In early June, my troupe and I (3 humans and 2 dogs) crammed into an old Rav 4 and headed up ten or so hours to Northeast Georgia. Why you might ask? Well, my best friend’s old dog was ill and she wanted to do a last hurrah with the pup, so that meant a road trip! We looked for cool spots within a reasonable drive and found Tallulah Gorge just outside of the small town of Clayton, GA. Further investigation found a world class, serious white water rafting outfit based in Clayton, the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a very close proximity to Asheville, some ziplining, and some great hiking! So Clayton and Asheville it was!
We stayed at a pretty amazing AirBNB on top of a mountain called Screamer Mountain in Clayton. I cannot rave enough about this place. It is called Halfway to Heaven, at an elevation of about 3000 feet. The place was 3 stories built into the side of the mountain, each level had bedrooms, a bathroom, AND a balcony looking out into the mountains. For three of us for 6 nights its was only like 1000 bucks, so not bad at all (fewer nights actually is not a good deal with a hefty cleaning fee).
One day was reserved for a 6 or 7 hour Whitewater rafting excursion with Southeastern Expeditions. It was a class 5 run, and it was not messing around. That was some fun ass, dangerous stuff, and I LOVED IT. We found some pretty awesome restaurants and bars in the town as well. Pro tip: there is a butter you can buy in bulk from the one restaurant called Fortify Kitchen that is OUT OF THIS world delicious! We spent a day visiting and hiking in Tallulah Gorge. This was sort of the big draw for this area. They call it the Grand Canyon of the east, and it sure is spectacular! We also spent a day going to Saluda, NC to zipline with a company called The Gorge. I had done one previous zipline in Florida, of all places. It was pretty much a flat zip ten feet above the ground. This was a serious (to me) zipline experience for sure.
In addition to all of that, we took a two day diversion up to the Asheville area. It was my first visit there and…it’s ok…little too dirty, hippie scene for me to be sure. But, there was some good beer, of course! We also went to check out the Biltmore House. Granted we got there close to closing of the ticket office, but for 70 dollars a ticket, I feel it’s overpriced. It’s cool to look at, the inside is definitely some good American history, and the gardens are pretty…but 70 bucks? Naw. Protip: Go to the FREE balcony overlook at the Omni Grove Hotel, but buy a drink to be nice!
We also ventured up the Blue Ridge Parkway to Grandfather Mountain and explored! I hiked to the top of the peak from the visitor center, my first mountain summit! To get there is a hike with a lot of exposure on some ladders and ropes. Awesome technical hike. It’s listed as difficult but I don’t think it’s that bad. The girls sat in the parking lot, drank beers, and staged pictures to look like they actually did the hike :)!
One more day back in Clayton to prepare for the journey back. I explored a little more out on my own and drove up to the top of Black Rock Mountain. I saw some good hiking opportunities there and actually found myself back a year later! More on that one later!
Overall impressions: Pros: Clayton is a nice and not too touristy mountain town. The whitewater rafting is KILLER. The ziplining in Saluda was great. Grandfather Mountain and the Blue Ridge parkway are beautiful and the hiking was great. Cons: As nice as Clayton is you will probably find yourself at the same two or three places if you are going “out” and there is not a lot to do outside of what I did. Asheville is not as great as advertised. The Biltmore house is underwhelming for the price.
The Adventurer Final Word:
Five Stars! I definitely suggest this mountain get away if you need a short week or an extended weekend that’s no more than a state or two away! EDIT. I initially gave this one 4 stars for the drive. However, as fun as the trip was and the fact that it IS within one day drive, I am revising to 5 stars. I don’t really know what I was thinking. I made it a point to come back to the area the very next year and would like to make it an annual stop at some point!