looking at around $600. I prefer this as a solo getaway for that reason but it is worth a splurge with your family if you can catch the half off rate.

A thru hiker glamping stop

This is formerly "The Hiker Hostel" and has been renovated but holds true to its thru hiker roots. The closest crossing on the AT is at Woody Gap but they will shuttle you to and from most nearby crossings for an additional fee and will go as far down as North Springs MARTA station in Atlanta. There is a 6 bunk bunkhouse with beds for $35 a night and they have added small cabins, eco cabins, and a 2 br house. The place is well cared for, well marked, and very reasonably priced. This is a great place to meet up for support on the trail with a special someone. Dahlonega is a few miles down the road and there are lots of good eats. Think Guinness burger at Shenanigans. It's also a great getaway for couples as there are wineries and vineyards close by.

The room we stayed in was the deluxe hotel room for $95 (weekday rate). There was a Roku TV with Netflix, Hulu, etc. and a claw foot tub. There is a coffee maker in the room and actual real coffee for you to make, not any weird hotel coffee!

Breakfast is served in the morning in the communal eating area. They have coffee, cereal, muffins, toast and jam, as well as a menu where you can purchase more substantial food.

I spoke with the manager Justin Mizell, and he showed me around and told me that many thru hikers will stop here and go enjoy the nearby wineries. They also offer shuttles to town. They offer kayak rentals and shuttle to nearby Lake Swerner where guests can kayak up yahoola creek. A .5 mile hiking trail shows you around the property.

Lastly, I want to give a shoutout to the manager Justin. As we were talking he spotted a guest carrying her luggage and went to offer to help get it to the car. He later told me she had had knee replacement surgery. It's clear he takes the time to get to know his guests and the proof is in the details in the care of the property.

Ranger Review: Gregory Backpacks at Enota Mountain Retreat

Campground Review:

This Campground is really unique and beautiful with a good variety of natural settings for both tent and RV sites. If you look through my pictures you will see that almost every RV site is on a roaring creek as are the tent sites, and there are cabins on site as well. This would be an excellent site for a multi family gathering where some want cabins, some want RVs and some want tents. There are 4 waterfalls on the property, 2 of which are pretty solid hikes to get to. One is 200 ft tall and the other is 400 ft tall. The Falls are wild and roll through the forest so you don't necessarily see the giant drop off but there are plenty of opportunities for backcountry type scrambling to find sweet little pools and seats to cool off in. the AT is just 1.5 miles away. Another amazing little secret about this place is it is about 2 miles from Chatahoochee Spring, which is on the AT and the actual origin of the Chatahoochee River. The hike to the spring offers an amazing experience to see how the creek narrows as you rise to the lone Chatahoochee spring that starts the entire watershed. The place is currently owned and run by Dr. Scwan, a former chiropractor and is sort of in transition to new owners/ caretakers. I visited the Campground 3 times, once was an unannounced visit. Each time the staff was friendly and helpful. My son and daughter fell in love with this place. They loved the trampoline park, the petting zoo, and the campground dog "spirit".

If you love family camping they have it, if you love kitsch, they have it, but more importantly, they have some serious hiking trails! You can take it easy or put a pack on your kids and take them into the wild-something I did and my kids are still trying to figure out if they hate me for or not.

The motel rooms appear to not be currently functional due to flooding this past winter. The owner is trying to bring the property back up to speed after a rough winter of flooding and tornadoes that passed over the property. There are new staff on board for the season. One staff member has hiked the entire AT twice, the last time at age 70! With a side trail off the AT of about 1.5 miles, this would be a nice resupply site for thru hikers. The air there feels good and you know you are tucked in a true mountain cove with streams and waterfalls roaring on either side. The prices reflect more of a "glamping" experience but the natural camping experience there is worth the visit.

Product Review:

As a Dyrt Ranger, I get to test out products and on this trip we tested out two Gregory Backpacks and a Gregory hydration pack. This was the first backpacking trip for our family of four. I backpacked before kids all the time and once I had babies, I made the decision to only car camp until the kids could carry their own packs. That seems like yesterday but wouldn't you know, it's already 9 year later and so we suited up to hike up to the AT for the night. We used the stout 75- men's navy blue pack, the Icarus 40- youth cape green, and the hydration 2L reservoir.

The stout worked great for my husband, who carried the most weight and has developed quite the dad bod over the last 9 years. As a result, he needed the extra adjustment features such as the torso, hip belt, and sleeping bag entry adjustment.

The 2 L hydration reservoir, well we fought over who got to carry that. It fits nicely into the pack interior and Gregory has hat great hook and h2o hole. The thing that separates the Gregory hydration pack is that there is a little magnetic clip that fits in your pack and clips to the spout. It makes for easy access. The wide mouth opening makes it easy to fill but screwing on the top can be tricky. If you don't lay it completely flat then it leaks. The first night I lost all my water this way.

