Georgia State Parks

The Top Ten Georgia State Parks

The Georgia State Parks encompass some of the most beautiful outdoor spaces that you will ever experience! These parks are ideal for families looking to spend time building grand adventures and exploring the natural world. Conservation, accessibility, and affordability are merged masterfully in over 64 states parks and historic sites. Great camping, hiking, outdoor activities, and comfortable cabins are available at every corner of Georgia. Below are our family’s ten favorite state parks. We hope you find inspiration for your next adventure below!

10. Kolomoki Mounds State Park

Kolomoki Mounds State Park is one of our family’s favorite parks because it is a very low key place to set up a tent and relax. The campground is smaller than most with just 25 sites. However, a good many of those sites are along the edge of a large pond. The smaller campground also keeps the park from being overcrowded and provides for a quiet stay. The thing that can be said for Kolomoki Mounds is that it has always been a peaceful visit for our family.

Georgia State Parks
Kolomoki Mounds Entrance

The park is located near the small town of Blakely, Georgia in the southwestern portion of the state. While all your needs can be met there it is a very rural area and your time will mostly be spent camping, hiking, or kayaking at the park. The staff at Kolomoki Mounds give great tours detailing the history of the native american mounds located on the property. Additionally, the park offers several special events and festivals throughout the year. Find the outdoors and some peace at Kolomoki Mounds State Park.

Kolomoki Mounds
Camping at Kolomoki Mounds State Park

9. Laura S. Walker State Park

Laura S. Walker State Park is a hidden gem nestled in the southeastern corner of the state. Here you will find 44 campsites, six pristine sportsman’s cabins, a 120 acre lake, and two swimming areas. Laura S. Walker also features several picnic shelters, two large group camping areas, an 18 hole golf course, kayak and canoe rentals, an outdoor exercise station, and 5 miles of easy hiking trails. The city of Waycross, Georgia is very close by and features several restaurants and provides for all your last minute necessities.

Another great thing about Laura S. Walker is that it is conveniently located within a half hour’s drive of the golden isles of Georgia. These isles include Jekyll Island, St. Simons Island and the coastal community of Brunswick, Georgia. Hotels and vacation homes in these areas can be quite pricey. The cabins we have stayed in at Laura S. Walker were very clean, comfortable, and a fraction of the cost of those on the islands. They were perfect for our family of six. We did not mind making the drive to Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simons Island and saving a couple hundred dollars.

Laura S. Walker
Entrance Sign at Laura S. Walker State Park

8. F.D. Roosevelt State Park

F.D. Roosevelt encompasses over 9,000 acres and has nearly 40 miles of hiking trails with backcountry campsites available. This park, named for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, is one of the largest parks in Georgia’s system. The original infrastructure of the park was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. The stonework of the buildings, parking areas, and the 21 cottages are testament to that legacy.

We have stayed in one of the cabins at FDR and it was amazing! The park sits high atop Pine Mountain, on the southeastern border with Alabama, near Columbus, Georgia. The views off the mountain resemble those found in the Northern portion of the state. Two of our favorite aspects of F.D. Roosevelt was the spring fed Liberty Bell Pool and a local eatery called The Wicked Pig. The Liberty Bell Pool’s cool waters were a nice respite from the sun and the BBQ at The Wicked Pig was delicious. F.D. Roosevelt is also near the historical area of Warm Springs where the president had a home. The home is operated as a historic site museum by the Georgia State Parks as well.

7. Sweetwater Creek State Park

Conveniently located near Atlanta, Sweetwater Creek State Park offers a great retreat from the city. The fresh air along the 12 miles of trails can restore a person’s balance quite nicely. Sweetwater Creek also has a large lake with boat and kayak rentals for fishing or just a pleasant float. The trails meander along the Creek and past the ruins of a mill burned by General Sherman’s troops when they occupied Atlanta during the Civil War.

