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Get lost in fall
Agritourism entering its peak season
3 Agritourism pic1
Justin Gober, 17, and Megan Delano, 19, walk through Uncle Shucks Corn Maze. Local agritourism businesses are preparing for a busy fall season. - photo by Chelsea Thomas Dawson Community News

Whether it's navigating rows of corn, picking through thousands of pumpkins or hiking up mountains covered in fall foliage, autumn is filled with outdoor activities.

And Dawson County is no stranger to the charms of the season.

Boasting numerous corn mazes, pumpkin patches, hiking trails and festivals, the area is teeming with fall activities.

Local residents and visitors come out to soak up the vibrantly colored leaves, cooler air and natural sights.

Christie Haynes, president of the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce, said it's an important time locally.

"Agritourism is extremely vital to our local economy, especially at this time of year when corn mazes and pumpkin patches bring visitors from all over Georgia to our county," she said.

According to a Georgia Farm Gate Value Report, nature-based tourism generated $58.6 million and ag-based tourism generated $31.7 million statewide in 2010. Both are listed as agricultural commodities.

Pumpkin farms

In Dawson County, both Burt's Farm and Bradley's Pumpkin Patch offer hundreds of pumpkins for families to peruse.

Burt's Farm also features hayrides and sells winter squash, gourds, Indian corn, fall decorations and hay bales.

Dawsonville resident Megan Delano, 19, summed up the opportunities of the season.

"It's just good weather to be outside and there is good, yummy foods," she said.

Visitors can indulge in warm, freshly-baked pumpkin pies, candied popcorn and an assortment of other goodies.

Bradley's Pumpkin Patch, named after the owner who started selling pumpkins at age 5, boasts local jellies and jams, wooden toys, gardening books and locally-made quilts out of an old barn.

Corn mazes

For those families looking for a challenge, corn mazes offer brainteasers that often bring participants closer together as they work to find their way out.

Located off Hwy. 53, Uncle Shuck's Corn Maze has been puzzling families for more than 10 years.

Owner Mike Pinzl, who is endearingly known as Uncle Shuck, said the maze also helps the local economy.

"The people it brings into the county is huge," he said. "We have lots of people spending money here on gas, restaurants and etc. Whenever we can bring people from out of the county its great and I'm happy about it."

Justin Gober, 17, said corn mazes are particularly fun because "visitors learn more about farm life."

"Even people who live around here, they don't know where corn comes from," he said. "I was on a hayride earlier and some kid was like, ‘Does the corn that's left over get used to make hay?' I had to explain to him that hay's in a completely different category."

Uncle Shuck's also has the added fun of a corn cannon and bonfire area for roasting marshmallows.

Buck's Corn Maze in northern Dawson covers more than 9 acres and also offers hayrides and a concession stand.

Hiking trails and fall foliage

Ken Masten, district manager of the Georgia Forestry Commission's Coosa District, said north Georgia is set up for a beautiful fall season.

Amicalola Falls State Park, northwest of Dawsonville, is also booming with visitors this time of year.

Hikers from all over come to enjoy a few leaf-saturated hours climbing the mountain's trails.

"We're seeing dogwoods, sourwoods and maples just beginning to change now in the upper elevations of north Georgia," he said. "If present conditions continue, we're setting the stage for a good fall season."

The park features the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast. At 729 feet tall, it can also be viewed from the top, midway or bottom of the landmark.

For serious hikers, the park includes an 8.5-mile trail that leads to Springer Mountain, the southern end of the Appalachian Trail.

Staff writer Michele Hester contributed to this story.