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Beauty Beyond Be-Leaf: Leaf Peepers converge on North Georgia Mountains
First Day of Fall is Thursday
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This fall, thousands will descend upon North Georgia, loading their trailers and cars with camping gear and traveling up the winding roads towards a higher destination.


All for a glimpse of Blue Ridge Mountain fall foliage.


More fickle tourists will visit the North Georgia Premium Outlets, stop to pick a bushel at the apple orchards or spend the day at Burt's Pumpkin Farm. They'll take a hayride or run through a corn maze, sit (unfortunately) on a pumpkin or pose for a picture by a stream.


But the hardcore will venture upwards, hiking mountain trails or steep stairs to reach the best that a Georgia fall can bring- views of bright gold, burnt orange and fiery red.


Leaf Peepers, Leaf Lookers, Leafers. Whatever you call them, they'll be here soon.


On Oct. 1, Georgia State Parks will begin its annual "Leaf Watch," where they invite leaf peepers across the state to find and track the best spots for leaf gazing, and use social media to share pictures of the colorful views.


Georgia State Parks will offer a Leaf Watch travel planner on its website during October and November, so that fall foliage enthusiasts can find the best spots for hiking, camping and other outdoor recreation all while in search of the perfect leaf peep-show.


Phil Delestrez, northern resource manager for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, says that each year is different when it comes to what trees start turning first.


"This year we've had so little rain that our tulip poplars are turning yellow early, earlier than I've ever seen them," Delestrez said.


Delestrez said the leaf-looking crowd are great for local businesses in counties where fall foliage is plentiful.


"Local businesses profit a lot from their fall and spring sales," he said. "When people come to look at leaves they also go to other places, like wineries and gift shops, and I don't think any business owner would get mad about that."


Parks profit too, like Dawsonville's Amicalola Falls State Park and lodge. The park is a popular camping and hiking destination in the fall, and its proximity to other family-friendly fall venues makes the waterfall a haven for leaf peepers young and old.


Delestrez said that campsites and cabins like those at Amicalola are always booked solid through October, so reservations should be made well in advance.


The lodge at Amicalola said Friday that their weekend campsites, rooms and cabins are almost at or are at capacity, but that there are some rooms and campsites available during the week in October.


Other popular leaf peeping destinations for residents include Unicoi State Park and Smithgall Woods State Park in Helen, Vogel State Park in Blairsville and Tallulah Gorge State Park near Clayton.


Other top parks in Georgia for leaf looking include Black Rock Mountain State Park in Clayton, Cloudland Canyon State Park near Chattanooga, F.D. Roosevelt State Park in Pine Mountain, Fort Mountain State Park in Chatsworth, Moccasin Creek State Park at Lake Burton.


The Leaf Watch planner will be available at www.GeorgiaStateParks.org/LeafWatch, and photographs can be posted to Facebook and Instagram with the tag #galeafwatch.