Our family has made several visits to Sweetwater Creek over the years and we love it immensely. The trails are very diverse and are great for trail running or hiking. They range from flat to gently rolling and provide great exercise. In recent years the park has added yurts and a few tent camping sites. The park’s visitor center has several exhibits and a very complete gift shop. Tours and nature programs are also available on site. Our large family stayed in one of the yurts and enjoyed the experience.

6. Fort Mountain State Park

Yet another Georgia State Park that sits high atop a mountain is Fort Mountain State Park in Chatsworth, Georgia. Fort Mountain boasts beautiful mountain views, interesting history, and miles of hiking and biking trails. Wildlife is in abundance at Fort Mountain State Park and the park has a very healthy population of Black Bears. Watch your food, these creatures are very crafty!

The campground has 75 campsites, numerous specialty campsites, and there are 15 newly remodeled cabins to choose from. A prominent feature to visit is the stone fire tower at the top of the mountain. The Civilian Conservation Corps has their stamp on Fort Mountain State Park as well. The fire tower being the centerpiece of their work on the park. My son and I recently camped in the backcountry here and enjoyed the experience. Try to find the heart shaped rock hidden in the side of the tower!

5. Tallulah Gorge State Park

If your family is looking for awe inspiring nature, then look no farther than Tallulah Gorge State Park. The gorge has several waterfalls that descend beyond the dams upriver and eventually end at a lagoon with sloped rock formations known as sliding rock. There the algae covered rocks form natural water slides. The Jane Hurt Yarn Visitor sits high atop the cliffs that form Tallulah Gorge. The gift shop there is one of the most well stocked I have ever seen at a state park.

Families will find the campground comfortable and conveniently located to the trails, which parallel the gorge on the upper rim and descend down hundreds of stairs to the gorge floor. Several other trails lead farther into the wooded areas and provide access to three backcountry sites. The Shortline Trail is a longer paved trail, perfect for taking the kids for bike rides. Bring your own bicycles along as you explore this beautiful state park in Northeast Georgia.

4. Vogel State Park

The Civilian Conservation Corps left an indelible impression on the Georgia State Parks. Vogel State Park is yet another prime example of that as this state park features a very good museum showing the perspective of a CCC worker. Vogel State Park has a lot to love and one of our family favorite aspects is the one mile Lake Loop Trail. This gorgeous trail is flat, well kept, and sits at the bottom of the valley that cradles the majority of the park. Vogel is one of the oldest and most revered Georgia State Parks. Many of the cabins at Vogel were CCC built and are some of the most unique stays among any of Georgia State Park cabins . The park is located in the beautiful North Georgia mountains not far from Helen, Georgia.

Vogel State Park

There is so much to love about this park! The park offers two 18 hole miniature golf courses on site for the kiddos. There are waterfalls, tremendous hiking trails, the aforementioned beautiful old cottages as well new ones, and plenty of campsites. The alpine town of Helen is just down the mountain as well. Helen is a small but lively tourist friendly town with all kinds of activities and restaurants. Vogel is also close to many of the natural landmarks of North Georgia, including Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest point. The park is lovely in every season, but gorgeous and very busy in the Fall. Two camping areas are available, one for tent camping and one that is best suited for an RV. Head to the mountains for your next adventure in the Georgia State Parks.

3. Cloudland Canyon State Park

The park should be named Dreamland! Seeing the morning fog slowly roll through the valleys is a real treat. This Georgia state park has exceptionally well maintained trails with watefalls, rapids, and lush forests surrounding you on all sides. Hike along the canyon rim or descend into the rocky bottom. There are 72 great campsites, 30 walk in campsites, 10 yurts, and 16 freshly renovated cabins. All great options for your family’s stay.

There are many great activities to do while visiting Cloudland Canyon such as the 18 hole disc golf course. Additionally, you will find mountain biking trails, nearby paved bike trails, and several miles of horseback riding trails. Cloudland Canyon is well removed from larger cities but Chattanooga, Tennessee is an easy 40 minute drive. There are only a few state parks that compare to the beauty of this serene marvel!

