The Enchanted Valleys: Hiawassee/Young Harris

Young Harris & Hiawassee, Georgia, are known as the Enchanted Valleys and visitors soon see why when traveling as they are soon surrounded by beautiful mountains at every turn.

Towns County was formed in 1856 from parts of nearby Rabun & Union Counties and named for George Washington Towns, who was the governor of Georgia from 1847 to 1851.  Hiawassee is a Cherokee word meaning “meadow” and has the Chattahoochee National Forest that covers over fifty seven thousand acres and another seven thousand is owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which built Lake Chatuge in 1941.

One of the most beautiful sites in North Georgia is when you drive over the hill from Hiawassee and see the valley below. For years Young Harris was known only for Young Harris College, but in the past decade has gained fame as a relaxing golf and resort destination.   Originally, Young Harris College was named McTyeire Institute; after Bishop Holland McTyeire. Artemas Lester, a circuit riding Methodist minister who wanted to provide the residents of the Appalachian Mountains with an education, established the school in 1886.  A wealthy local resident named Judge Young Loftin Gerdine Harris became the benefactor of the college and kept it open during it’s earlier years and it was renamed Young Harris College.

There are several attractions and things to do in Young Harris & Hiawassee during your visit to this beautiful scenic area.

This Enchanted Valley started with the Cherokee Indians and visitors can still see  petroglyphs, made by Native Americans at Track Rock Gap that consists of six table-size, soapstone rock boulders containing more than a hundred carvings, beginning about 1,000 years ago. Track Rock Gap was the site of the Cherokee village of “Brasstown,” from which the Georgia High Point took its name. This spot is the start to the Arkaquah Trail, a 5.5-mile hike that is moderately difficult to Georgia’s highest peak.

Beautiful Brasstown Bald, rising 4,784 feet above sea level, is Georgia’s highest mountain. On clear days, the spectacular 360-degree view from atop the mountain allows you to see four states, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina.  At the top is a Visitors Center with an extensive museum and various presentations on forestry in North Georgia. Visitors can travel to Brasstown by car from State Rd. Hwy. 180 that can be accessed either coming from Helen or Hiawassee on 17/75 or by Blairsville on Hwy. 129.  Once to the parking facility there is a steep, paved trail to the Visitor Information Center at the summit. Frequent stopping places along the difficult trail path make it achievable for even the most out-of-shape hikers.  A shuttle in the visitor parking also provides access to the summit; in addition to a picnic area for the public.

The Rollins Planetarium, which does many shows for the public, is located in the Maxwell Center building on the campus of Young Harris College. The planetarium was opened in 1979 through the philanthropy of Wayne and Grace Rollins and seats 100 people under a 40-foot-diameter dome.  The college also has an observatory, located on Georgia state property near the Brasstown Valley Resort, only a short distance from campus.

The School of Lapidary Arts holds classes for beading, basket making, stained glass, and related arts.  Harold Sparks, founder was president of the Southeast Federation of Mineralogical Societies and with his wife, Mary Lou, called upon many rock and gem associates to build this unique campus and lodging facility.

Award winning Crane Creek Winery in Young Harris allows visitors to stroll through vineyards, tour their winemaking process and taste the fruited blends of sparkling whites or bold red wines.  Special events, like the Tomato Festival held in August are open to the public for wine tasting, food, and musical entertainment.   Hightower Creek Winery located in Hiawassee has many events with wine tasting and music during the season.  Visitors are encouraged to bring back a “Taste of the Mountains”.

The Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds has events year round and plays host to many festivals and events.  Located by the by the beautiful sores of Lake Chatuge the complex offers camping and recreational facilities.  The Anderson Music Hall has various show events including bluegrass, country, gospel, rock’n’roll, jazz, and dance performances.  During special events, the exhibit hall is open and features antique machinery, Pioneer Village to view mountain life activities such as soap making, moonshining, hominy making, blacksmithing, and log splitting.  Authentic structures were moved to the fairgrounds such as the one-room schoolhouse, general store, and blacksmith shop.

The Hamilton Rhododendron Gardens boasts one of the largest varieties of rhododendron with more than 3,000 plants in bloom from early April to late May.

When Brasstown Valley Resort was developed in 1995 by the State of Georgia it promoted the facility as a luxury lodging, dining, and conference center.  Known as North Georgia’s premier getaway with over 100 lodge guest rooms/cottage suites, it features a 18-hole championship golf course, luxury spa, riding stables, and picturesque mountain views at every turn.

Rental Cabins have become a popular favorite to stay at for lake or mountain views.  Lakefront Cabins are especially popular during the summer for entertainment and use of Lake Chatuge. In addition to Recreational RV Parks, there are marinas, State and county parks that also offer camping or picnic facilities with beaches and playgrounds by the lake.

Young Harris & Hiawassee started growing in 1960 because Lake Chatuge became known as North Georgia’s vacation destination.  Lake Chatuge’s many activities range from fishing, boating, swimming, sailing, tubing, water skiing, wake boarding, jet ski and canoeing. The 7,050-acre Tennessee Valley Authority reservoir is located on the North Carolina border. Sport fishing and wade fishing for trout is popular with fishing depths of over 25 ft.; it’s produced several state record fish, including the hybrid striped bass and smallmouth bass. Many fishing boats can be seen during the season as well as people fishing offshore enjoying the afternoon.

The region surrounding Lake Chatuge is an antique shopper’s dream including many intriguing stores that display the work of many well-known painters, potters and sculptors along with a colorful array of Appalachian folk art.  Restaurants feature everything from fine cuisine to country cooking, deli treats, and bakery sweets.

A visit to this “Enchanted Valley” keeps many people coming back to spend more time in this beautiful, scenic area of  Young Harris and Hiawassee during that perfect mountain vacation.

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