The Icarus 40 youth pack was great for my 9 year old. It was his first trek. He was able to carry his pack, his sleep pad, some of the food and some tent poles. He had a Nalgene bottle in the side pocket hat kept sliding out when he leaned over and that was frustrating for him. But his shoulders were not sore at the end of the trip and he said at the end that he liked backpacking after all (the first few climbs were not so easy). Speaking of, this pack can handle being flung to the ground in frustration by a 9 year old who is exhausted and just wants to "go home". Remedy- just keep strapping it back on, apply plenty of water and encouragement and in about 2 miles "backpacking isn't so bad".

Gregory is a great brand to get into if you are starting or restarting backpacking. They are cost effective, long lasting, and have been around a long time. Not to mention, when you call the 800 number there is an option to be put through to someone immediately if you are on the AT.

Ranger Review: Morsel Spork at Long Creek Falls

Campground Review:

is a nice flat section of the Appalachian Trail that can be accessed by forest road 42 and offers an easy 1 mile hike in the the falls. Campsites are dispersed in the area along the creek and often have remnants of thru hikers coming down from Springer Mountain in the first days of their hike to Maine. The falls are great for sitting and cooling off. The dispersed campsites are all along the creek so there is ample water all around. Some of the sites and side trails lead to steep drop offs that allow you to scramble around and find some good swimming holes

Gear Review: As a Dyrt Ranger, I get to Review cool gear on my camping trips. This trip I tried out the Morsel Spork and Morsel XL utensil for cooking and eating camp food. The Morsel Spork is the smaller version and good for kids hands. My kids used it to eat Mac and cheese right out of the Dehydrated food bag. One end is a Spork and the other end a really cool spatula th hat can be used for stirring, cooking, or serving. There is a nifty hole so you can hook it to your pack or hang it on a gear wall. The heavy duty plastic makes it light weight and rugged. wall. The heavy duty plastic makes it light weight and rugged. The Morsel XL is longer and goes all the way to the bottom of the larger portion Dehydrated food bags. These were designed with this type of food in mind so there is no waste! They also clean up super easy.

Game day camping

This is a popular RV campground for football fans coming to Auburn Games in the fall. There is very little shade and it is on a busy highway but up off the road a bit. Football fans are notoriously rowdy but this is a more civilized group. Close to the interstate and across the road from Chewakla State Park

Upscale RV campground

This is a members only RV park with nice big and roomy RV sites with good amenities. The park is super close to Unicoi State Park and a good option if you are looking for a little extra nice RV experience than what Unicoi offers.

First to Review
Pool and Playground

This is a mixed Rv and tent campground that also has long term residents. There is a pool, clubhouse, and playground. The tent sites are separate from the RVs down by a pond and small creek. The tent sites have grills and bathrooms but are a little close to the road and not very shaded for my taste. The RV area smelled of sewage the day I was there in mid summer but I have. When other times of the year when Thai is not a problem.

The naked truth

This river trail is the best in the state. Clear water, lovely pools. Expect nudity as it is Northern California. The river is beloved by kayakers and swimmers. Perfect snow melt means August is the prime time.

Best beach sites

Camp on the edge of the earth. The beach is usually foggy and the sand dark. It has a sort of Edgar Allen Poe Raven feel to it but you can burn fires on the beach. The scenery is amazing with beach and farmland scenes on your way in. Definitely worth a stop if you want an alternative to the state parks.

Good family destination

i stayed in a pop up camper among RVs here for serveral days as a family and there are a ton of activities for families. The biggest draw for us was the water park right on the lake which gets bigger every year. You can also put in your own boat or rent one. The campground has that community feel with gatherings and activities. Very good showers and restrooms.

Accessible caverns

If you are looking for a Cave experience in Norh Alabama that little kids can handle, this is it. Yes, it may be a little too tame for some and there is a small fee but it beats having to climb out of a hole with a petrified Pre schooler on your back.

Yurts!

This is one of the few state parks in Georgia with yurts and also has a great flat biking trail. The lake allows for kayaking and boating and some yurts are actually right on the lake. A good glamping destination.

Yurts

This is one of the few state parks in Georgia that offers yurts and the price is reasonable, making this a neat cool weather camping destination if glamping is more your style. Breath taking views that sort of make you wonder if you are still in Georgia.

Climb and camp

This is a good climbing spot but sort of out of the way to get to. As a result, you see more local in state visitors vs out of staters looking to hit Yosemite. If the campground is full you can access the coast in a little over an hour for potentially better options scenery wise.

Hot springs near visitor center

Just a short hike from the visitor's center are a series of hot springs. The first spring is really just a trickle and can only be found by touch moving through the stream. I was able to set up a tent on the creek and dig down in the sand to find the hot water and then covered myself to get the geothermal properties. Not a traditional hot spring soak but a memorable experience. The next morning I could find the hot spring seam by the steam coming off the creek and did the same thing while watching coyotes traverse the canyon.

Best of everthing

This spot has the coast and desolate beaches as well as the magnificent fern canyon trail that takes you into a wonderland of green and inlet streams. I only wish I had stayed here longer.