2. Providence Canyon State Park

Sunset at Providence Canyon State Park is absolutely gorgeous! The red, orange, and white canyon walls are like something you might find in the western United States. This unique park offers 10 miles of hiking trails and six back country campsites. Our family has visited several times and have always enjoyed ourselves while reveling in the scenery.

Providence Canyon State Park has no cabins or electric campsites. Those can be found just a short drive away at Florence Marina State Park. Eufala, Alabama is the closest city with grocery stores and major restaurants. The trails, the peace and quiet, and the scenery will leave you mesmerized. Providence is one of the crown jewels of the Georgia State Parks!

1. Black Rock Mountain State Park

Black Rock Mountain State Park is quite simply the most enchanted place I have ever traveled to with my family! Everyone in the family looks forward to our trips there and we cannot help but keep going back. In the Spring, mountain flowers grow along the road and bloom ever so brightly. In the Fall there is no more breathtaking place to be as the leaves change colors. Quite simply, the natural beauty of this park is significantly difficult to top.

During the Summer months, Black Rock stays nice and cool due to it’s elevation. Like an ice cold glass of water when your dying of thirst, Black Rock offers an escape from the summer heat. Black bears are found on Black Rock Mountain State Park and sightings are both infrequent and very special. Clayton, Georgia is the small town below the mountain that has all you need during your travels including a number of great restaurants. Several other state parks are within an easy drive. South Carolina and North Carolina are both less than 10 minutes away.

Black Rock Mountain State Park offers 10 beautiful cabins that sit along a beautiful ridge. The campground has 44 small and cozy campsites, but only a few can accommodate an RV. There are more than 12 miles of hiking trails and four very scenic backcountry campsites spread throughout. The summit of the park is a very iconic and photogenic place. The Georgia state parks must surely mark this park at the diamond center piece of their system. It definitely is special to our family. No other place has rewarded us so greatly in our travels.

Providence Canyon State Park

Glorious adventures and awe inspiring canyons await you at Providence Canyon State Park! The slot canyons of the West are no doubt beautiful however, Georgia has it’s own very special offering in that regard. Providence Canyon is an excellent state park for a day hike, taking a long trail run, or camping in the backcountry! The experience here is worthy of a great day out for your family. We have visited this great place twice in the last couple of years and love it!

Hiking at Providence Canyon State Park

There are just over ten miles of hiking trails at Providence Canyon State Park to explore! The Canyon Loop Trail is the first path you access from the visitor center. It gently drops down into the canyon floor from the rim and you can choose from 9 different canyons to explore. This trail provides a comfortable and scenic first hand view of the red and orange colored canyon walls. The Canyon Loop Trail is about two and a half miles long and will take at least a couple of hours to complete. The canyon floor is often very wet if there has been recent rain, but the soil on the main trail is hard packed and it makes for an interesting hike.

Providence Canyon State Park
Canyon Floor at Providence Canyon State Park

Additionally, there is the Backcountry Trail. This trail is a 7 mile loop that leads to several backcountry campsites and a prolonged experience. The terrain goes from rolling gentle hills and flat canyon bottoms to steep climbs. It is a great hike for adventurous families and groups willing to take the challenging terrain. The Backcountry Trail will give you lots of views and experiences in the outdoors but is definitely a different experience compared to the Canyon Loop Trail. Both trails were worthy and provided our family some great adventure!

Providence Canyon State Park
Winter at Providence Canyon State Park

Camping at Providence Canyon

Providence Canyon State Park is a little different than most state parks in Georgia. There are no cabins here and there is not an RV accessible campground. For those amenities you will need to head over to Florence Marina State Park, about 10 miles away. However, there are six backcountry campsites that provide a great backpacking experience for the whole family! Each site offers plenty of space to spread out and relax. Firewood can be collected from dead limbs and twigs on the ground, of which there is plenty laying around. You will need to bring your water to the site as the creeks and streams are not reliable sources.

In addition to this there are 3 pioneer camping sites, which have 3 sided adirondack style shelters. These shelters have a roof and allow you to leave your tent behind. You simply lay out your sleeping mat and sleeping bag and rest, just like shelters along the Appalachian Trail. The pioneer sites are also equipped with a picnic table and fire pit.

