While the Georgia mountains are an amazing place to relax and enjoy nature, many of these outdoor areas are being temporarily closed in an effort to reduce congregations of people and slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
As conditions seem to be changing daily, it’s best to check the most direct source for information about any destinations that you may want to visit.
Many municipalities have issued shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders, while other towns without official orders to close have seen that businesses are either limiting customers, limiting their hours of operation, or closing altogether. This is likely to continue for weeks, perhaps even for months. Additionally, many parks and hiking trails have been closed and officers are towing any cars parked at these parks or near trailheads including Yonah Mountain.
These online resources should help you to learn more about current advisories across the state and specifically in the North Georgia mountains. Check / follow these sources for up-to-date information regarding area restrictions in North Georgia during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Statewide Guidelines for Georgia
The following resources and information apply to all Georgians and current visitors. Please follow local laws and recommendations from trusted sources of public health information.
NOTICE: 4/1/2020 – Governor Kemp issues a shelter-in-place order for the entire state of Georgia that will last through April 13th. K-12 classes have also been cancelled for the rest of the academic year.
Enjoying Nature Amid Physical Distancing Guidelines
At the current moment, the North Georgia mountains are experiencing some of the best weather of the year. This naturally draws more visitors, as people are drawn to the warmer weather and Spring blooms. However, now that this is combined with limited entertainment options elsewhere, there are record numbers of people showing up at parks and trails that are usually not too crowded. Parking lots are overflowing at multiple parks and illegally parked cars are being towed. There are so many people on these trails that it is practically impossible to maintain a physical distance of 6 feet from others on these trails.
I definitely get it. It’s beautiful outside right now, and it’s gorgeous in the Georgia mountains. The air smells great and the scenery can’t be beat. However, given that there are too many of us trying to crowd these gems at once, we should strongly consider being responsible and staying at home until the COVID-19 coronavirus threat has passed.
Turkey Hunting Season 2020 (March 21 – May 15)
Be Alert! Turkey hunting season has just started in Georgia and will continue through May 15, 2020. Check the Georgia DNR website to see the dates for other upcoming hunting seasons.
Hikers that are new to the area should make certain they are hiking on a trail or on property where they are expressly allowed, and to also be sure to make themselves extra visible when they may be hiking close to places where hunters are present. I have read of 2 close encounters just this week where a family of hikers have stumbled across an active hunting area without realizing that they could be in danger.
For extra safety and precaution, consider outfitting your hiking party with high-visibility clothing so that everyone in your party is clearly seen on all trails.
National Parks & Forest Sites in the Georgia Mountains
From a quick glance, it appears that all of the recreational areas are currently closed. Please pay attention to these closures and know that rangers are enforcing the closures.
Even the multi-state Appalachian Trail is not immune to this threat. Believe it or not, the popularity of trails like the AT have surged in recent weeks and, “Hiking the A.T. has become… the opposite of social distancing.” Note that the ATC states:
We cannot close the Trail. We cannot physically bar access to trailheads or connecting trails. We can and do, however, urge everyone to please stay away from the Appalachian Trail until further notice.
Although the trail is not physically closed, the National Park Service has closed all overnight shelters and privies on land administered by the Appalachian National Scenic Trail Park Office. Learn about these and more closures at wildeast.appalachiantrail.org. Other online resources include:
- Facebook: @ChattOconeeNF
- Facebook: @GaDNR
- Facebook: @WildlifeResourcesDivisionGaDNR
- Ga Department of Natural Resources / Wildlife Resources Division: georgiawildlife.com/closures
- National Park Service Public Health Update
Georgia State Parks
The Georgia state parks around the state are open (as of 3/27/2020), but with limited accessibility. In order to maintain social distancing, some activities may not be available.
All Georgia State Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites’ visitor centers, museums, golf pro shops, and nature centers are now restricting access to comply with the Governor’s directive to reduce gatherings to 10 people or less while maintaining social distance. Staff still remain on site and available via phone and email to assist visitors with their needs.
