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Southern Fall Charm: Our Journey from Atlanta to Clayton, GA, and Highlands, NC

From mid-October to early November, the South is painted with vibrant fall colors. The Blue Ridge Mountains, particularly at higher elevations, offer a spectacular display as Maple, Oak, and Birch trees undergo their seasonal transformation. Unaware of the stunning fall color in this region, I found myself awe-struck, finally understanding why so many Hallmark Christmas movies choose the charming small towns across Georgia as their filming locations. These towns, nestled in the hills and mountains north of Atlanta, exude a warmth and charm that's irresistible.

Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina

Setting off from Atlanta, the journey takes us northward through the charming town of Clayton, Georgia, before continuing to the serene Highlands, North Carolina. The entire trip, rich with scenic views, clocks in at just over two hours. If you find yourself with an extra night to spare, a stay at Clayton’s White Birch Inn is highly recommended. The exceptional hospitality, comfortable lodging, and delicious breakfast make this cozy inn a worthwhile destination in its own right. Walking down the main street of Clayton, there’s an undeniable sense of local friendliness – the cheerful ‘good mornings’ make you feel instantly at home. With a variety of boutiques, unique home goods stores, an artisan gallery, and several yummy restaurant options, Clayton is the perfect spot to spend a leisurely afternoon.

Continuing our journey, we ascend deeper into the Blue Ridge Mountains. Traveling up winding roads, passing by picturesque waterfalls, and navigating through forests awash with autumn colors, we reach the charming town of Highlands, North Carolina. Nestled in the Nantahala National Forest at an elevation of just over 4000 feet, Highlands is a small but sophisticated destination, boasting a variety of upscale shops to discover. Here, days are warm and inviting, while nights bring a refreshing coolness characteristic of mountain towns.

After immersing yourself in the activities of the day, whether hiking, shopping, or leaf peeping, there’s nothing like unwinding by the welcoming fire at the Hummingbird Lounge in the Old Edwards Inn. It’s the perfect spot to reflect on the day’s adventures and plan for the next.

The views in and around the Highlands are truly impressive, offering a panorama of natural beauty from cascading waterfalls to expansive vistas. The hikes and outdoor scenes are captivating, and a stroll through the town’s shops is equally delightful. With a population hovering around a thousand, Highlands provides a serene atmosphere and a feeling of peaceful seclusion.

The combination of its natural beauty and the sophistication of the town make Highlands more than just a stop on the map; it’s an experience, a collection of memorable moments that stay with you. It’s not only about the scenery or the activities but also about the unique ambiance and tranquility that Highlands embodies.


  • Clayton, GA - White Birch Inn: Enjoy the warmth of Southern hospitality, comfortable lodging, and a divine breakfast in this charming inn.

  • Highlands, NC - Old Edwards Inn: Nestled in the mountains, this upscale inn offers luxury accommodations and a cozy atmosphere.


  • Bridal Veil Falls: Marvel at the beauty of this picturesque waterfall, a nature’s masterpiece.

  • Glen Falls: Immerse yourself in the serene ambiance of cascading waters and lush greenery.

  • William Henry Stevens Covered Bridge: Step back in time and experience the charm of this historic covered bridge.


  • Cocktails and light bites at the Hummingbird Lounge: Relax by the fire and savor a selection of cocktails and light bites in a cozy setting.

  • The Ugly Dog Pub: Experience the local flavor and friendly atmosphere at this popular pub in the heart of town.

When you wrap up your trip from Atlanta to Clayton and the Highlands, you realize that every turn has revealed something unique and every moment spent has become a special new memory. The warmth of the locals, the captivating landscapes, and the charm of small-town life make the journey memorable and leave an enduring impression, encouraging travelers to return and uncover more of the treasures this remarkable region holds.


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