Providence Canyon State Park

Visit for just a day!

Providence Canyon has a lot of kid friendly activities available and makes a great day trip. The park is commonly used as a simple day trip destination. There are two picnic shelters on the North Rim for family events and gatherings, a playground for the kids, and several tables to stop and eat a snack. The newly renovated visitor center is stocked with souvenirs, bug spray, and a variety of trinkets.

Things to know before visiting!

Visit Jekyll Island!

Jekyll Island

One of our favorite family destinations is the always adventurous Jekyll Island, Georgia. This amazing barrier island has it all! Beautiful hiking trails, bike riding paths, playgrounds, mini golf, and a water park. If you are looking for some great family fun in the sun, this is the place to visit.

Sand and Surf

We visit the island whenever we need to get away and spend some time lounging in the surf. Jekyll Island features seven beach areas to enjoy. Our favorites are Driftwood Beach and Great Dunes Beach. These two beaches are very distinct. Driftwood Beach features a maze of trees that have washed ashore, therefore, creating beautiful opportunities for pictures.

Great Dunes Beach is the most popular beach on the island as it is has the most access points and is near a few restaurants. Also, the miniature golf course, and a bike rental concessionaire is nearby. There are several picnic tables here and a large playground area just across the street. Great Dunes is our favorite beach on the island for playing in the waves and building sand castles!

At Great Dunes, near the playground, there is a snack bar and additionally, Tortuga Jacks Restaurant. These are both great options for eating however, there are several picnic areas on Jekyll Island. We have enjoyed many a lunch under the shade of some ancient live oaks at the South Dunes Picnic Area.

Activities on Jekyll Island

There is so much to do while visiting this island getaway! If you are on an extended stay or looking for something educational to do there is the
Georgia Sea Turtle Center and the Tidelands 4-H Center. Both of these are excellent places to expose kids to the natural wonders of the Golden Isles of Georgia. Furthermore, your family could go camping, ride a horse, play 18 holes of golf, take boat tours to see dolphins, and so much more!

Dining and Lodging

Jekyll Island has several great restaurants and a large number of additional options off the island in nearby Brunswick, Georgia. Also, several hotels are available on the isle with the Days Inn being the budget friendly option. Several Jekyll Island Vacation Rentals are available through VRBO and Home Away. Flipkey by Tripadvisor is also great for vacation rentals. Laura S. Walker State Park, a 30 minute drive from Jekyll, has cabins that are reasonably priced as well.

The dining options look amazing! Although,Jekyll Island offers many great choices for dining, we have only ever ate at two of them. You may laugh but we have splurged at Tortuga Jack’s, which was amazing, and the local Dairy Queen. Dining on the Island can be a little high for a family traveling on a budget!

Things to Know Before Visiting

  • There is a fee to visit Jekyll Island. It is $6 per vehicle. Weekly Passes and Annual Passes are available as well.
  • Tent and RV camping is available in the campground. Prices range from $28 for a tent site to $43 for an RV. Book early as the sites can be in high demand.
  • Bring your own bike or rent one from the kiosk near Great Dunes. The island has 20 miles of paved bike paths. This is a great family activity!
  • Every beach in the world has the occasional jellyfish. Keep a bottle of white vinegar in your beach bag. If you are stung, this home remedy can neutralize the sting, making the irritation bearable.
  • Laura S. Walker State Park, outside of Waycross, is another possible camping destination within an easy drive of Jekyll and St Simons Islands. These beautiful georgia state park cabins can sleep 6 comfortably and are about half the price of some hotel rooms on the island.
  • Bring plenty of water! The winds and sun of the Golden Isles can quickly draw the moisture out of your body. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
  • Sunscreen up! Even on overcast days you will slowly bake if you don’t apply sunscreen when beach going.
  • The Jekyll Island Visitor Center is right before the pay station along the Jekyll Island Causeway. If stopping here, before entering the island, you will need to make the left hand turn just before hitting the pay station, so be alert as you approach.
  • Look into Jekyll Island events like the annual Turtle Crawl Triathlon, the Sidney Lanier Bridge Run, and the Shrimp & Grits Festival.
  • Check out Fort Frederica National Historic Site on nearby St Simons Island!