- Facebook: @georgiastateparks
- Instagram: @gastateparks
- Pinterest: @gastateparks
- Twitter: @GaStateParks
- YouTube: user/gastateparks
Local North Georgia News and Guidelines
The following resources are for local municipalities in the North Georgia mountains. Note that many of the local newspapers are only published once per week, so other sources like the AJC.com (covering metro Atlanta) or Facebook pages for cities or sheriffs may have the most current information.
- Visit Blairsville (official tourism website)
- North Georgia News (published weekly for Blairsville, Suches, and Union County)
- Facebook: @nganews
Blue Ridge Area
NOTICE: City of Blue Ridge declares State of Emergency and shelter in place (3/25/2020 via The News Observer). The Fannin County’s state of emergency prohibits people in other cities and counties who are under a shelter in place policy or curfew from visiting (since that would be breaking their own county’s laws). This includes people who own land in both areas.
- The News Observer (local newspaper “published with pride for the people of Fannin County, Georgia and East Polk County, Tennessee“)
- Facebook: @The-News-Observer-740175116028857
NOTICE: Rabun County bans short-term rentals.
Cleveland & Helen Areas
NOTICE: (3/31/2020 via White County News) For the duration of the declared emergency, all city park(s), public areas, playground area(s), recreational areas, or similar places are closed by the City of Helen (see news release for more details)
- White County News (published weekly / every Thursday for Cleveland, Helen, Sautee Nacoochee and White County)
- City of Helen / Visitor
- The Dahlonega Nugget (local newspaper serving Lumpkin County and surrounding areas)
- Facebook: @TheDahlonegaNugget
NOTICE: Gilmer County has been ordered to shelter-in-place (3/24/2020 via Times Courier).
- Times Courier (hometown newspaper published weekly for Ellijay, East Ellijay and Gilmer County)
NOTICE: Towns County has been ordered to shelter-in-place (3/31/2020 via Towns County Herald Facebook page). Many travel-tourism related businesses in the city of Hiawassee are closed by mandate including VRBO, AirBnB, Rental Cabins, and Campgrounds (3/30/2020 via City of Hiawassee Facebook page). Hotels are limited to emergency only.
- Towns County Herald (hometown newspaper for Hiawassee, Young Harris and Towns County)
- Facebook: @Towns-County-Herald-229330091000342
- City of Hiawasee, GA
- Facebook: @HiawasseeGA
Things to Do While You #StayAtHome
There are many ways to enjoy the extra free time you may have (no long commutes through rush-hour traffic) and nice weather (hello Spring!) while following the WHO and CDC guidelines for #PhysicalDistancing.
Many of us have the room to do the following activities while staying at home. A few supplies that can be ordered online can add a lot of extra opportunities for enrichment at home.
Whether you are staying at home by yourself, or if you just want to pursue something on your own, consider these items that can sharpen your mind, dexterity, and strength.
Explore Your Environment
The right tools can make all the difference — including in what we’re able to see! A simple pair of binoculars or a telescope can open up the immediate world to all sorts of sights that we don’t normally see. Grab a pair of binoculars and see how many types of wildlife that you can spot outside your windows during daylight hours (we’ve seen deer, songbirds, squirrels, and birds of prey in the past month). A pair of night vision goggles can bring a nighttime environment into a whole new light (be prepared to spend a lot to get a quality set with the latest technology). And a quality telescope can bring the planets and stars to life right before your eyes.
Physical Activities & Challenges
Depending on the size and layout of your home / yard, you may find that these challenging items are a fun way to build strength. These balance boards are irresistible fun for both kids and adults at our house.
With a couple of large trees that are a good width apart (or I’ve even seen some people set them up on large beams inside their lofts…), kids and adults alike can enjoy a challenging day of balancing themselves on easy to set-up slacklines and ninja lines (similar concept but with obstacles to navigate).
