“Thar’s gold in them thar hills,” hollered the prospectors in 1829 as they rushed to Northern Georgia to pan for the treasures in the southern tip of the Appalachian Mountains. The Cherokee Nation that inhabited the area could do nothing to stave off the gold rush. Thousands came, and the Cherokee eventually called the influx “the Great Intrusion.”
The Cherokee Phoenix, the local newspaper at the time, noted the protest, but there was little to be done. “Our neighbors who regard no law and pay no respects to the laws of humanity are now reaping a plentiful harvest… We are an abused people.”
Historical and Practical
Dahlonega, one of the first mining towns in the area, got its name from the Cherokee word tahlonega, meaning yellow or golden. And so it became Georgia’s own City of Gold. To this day, the town thrives on its past connection to the gold rush, as well as on the many natural wonders that surround the town. Hikers know Dahlonega as the closest hub to the end (or beginning) of the Appalachian Trail, which runs 2,180 miles north from Springer Mountain, about eight miles away.
Take a weekend family trip to Dahlonega and fill your days with an abundance of things to see, share, savor, shop and stay.
From the nearby Chattahoochee National Forest and a stunning collection of waterfalls, to the historically preserved downtown that’s home to the University of Georgia, you won’t lack for exceptional sites to see. Take pictures and enjoy the sights!
· Eight spectacular waterfalls lie within a few miles of Dahlonega. Cane Creek, Dicks Creek, Anna Ruby, Helton Creek, Dukes Creek, Raven Cliff and Desoto Falls all offer spectacular views. Some allow wading, while others provide man-made platforms to take in the breathtaking beauty of the falls. Go to Dahlonega’s waterfalls page for directions to each waterfall.
· While you may not be ready to hit the Appalachian Trail, you can see the spot where hikers embark at The Springer Mountain Trailhead. Many families add a short day hike to their outdoor itinerary.
· The old steeple of Price Memorial Hall was erected on the site of the former U.S. Branch Mint. It watches over downtown Dahlonega square and Georgia’s first Agricultural College, now the University of North Georgia and Georgia’s Military College.
While you share the wondrous beauty of the southern Appalachian Mountains with your family, explore the rich history that embodies the area. From Gold Rush artifacts to military heritage and Native American culture, you can find everything that embodied these Georgian hills in the past.
· The Dahlonega Courthouse Gold Museum provides a look at the colorful mining history of this Northern Georgia town. Rest a while and watch a 23-minute film that describes the mining techniques and the lifestyles of the prospectors, as told through interviews with members of long-time mining families in Dahlonega.
· Dive into history with a visit to the 1884 Lumpkin County Jail and Museum. The first floor is a museum that displays household items from the era. The second floor has jail cells that remain as they were in 1800s and early 1900s. See if you can find the inmates’ scribbling on the cell walls. Then examine the charred area of the floor where prisoners hoping to escape set a fire.
· The Camp Frank D. Merrill Military Museum is still home to the 5th Ranger Training Battalion and the mountain training facilities for the U.S. Army Ranger School. The Camp Museum offers a fascinating exhibition of Ranger memorabilia. Take the time to walk the trails around the camp for the extraordinary scenery.
· Don’t miss Trahlyta’s Grave, a pile of stones that sits on US 19 at the GA 60 junction, just north of the town. According to legend, Cherokee princess Trahlyta inherited the secret of the magic springs of eternal youth from the Witch of Cedar Mountain. Wahsega, a rejected suitor, kidnapped the princess and took her far away, where she lost her beauty. As she lay dying, Wahsega promised to bury her near her home and the magic springs. Indians and settlers alike started a custom of dropping a stone at her grave for good luck. The “magic springs” are only a quarter-mile northeast of the site.
Dahlonega also is known for gold-medal-winning wineries and vineyards. Additionally, in and around town, you will find every kind of fare your family could desire from high-end country club dining to fun, casual eateries.
· Wolf Mountain Vineyards and Winery makes more than 5,000 cases of wine each year. It’s well known for its tasting room and tours that run from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM Thursday through Saturday and 12:30 to 5:00 PM on Sunday. The winery serves a gourmet brunch on Sundays with two seatings: one at 12:30 and another at 2:30. The Vineyard Café offers other gourmet meals throughout the week.
· Yahoola Creek Grille prides itself on local class and contemporary Southern fare served fresh. Try everything from the fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese to the Southern Angus burgers and shrimp fritters.
· Sit on top of an old mine shaft at the Historic Smith House Inn. Sit around a table to enjoy good old Southern family-style eating that changes with the season. Your menu could include fried okra, green beans, collard greens or creamed corn to go with the meat of the day.
· The Bourbon Street Grill on the public square makes boudin and beignets for breakfast, Bayou Bruschetta and fried gold gator bites for lunch and dirty shrimp or blackened redfish for dinner. Sit on the balcony overlooking the picturesque town square or visit the “bottom” floor that hosts a pub atmosphere with flat-screen televisions and a pet-friendly outside deck.
Naturally, you can find plenty of opportunities to bring home a piece of your own gold in places like the Gold Rush Gallery. And there’s a plethora of wineries more than willing to part with a bottle or two of their artisan wines. You’ll also be drawn to a host of unique shops that tempt you with their trinkets, local artwork and delicious treats.
· Step into the past at the Dahlonega General Store, where you can find everything from gold panning equipment to old-timey candy, books and toys.
· Cranberry Corners is a Northern Georgia gift shop that features a number of local artists. You can put together a fun collection of original art in a wide range of handmade gift baskets.
· Take home a Dahlonega chocolate gold bar made from rich dark or milk chocolate, golden raisins, and Georgia Pecans, from Paul Thomas Chocolates. The delectable taste of the treats add to the sights, sounds and smells inside the chocolate shop.
· Kids of all ages enjoy Giggle Monkey Toys, a store filled from floor to ceiling with both classic and uniquely Dahlonega fun.
Finally, at the end of your busy day, you have many options of where to spend your nights. You can camp out under the stars in a campground, nestle in a homey bed and breakfast, wallow in luxury in a high-end resort or economize at a lodge, cabin or hotel. You name it, they’ve got it in Dahlonega.
· We recommend the Historic Smith House Inn. It offers two lodges with twelve rooms featuring private baths. Some of the rooms even have a fireplace, Jacuzzi and deck.
· Hikers, cyclists, mountain bikers, eco-tourists and outdoor enthusiasts on a budget often prefer the Hiker Hostel, where you can find private rooms, bunks and container cabins.
· The Dahlonega Spa Resort, pictured to the right, is situated on 72 acres in a plantation-style setting comprised of a main house and outlying cottages. Here, you can treat yourself to meditative walks, massage, scrubs and wraps.
· Located on the historic town square, the Hall House Hotel used to be an old boarding house. The second-oldest building on Dahlonega’s historic square offers a change of pace from the ubiquitous chain hotels and motels that house many of the area’s tourists.
Dahlonega, Georgia, is located 71 miles north of Atlanta and about 108 miles from Chattanooga. Stay a night, a weekend or an entire week; you won’t run out of things to see, share and savor. Whether you and your family are history buffs, like to take on the challenge of great mountain hikes or enjoy poking around unique shops and boutiques, you undoubtedly will appreciate the offerings in Dahlonega.