Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains is a small town tucked away from the hustle and bustle. Ellijay, Georgia in Gilmer County. Known as the Apple Capitol of Georgia for its famous orchards, this city has risen from humble beginnings. It was home to many Native Americans of the Cherokee tribe before being settled in the 1830's. By 1884 the town had a bustling business district and a railway. The population grew to about 700 by 1910 which led the townspeople to acquire new technologies for its residents, such as electric lights and power. As the highways to and from Ellijay grew, so did the city. Census estimates for the year 2014 the population stands at 28,829 living in Gilmer County. Agriculture has remained at the heart of this county, making this a popular area for city tourists to come experience the mountain lifestyle. Some of the more popular farms and activities are outlined in this article to give trip planners out there an idea of what Ellijay has to offer !
Mountain Valley Farm
This idyllic family farm has been locally producing meat and dairy since 1840! Specializing in antibiotic free meat, free range eggs, dairy, local honey and jam, their farm store has something for everyone. There is also a small petting zoo for the children and guided tours of the farm and its operations. Picnic tables are available to relax at and nibble on local delicacies while taking in the picturesque scenery of this local treasure. Be sure to head on over to their website for directions, GPS in the mountains is quite unreliable and does not always work.
R & A Orchards
With its first tree planted in 1947 and market opening in 1972, this family owned orchard has quickly grown into a tourism hotspot as well as a local favorite. The orchard now boasts 60 acres of apple trees and 10 acres of peaches and nectarines. Families looking to spend some good quality time together can pick their own apples beginning in August and lasting into December. The market offers everything the apple lover can dream of; pastries, cider, and multitudes of apple varieties. There is even fresh seasonal produce available. Jam, jellies, and dressings are stocked year round and many the local frequents this market to stock up on the essential goodies.
A working farm dating back to 1890 had fallen into an unkempt and wild plot of land. Along comes a dream of a vineyard, leading to restoration and formation of Cartecay vineyards in 2007. The word "Cartecay" comes from the Cherokee word meaning "Bread Valley". Open 7 days a week, vino lovers are sure to delight at this unique and fun winery. Many of the varieties of grape were planted in 2008 and 2009 and harvested in 2011. Some of the wines from those first harvests include a Merlot, Chimney Blush and Traminette. Hosting many local bands and events, and with two friendly live in dogs, this place is a must do when in the area.
Selected by National Geographic as on of "Americas 100 Best Adventure Towns", the hiking and biking here is sure to please. The 288 mile Benton MacKaye trail is a favorite of hikers leading through Blue Ridge, GA and into the Smokies. Hikers can also visit at the start of the Appalachian Trail on Springer Mountain. Ellijay is well-known around the state as a biking destination ,with popular trails such as Bear Creek Trail who wouldn't want to hop on and give it a go ?
In conclusion, Ellijay is an excellent destination for everything from a family getaway to a hiking expedition. There are many more orchards, wineries, farms and trails to choose from. Be sure to check it out sometime !
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