This is our first of what we hope to be many Weekend Guides to all the great North Georgia cities. Since it is in our backyard, we thought we would begin with the city we love the most . . . Clayton Georgia.
Clayton is just an hour and thirty minutes from Atlanta and only an hour and fifteen minutes away from Athens, making it the perfect day trip to the mountains. It is also on the way to the Western Carolinas and cities like Asheville, Highlands, Cashiers, and Bryson City making it the perfect afternoon or overnight stop if you are heading in that direction. So whether you are just driving through or looking for a great place to spend a weekend, Clayton has a little bit of something for everyone.
Warwoman Dell, Glassy Mountain, Bull Sluice, Tallulah Gorge
No trip to the North Georgia mountains would be complete without hiking. With waterfalls seemingly trickling down at every corner, hiking has never been more rewarding with gorgeous waterfalls at the end of nearly every trail. The two closest hikes and waterfalls are the Warwoman Dell trails and Bull Sluice. The Warwoman Recreation area and Becky Branch Falls are a quick five minute drive from downtown Clayton. This is a relatively short hike but it’s beautiful year round and is the perfect spot for a road side leg stretching session. Bull Sluice is also a short hike but what makes it stand out is that it’s typically full of kayakers and rafters running the Class IV+ rapid. If you have never watched kayakers run a serious rapid, this is a great spot to do it. There are also plenty of spaces for swimming in warmer months. Glassy Mountain is a more strenuous hike. Even though it’s on a gravel road, it climbs pretty aggressively from where you park to the summit. And if you come to Clayton and don’t stop at Tallulah Gorge you are missing out. The hike is straight up and down with a HUGE flight of stairs. But it is well worth it if you can handle the workout. If you are not looking for something that strenuous, you can always pop in the location to Instagram and see gorgeous shots from the bottom of the Gorge.
U-Joint, Clarks on Main, Clayton Pharmacy, Fortify, White Birch Provisions, Fromage, Sunday Diner, Tiger Mountain Vineyards
Clayton really surprised us with how good the food is. Its no Old Fourth Ward or Midtown in Atlanta. But with a city population just over 2000 people, it is doing alright. Fortify is the crowning jewel and rightfully so. Make sure you get reservations if you are looking to eat on the weekend and keep your eyes open for the pizza spot they are opening next door to the restaurant in late Spring. U-Joint has good food (we are eating there right now) but it is their nice beer selection and huge patio that you are coming for. It is where you’ll want to be to enjoy a crowd and drinks. Try the egg rolls or quesadilla or go with their solid burger options (the Steinbeck’s is our favorite). And get the tots.
For something more low key, check out the Clayton Pharmacy & Soda Fountain. They serve traditional lunch counter food and have ice cream and shakes that are really good. The pimento cheese sandwich is one of the best. Fromage is unassuming on the outside and tucked on a side street but inside owner/chef Jenny nails it. The menu changes daily and everything is made fresh. This is more of a soup, salad, and sandwich spot but keep your eye out for the cakes, pies, and speciality cheeses which are always great. Clarks on Main just opened up but we have eaten there multiple times already and haven’t had anything bad yet. It doubles as a sports bar so there are plenty of TVs if you want to catch a game. White Birch Provisions is one of our favorites. Part coffee shop. Part fresh bakery. Part artisan grocery store. Part wine cellar. It is cute, small, and delicious. Make sure you get a cinnamon roll if they have them and try the fresh made bread on the weekends. For breakfast, our favorite is Sunday Diner. Owners Michael and Chris are the epitome of a local small family business with their kids helping out when and where they can and every body in the restaurant seemingly knowing everyone else. The Rusty Bike is also another great breakfast option.
Tiger Mountain Vineyards is a national award winning winery a few miles south of Clayton in Tiger, Georgia. They have a beautiful tasting room and an exceptional staff that is patient and knowledgeable if wine is your thing. The best in the region. They also have the Red Barn Cafe out back serving delicious food May-November. You can also visit Stonewall Creek Vineyards and 12 Spies Vineyards if you are into wine.
