The Blue Ridge Ranger District covers the central third of the Chattahoochee National Forest in northern Georgia, comprising 357,700 acres. It includes more than 67,000 acres over five designated wilderness areas, and is administered by the US Forest Service. The Blue Ridge RD includes Brasstown Bald, which at 4,784′ is Georgia’s highest mountain. It is also home to Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
This area is primarily hardwood forest, including magnolia, dogwood, and chestnut. Natural water sources are plentiful, including lakes, streams, and at least five notable waterfalls. It’s a native habitat to such plant species as blue cohosh and scarlet cardinal flower, and home to many types of wildlife, from black bear and pygmy shrews to river otters and ruffed grouse.
A wide variety of recreational and other activities are available, including: 8 established campgrounds, hundreds of miles of trails, including sections of the Appalachian and Benton MacKaye, OHV trails, fishing, hunting, equestrian, biking, multiple day use areas, and foraging, including ginseng. I camped at the Morganton Point Recreation Area, a forest site administered by the Cradle of Forestry in America Interpretive Association, and also hiked to the High Shoals Falls with local guides Gemstone and her baby Bodhi in late April, 2017.
Fees on the District vary according to the activity; with many areas free to access. Campgrounds range from $3 to $40/night, depending on the season and amenities. Reservations for Morganton Point are available via recreation.gov, although I was able to get a walk-up site, and received a 50% discount with my America the Beautiful Interagency Pass. The District offers 40 ginseng-harvesting passes per year on a lottery system. Foraging permits are $20. Check the forest website or with the District’s Ranger Office, which is near Blairsville, GA, for the most current information regarding fees, and also closures and alerts.
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