It's crossover time -- the vernal equinox -- when days are finally longer than nights in the North Georgia Mountains. That means this is the perfect time to be viewing 50-mile scenic vistas through trees not quite leafed out, and visiting wineries whose vineyard managers are hoping that "bud break" is not too soon.
Go for a hike -- Now's the perfect time to get out on the trail and experience the beauty of nature all around Dahlonega and Lumpkin County. The creeks and waterfalls are rushing, the trails have been freshly spruced up by dozens of trail volunteers, the weather has a little brisk left in it, and downtown Dahlonega is ideal as home base for hub & spoke journeys into the welcoming wilderness.
Start your trip with visits to some local outfitters, including Woodlands Edge, with state-of-the-art equipment; and Outlaw Jerky & Trail Grub for some unique, unusual and practical trail food -- for humans and pets.
One of the closest and most moderate hikes is Zwerner Lake -- known by locals as simply "The Reservoir". This 3.5-mile trail offers varied terrain, including streamside walkpaths and aerobic uphill climbs. Despite its proximity to city life, this trail feels remote at times -- especially alongside its tranquil upper pond, or when crossing a hand-made walk bridge above a gently flowing creek. Moving briskly, the loop takes about an hour and a half to complete.
For those who want to venture further out into the outback, loop trails that link to the Appalachian Trail are within easy reach, as are trails around lakes. Dahlonega is the closest town to the southern terminus of the AT -- and a number of transportation services are available to take you to trailheads and back.
It's Wine Time -- Although vines are just starting to stir, after a winter slumber, the wineries are wide awake and ready to welcome guests. Whether you're here for a wedding, a romantic getaway or just looking for a stunning backdrop for enjoying some wine -- Dahlonega's wineries are varied, and each of the six provides a dramatically different experience -- all good. From California casual to European elegance, to stylish with magnificent views, to family farm-ish, to North Georgia rustic, all offer knowledgable -- and available -- winemaker insights and many times even the owners are on-site to describe how their wineries got their start and their vision for the future -- all over a delightful glass of red, white or blush. As with hiking trails, the roads to Dahlonega wineries are easy to navigate and close to downtown. Ideally you've got a couple of days to enjoy at a leisurely pace, since we haven't even started to describe tasting rooms. Dahlonega is Georgia's Official Wine Tasting Room Capital -- including seven wine tasting rooms downtown, a growler store for beer flights, a meadery, and a distillery owned by a certain well-known, homegrown success -- singer/songwriter Zac Brown.
Gold ... where all this got started -- Dahlonega is nothing if not authentic and genuine and you can't get much more Americana than discovering gold. Dahlonega is the site of the first major gold rush in America -- before California; before Colorado and before Alaska -- and there's still gold in "them thar hills". These days the Dahlonega Gold Museum is the ideal place to start an experiential tour of Dahlonega's gold history. The good news is that the Gold Museum is currently closed and in the midst of a major renovation -- that's good news because the closure will be short and the result will be a museum featuring state-of-the-art exhibits; dramatic improvements to infrastructure (including a new roof and nice new shutters) and the addition of several new "escape rooms" for those who want some mental challenge. By May 20 -- or before -- the transformation will be complete. In the meantime, Dahlonega's other premier gold attractions -- Consolidated Gold Mine and Crisson Gold Mine -- will pick up the slack, offering instructional tours and experiences for all ages, including "minor miners". There's nothing quite like making your way down 200 feet into mine shafts, where gold miners plied their trade in the early 1800s, to make you fully appreciate life above ground today. Or watching as a massive -- and loud -- stamp mill separates gold from its quartz rock host . It was a tough life back in those days. Today, you get the chance to pan for gold (and you're almost guaranteed you'll find some) or you can use a sluice to pan for gemstones.
It's a great time of year -- to an explore a Great American Main Street. Dahlonega's downtown was the winner of t he Great American Main Street award in 2016, and that's because of the charm the variety of restaurants and retail, and the welcoming nature of Dahlonega's friendly merchants. Dahlonega is classic. It's contemporary. It's genuine and authentic.
It's springtime -- the days are longer. It's also the beginning of festival season, with Dahlonega's Literary Festival and Science Festival leading the way March 24 & 25, followed closely by everyone's favorite music event -- Bear on the Square, a two-day celebration of Appalachian old time and blue grass music. And then after that it's Arts & Wine Weekend.
So, head out to Dahlonega -- for all these reasons and many more.
Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber & Visitors Bureau | 13 South Park Street | Dahlonega, GA 30533 | (706) 864-3711 or (800) 231-5543.