Any time is a great time for a Dawsonville-based driving tour of north Georgia. Of course, a summer trip means warm weather and lots of perfect days to enjoy the scenery. Count on lows in the 60s-70s and highs into the 90s. While summer in the southern Appalachians is certainly beautiful, many visitors are also opting for fall “leaf season” tours or winter trips when long-range vistas of mountain ranges in the nearby states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama are possible. Spring in the mountains is legendary, with each day showing a more vibrant green and the mountain creeks and rivers running strong before the hot days of summer arrive.
Regardless of the time of year, Dawsonville is the perfect base for driving tours throughout north Georgia and even reaching into the Carolinas, Tennessee and beyond. Choose from five scenic routes through the lovely countryside of Dawson County and surrounding communities.
Starting Point: Dawsonville
All Roads Lead to Dawsonville
Down On The Farm!
“All Roads Lead to Dawsonville” Driving Tour
From Dawsonville, access to the beautiful north Georgia countryside is simply a matter of picking a point on the compass and pointing your automobile in the right direction. The southern Appalachian Mountains loom over the foothills to the south and west with incredible views of nearby peaks including Springer Mountain, Burnt Mountain, and Disharoon Mountain. On a clear day, the skyline of Atlanta, some 60 miles distant, can be seen from several vantages.
The town of Dawsonville is one of the earliest communities settled in the area, first as an Indian trading post when the early settlers arrived in the late 1700s, and later as a center for gold mining and forestry operations. From Prohibition through the 1950s, Dawsonville had a reputation for fast cars and faster drivers, daredevils who began their careers with whiskey-loaded hot rods, outrunning the federal tax enforcement “revenuers.” Many of those same drivers who honed their skills on “thunder road” changed careers with the changing times and went on to become some of racing’s household names.
Dawsonville’s historic architecture can be seen throughout the community from the Dawson County Courthouse, built in 1858, to the many old storefronts and wood frame residences near downtown. Shops with local crafts, art and memorabilia are scattered throughout Dawsonville and the nearby countryside.
Before starting your driving tour, have lunch at the Dawsonville Pool Room, a local grill famous for hamburgers and a healthy side dish of motorsports history and headlines, served up on every available wall space. Or meander a few miles from downtown Dawsonville on Highway 53 East to the junction of GA 400 at the North Georgia Premium Outlet Mall, where premium brands await those preparing for a country drive or just a “shop till you drop” holiday.
From historic Dawsonville, travel west on Highway 53 toward the Amicalola River, noting the elevation, terrain, and vegetation changes along the way. Here the front range of the southern Appalachian chain fills the horizon, rising above the wooded foothills and open pastures of north Georgia horse country and the genteel farms of Dawson County.
After crossing the Amicalola River, continue west on Highway 53 until reaching historic Tate and the junction of Highway 515. Take Highway 515 south to the historic Tate House and see turn-of-the-century architecture and furnishings in an exquisite Southern mansion setting. To return, take Highway 372 through Ball Ground, named after an ancient Native American recreational site noted as a “ball ground” where teams competed in sporting events. Turn east onto Highway 369 for approximately 15 miles to the junction of GA 400 and travel north to Dawsonville.
From Downtown Dawsonville, take Highway 53 east to the Highway 400 junction and continue east. War Hill Park offers camping at improved and primitive sites, and boat launches at War Hill, Toto Creek, and Chestatee Army Corps of Engineers parks provide easy access to the clear waters of 39,000-acre Lake Lanier, named after Georgia’s famous poet laureate, Sidney Lanier. Lake visitors enjoy sightseeing, swimming, fishing, boating and water skiing.
A leisurely drive around Lake Lanier can take several hours, since Lake Lanier is one of the largest reservoirs east of the Mississippi. Paved country roads meander around the entire lake for miles, passing through an array of small lake communities, restaurants, golf courses, and other attractions.
Continue on 53 until reaching Gainesville, then take Highway 60 north about 15 miles to the junction of Highway 136. Head back toward Dawson County (west) on 136, crossing the Lake near its headwaters at Grant Ford and also crossing Georgia 400 as you drop down into the Etowah River Valley on your return to historic Dawsonville. At the junction of Highway 9/Dahlonega Highway and Highway 136, head south on Highway 9 into downtown.
Heading north on Highway 9 from Downtown Dawsonville will take visitors on a stair-step climb into the Blue Ridge Mountains and the ridges adjacent to the Appalachian Trail. Continue on Highway 9 into the town of Dahlonega, a mountain community full of folk art, crafts, antiques, memorabilia, and the lore of America’s original gold rush. Dahlonega offers gold panning for tourists, and active gold claims still dot the hills and hollows surrounding the town. No visit to Dahlonega is complete without with a trip to the downtown Gold Museum.
Head north out of Dahlonega on Highway 19, then north on Highway 19/129 over Blood Mountain, so named for a series of legendary Indian battles fought in the area. Stop by Vogel State Park approximately 15 miles south of the mountain town of Blairsville, then take Highway 180 north, a few miles before Blairsville off Highway 19, to nearby Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia at 4,784 feet above sea level. Steep mountain ridges and long valleys roll out in all directions from this point, offering vistas of beautiful Lake Chatuge and the mountains of Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
Continue north on Highway 180 until the junction of Highway 17, heading back to Dawson County on Highway 17 South, crossing the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Divide as you drop down into the quaint towns of Helen and Nacoochee. At the junction of 17 and Highway 75 South, take 75 into Cleveland and turn south (right) onto Highway 115 in the town square. Stay on 115 all the way to the start of Georgia 400 at the junction of Highways 60, 400 and 115, and take Georgia 400 south to Dawson County.
Down on the Farm
Dawsonville’s rural farm country spreads like a tapestry to the south and west of the county, and a driving tour is like a trip in a time machine as pastoral farms and homesteads hearken back to a simpler life when the entire economy was based on farming.
Take Highway 9 south from the town square, heading past 25,000-acre Dawson Forest to the west and Georgia 400 to the east. The Etowah and Shoal Creek watersheds are easily recognized by the broad swath of trees and lush vegetation meandering across the fields.
The tiny hamlets of Silver City and Coal Mountain, just inside the Forsyth County line, lie on the outskirts of Cumming, a lake community on nearby Lake Lanier. As you pass through Coal Mountain, prepare to turn to the west on Highway 369 at the junction with Highway 9. At the junction of Highway 369 and Yellow Creek Road, head north on Yellow Creek Road between the Etowah and Amicalola River valleys to the junction of Highway 53 near Big Canoe. Head east on 53