You can create lots of different games with a small amount of sidewalk or driveway space and some sidewalk chalk. Use the chalk to create artful designs or play classic games like hopscotch, tic tac toe, checkers, and more!
Play classic outdoor games with a kit that you either build yourself or a pre-made version online. Enjoy cornhole, lawn darts, tiki toss, and ladder toss games with one or more people that you are self-quarantined with.
Physical Fitness & Exercise
There are a lot of ways to exercise at home including video instruction and home fitness machines. If you’ve got room for a machine or gym, then you can create a lot of different workout options like cross country skiing, walking / running, biking, rowing, and much more!
Learn New Skills
There are countless skills out there to learn with your extra time. Consider your interests and find online tutorials, guides, and enthusiast groups to help you hone in on a new talent. You may want to learn magic tricks, juggling, new languages, pancake flipping, or handstands and high-kicks. Or you may want to practice practical outdoor skills like archery, knot tying, or compass and star / celestial navigation. Let your imagination run wild and start mastering something new today.
Read a Great Book (or Magazine)
There has never been a better time to try out Kindle e-readers or an Audible subscription. An e-reader like a kindle allows you to downloads thousands of books or magazines without the need to visit a store. An additional Kindle Unlimited subscription includes access to thousands of the newest releases each month! Combine with an Audible subscription and you can even enjoy your favorite books during your commute, while walking the dog, or even while taking a shower.
Take an Online Class
The popularity of online learning has skyrocketed in the past 2 weeks as students around the globe have moved from physical classrooms to logging in for “live classes” from home. You can also get it to online learning with classes available from a variety of great sources. Coursera is currently offering their popular class on The Science of Well-Being offered by Yale University for FREE (10 million recent views!). SkillShare is offering 2 free months of Skillshare Premium where you can take any of their classes on business, technical skills, lifestyle, and more!
Play Games with Family or Online
A simple deck of cards can provide entertainment in many forms and is perfect for those with limited space. Play a game of solitaire by yourself, or challenge those staying at home with you to a game of poker, spades, or blackjack. Try out new games that have recently become popular like the R-rated Cards Against Humanity. Or keep your friendly rivalries healthy during quarantines and log on to playingcards.io to play with far-away friends!
Enjoy thrilling competitions with these exciting and different games that are sure to be remembered.
Support Georgia Mountain Businesses
Many tough decisions have had to be made by the small businesses that bring such charm, love, and life to the Georgia mountains. We are all experiencing new challenges due to the realities of fighting the public health hazards of the COVID-19 coronavirus. However, where possible to responsibly do so, it is extremely helpful to these local businesses if you are still actively able to support them. Here are some of the places where you can either order online, join a club / become a member, make a future reservation, or some other type of contribution.
These local communities can continue to thrive, but only with your active support. Thank you so very much.
- 12 Spies Vineyards – FREE SHIPPING with code “12spies”
- Currahee Vineyards – FREE SHIPPING within the continental US (through April 30th)
- Engelheim – FREE SHIPPING on $20+ purchases within the continental US (through April 15th)
- Frogtown Cellars – FREE SHIPPING on orders of 3+ bottles (shipments available to AK, AZ, CA, CO, DC, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, LA, MD, MN, MO, NC, NM, NV, NY, OR, SC, TN, TX, VA, WA, WI)
- Montaluce – currently offering $1 flat rate shipping for all mail orders
- Stonewall Creek Vineyards – FREE SHIPPING through April 15th
- Wolf Mountain Vineyards – the tasting room is closed but they are currently offering FREE SHIPPING for all mail orders
- Yonah Mountain Vineyards – the tasting room is closed but they are currently offering $10 flat rate shipping for all mail orders
Note that the above is only a partial list of some of the great local businesses that are still working to fulfill customer orders. A more comprehensive list of ways to support Georgia mountain businesses is coming soon, but please also share your favorites with GaMountainsGuide in either the comments or on social media.
What ways are you and your family dealing with the lifestyle changes during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic?