Visit Dahlonega, Ga., home of the first gold rush, and great mountain roads, Georgia’s wine country and the Gold Museum.
What: Dahlonega, Ga. Southern hospitality, a rich heritage, a beautiful town square, local vineyards and great riding!
How to Get There: Georgia’s SR 400 (which runs concurrently with US 19) from Atlanta will work from the south, or SR 60 if you’re rolling in from the north.
Best Kept Secret: Trahlyta’s Grave, marked by a large pile of rocks at the intersection of US 19 and Georgia’s SR 60. Trahlyta was a Cherokee woman of extraordinary beauty who, according to legend, discovered a natural spring that intensified her beauty and youth. The legend is that if you place a rock on the pile marking her grave, you will remain young and happy. We did. It seems to be working.
Avoid: Just passing through downtown. You need to visit the Gold Museum, stop for a meal in any of the local eateries and wander about a bit in the town square to appreciate Dahlonega’s magic.
More Info: Dahlonega, Ga.
More Photos: MotoFoto.cc
“Thar’s gold in them thar hills!” Like most folks, I always thought of California’s gold rush when I heard that line, but I sure was wrong. Dr. Matthew Stephenson actually said “there’s millions in it” and he was referring to Dahlonega, site of the first U.S. gold rush in 1829. Nestled in the mountains of north Georgia, Dahlonega is a magnificent destination with a rich heritage — a beautiful little town surrounded by some of the best riding in the country.
Originally populated by Cherokee and Creek Native Americans, the 1828 discovery of the purest gold ever found in the U.S. had a predictable outcome for the Dahlonega region. By 1829, America’s first gold rush was an all-out land grab. The political pressure was intense: Dahlonega’s largest gold mine was owned by none other than John Calhoun, our seventh U.S. vice president, and Calhoun was one of the principal proponents of the Indian Removal Act. That act led to the Trail of Tears and the ultimate displacement of approximately 37,000 Cherokee and Creek to Oklahoma.
Dahlonega is derived from the Cherokee da-loh-ne-ge-i, which means yellow or golden. Georgia named the town Talonega in 1833, and then Dahlonega in 1837. There was so much gold coming out of “them thar hills” that in 1838 the U.S. built the Dahlonega mint to make gold coins, and Dahlonega gold is what you see today on the Capitol rotunda in Atlanta.
Today’s Dahlonega is a delightful destination with its historic town square, interesting shops and wonderful restaurants. You have to try the pizza and a Dahlonega Brewing Company beer at Caruso’s. Caruso’s brews the beer right there, and they make their own pizza dough and sauce daily. It is just what the doctor ordered after a long ride in the rain. Dahlonega is also right in the middle of northern Georgia’s wine country. We didn’t sample any of the local wines on this trip, but we’ll be back.
Dahlonega is Lumpkin County’s seat, and the old county courthouse is now the Gold Museum. Don’t miss the Gold Museum; it’s a quick but comprehensive peek into the area’s culture. Dahlonega has an authentic feel to it, and that comes across in a tangible manner in the Gold Museum. With its low cost of living and rich culture, Dahlonega is often cited as a top retirement town, and retirees volunteer their time at the museum. One of the docents followed us outside and gave us two small polished stones. He told us to make sure we stopped at Trahlyta’s Grave on our ride to Suches.
Dahlonega’s history, its gold rush and the overall feel of the place were a surprise. I had only known of Dahlonega as the site of the U.S. Army Ranger mountaineering program, and I rode there for that reason. I reasoned that where there are mountains there are good motorcycle roads, and Dahlonega did not disappoint. Any of the roads in mountainous northwest Georgia make for an awesome ride, but the Dahlonegans we asked all recommended Georgia 60 from Dahlonega to Suches. Take their advice (as we did). It is particularly beautiful.
With its rich history, magnificent roads, local wineries, great restaurants and southern hospitality, Dahlonega is a great destination. From a rider’s perspective, I can tell you that there’s still gold in them thar hills! MC