Black Rock Mountain State Park, White Birch Inn, Mountain House Modern
If you want to sleep inside in a nice and comfortable bed, we have you covered. If you want to sleep out under the stars with a campfire crackling nearby, we have you covered. First the comfortable options. Check out the White Birch Inn in the middle of downtown. They are the folks behind White Birch Provisions and have six unique rooms in the 100+ year old building. They also have the Laurel Bar, a restaurant and bar, in the lobby of the Inn. If you want to have your own place, check out Mountain House Modern. There are three homes on the property and you can rent the Tree House and Pond House out on Airbnb. The owners are great people and the houses . . . well they are amazing as they look. For camping, you can head north fives miles past Clayton to Black Rock Mountain State Park (which also has some hiking trails and scenic views). They have a few primitive camp sites but most are the park and pad kind. If you are ok with a 20 minute drive, the Lake Rabun Hotel is a great place to stay and there are campgrounds on the back side of Lake Rabun and Lake Seed. We also have some deeper recommendations for Northeast Georgia in and around Clayton here.
Noble Wine Cellar, Tallulah Point Overlook, Stekoa Creek, Blue Ridge Toys, Blue Ridge Honey Company, Georgia Mountain Market
Noble Wine doubles as a wine tasting room for local winemaker Jabe Hilson (previously of Tiger Mountain Vineyards) and a shop for local Georgia-only goods. Expect to find local handmade products (and wine) from all across the state in their shop. Stekoa Creek, Cage Free Boutique and Blue Ridge Toys are three of our favorite Main Street shops. Stekoa Creek carries home goods, jewelry, gifts, and cards. Blue Ridge Toys is crawling with amazing toys that your kids will love and Cage Free is a charming boutique run by Hillary and Kimberly offering all kinds of fashionable wares. Blue Ridge Honey Company is on the way into town and has an impressive selection of regional and local honey. They also do taste tests so you can try the dozens of varieties that they offer. If you are into vinyl, be sure to stop at the Georgia Mountain Market, a place we have deemed The World’s Best, Most Top Secret Record Collection. Finely, Tallulah Point Overlook is worth a stop for typical road side snacks, drinks, and views. Reeves Hardware is the catch-all for everything you might need that you can’t find in the boutique and Tree House on Main is another great boutique at the bottom of Main Street.
Tiger Drive-In, Goats On A Roof
If you want something outside the norm, The Tiger Drive-In has been around for 60+ years and is still cranking out nostalgia alongside current films like Batman vs. Superman. They have a grill on site serving food and you are welcome to bring a picnic. If you are nice, the owner Tom will even let you camp out in the field after the movie is over. Just make sure you email him and get permission first. Goats On The Roof is . . . different. This is a great place for kids but if you are not a kid, you might be confused. It is basically a normal road side tourist shop with the one difference being that they have a bunch of goats who ramble about on the roof. You can feed them. You can stare at them. And that about covers the entertainment options at Goats On The Roof.
Chattooga River off Camp Creek Road
You will not get lost here. But you could if you wanted. This is one of the quietest and prettiest places in all of North Georgia but it doesn’t get a ton of traffic. For full directions see this link, then look for the Camp Creek Road info. Basically turn right on Camp Creek Road off 441 North. Take a left on Water Gauge Road. Stay right whenever you have the opportunity. Park in the parking area. And then walk .75 miles down to the river. You can thank us later. If these directions don’t do it for you, email us and we will help you out. This section of the Chattooga River is right on the well known Five Falls run so on busier weekends you can find kayakers and rafters taking their shots down the river. The rocks also go out right into the middle of the river. Don’t be dumb and you will stay alive and have an awesome view. This is also a perfect spot to camp as it boasts multiple areas to spread out. You can read some background on this spot here.
For a full list of Clayton Georgia businesses, see the Downtown Clayton Merchants & Business Association. And for a good overview of Rabun County and the area surrounding Clayton, check out Explore Rabun.