Bonus!

January and February on the island are plenty cool and windy. However, during these months Jekyll Island features the annual Island Treasures hunt. This is where volunteers hide colored glass orbs all over the island for visitors to find. People come for miles to hunt these unique items. If you find one of the samples on the island, you return it to the visitor center, where they exchange it for a real glass ball! The hidden treasures are actually colored plastic, so that it won’t break! Enjoy!

Sweetwater Creek State Park

Sweetwater Creek State Park

This stunning state park has some of the most amazing hiking trails I have ever seen! Conveniently located West of Atlanta, Sweetwater Creek State Park is an easy drive to escape the big city and get some fresh air. We love this beautiful place and have so many great family memories here!

Our family has visited Sweetwater Creek several times while living nearby. Here you will find many awesome things to see and do. For example, you may find the ruins of the New Manchester textile mill, consequently burned by General Sherman during the Civil War. Additionally, the water running through Sweetwater Creek is quite beautiful and a trail runs along it’s banks for two whole miles. The park’s visitor center has numerous historical displays to explore. Lastly, the gift shop is quite well stocked with t-shirts and souvenirs.

Sweetwater Entrance ign

Amazing Hiking Trails!

This wonderful Georgia State Park is a favorite among hikers, trail runners, and dog walkers alike. The reason for this is due to the pathways at Sweetwater being gently rolling to relatively flat in some places. Furthermore, there are several different hiking trails and they can range in difficulty from easy to very difficult. The most popular route is the Red Trail, which parallels the creek all the way to the mill ruins. The trail begins at the visitor center and is very wide and flat. Be sure to ask the park staff for recommendations. Click here for a trail map.

Yurts and Camping near Atlanta

Sweetwater Creek State Park offers unique camping opportunities. For an experience similar to glamping, your crew can rent one of the 10 Yurts on the property. Yurts are like round cabins, but made out of simpler materials. They are very much a hybrid between a cabin and a heavy duty tent. In each is a Full-size bunk bed as well as a full size futon.

Additionally, tent camping is also available at the park, just up the hill from the Yurts. There are only five campsites and they are site specific so definitely consult the campground map before booking. Several hotels are within easy driving distance of the park if you require less spartan accommodations. Another way to go is through vacation rentals like HomeAway or VRBO.

Boating at the George H. Sparks Reservoir

Sweetwater Creek State Park has a very large reservoir on it’s property that provides excellent fishing and boating activity. Another thing to know is that lake traffic is limited to small fishing boats, kayaks, and canoes. Therefore, all of these vessels can be rented from the park’s bait shop.

Additionally, the lake area has a very large parking lot with several picnic tables and bathrooms. Generally, the bait shop is open at 8 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. Lastly, the park has several paddle boats for rent. You must propel these using your feet much like a bicycle.

Things To Know This State Park

  • The park gates open at 7 a.m. and close at dark. Because of this, hikers must be off the trails before sunset.
  • The park does feature 7 picnic shelters for rental. Certainly these shelters are perfect for birthday parties and family gatherings.
  • The park also has a Group Shelter for very large gatherings which can also be rented.
  • You may find parking limited if visiting on weekends or holidays.
  • Park guests are required to pay a $5 parking fee when visiting.
  • Another thing to know is that Six Flags over Atlanta is just a 15 minute drive down Interstate 20.
  • Downtown Atlanta is just a 20 minute drive but beware of traffic if you are heading into the city.
  • Sweetwater Creek State Park offers many exciting programs for school children and groups. Be sure to inquire about these opportunities before visiting.
  • Each year, there are numerous trail running races put on at the park.
  • The park has a workout station with several pieces of equipment. This great feature is located in the picnic shelter loop, near the playground area.
  • Be sure to wear comfortable hiking shoes and fill some Water Bottles.
  • Zoo Atlanta is a great nearby attraction for visiting families.
  • Your family can visit any Georgia State Park for FREE by visiting your local library and checking out a park pass.

Bonus!

Check out this great video of The Falls area at the end of the Red Trail at Sweetwater Creek State Park as well as this great photo of the falls with snow.

Snow at SWC

Tallulah Gorge State Park

One of the most beautiful and most popular outdoor attractions in the state of Georgia is the awe inspiring and serene Tallulah Gorge State Park. Our family lived in North Georgia for a few short years and as such we made many day trips to this great place.

Tallulah Gorge is about an hour and a half from Atlanta, Georgia.

The canyon at Tallulah Gorge State Park is 2 miles long and includes several waterfalls and nearly 20 miles of hiking trails. You can combine the North Rim and South Rim trails to circle the canyon or you can hike down 1000 feet of stairs to the gorge floor.

Tallulah Gorge Camping

The campground at Tallulah Gorge has 50 campsites for tent and RV camping use. The sites are either 25 feet in length or 50 foot, for large RVs and Fifth Wheels. When camping in Georgia State Parks, remember that their campgrounds are site specific, so book exactly which site it is you desire.

My son Ethan and I getting the tent set up.

Three backcountry campsites are available to hike into. Each campsite has a three sided adirondack style shelter that is covered.

A pioneer campground, specifically for large groups of 25 people or less is also available.

Cabins at Tallulah Gorge State Park

Unfortunately, there are no cabins on Tallulah Gorge State Park. Black Rock Mountain State Park, a 15 minute drive from the Gorge, features 10 of the most sought after cabins in the Georgia State Parks. These cabins rest on a flat ridge high atop Black Rock Mountain. They are very clean and feature some spectacular views.

Hiking and Biking at Tallulah Gorge State Park

If you bring your bicycles, Tallulah Gorge features a paved hiking path that sits on an old railroad cut, and is perfect for bike riding. The three mile long Shortline Trail meanders along a beautiful river. Rollerblading is another great activity that you can do on the Shortline.

The North and South Rim Trails are about three miles combined and offer great views from 5 different vantage points. These overlooks also give you a view of the bridge that straddles the dam. From this trail you ca see L’Eau d’Or Falls, Hurricane Falls, Oceana Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls.

The Gorge Floor Trail requires a special permit and there are only 100 issued daily. The attraction is that you get to see the waterfalls up close and visit the Sliding Rock swimming hole. This large sloped rock face has gentle water flowing over it and enough algae to create a natural water slide into the pool below. See the “things to know” section for more information on Gorge Floor Permits. The hike to the Gorge Floor is not for the faint of heart but as it is rocky and rugged with a lot of elevation change.

Things to know about Tallulah Gorge State Park

  • Gorge Floor Permits go fast! 100 permits are issued per day. On holidays and weekends they are gone soon after the park opens. Weekdays can even sell out quickly. Plan to get there early if this hike is part of your plans. It is great for families and teenagers. The hike can be technical so be sure to be up for a challenging hike. Do not wear sandals on this trail.
  • There are hundreds of stairs down into the Gorge and back up the other side. Take your own abilities into account before descending from the Canyon Rim. Dogs are not allowed to descend past the Rim Trails into the Gorge floor. All Dogs must be on a six foot leash at all Georgia State Parks.
  • Wear comfortable hiking shoes.
  • Bring plenty of water, you will be thirsty. We always fill a couple of Nalgene bottles before we head out to hike.
  • Black Rock Mountain State Park and Moccasin Creek State Park are within easy drives from Tallulah Gorge. You absolutely should visit both while staying in the area.
  • Helen, Georgia is about a 45 minutes drive.
  • Tallulah Gorge State Park has an excellent visitor center, the Jane Hurt Yarn Interpretive Center. This building has several great wildlife displays, a room dedicated to the history of the Gorge, and a very well stocked gift shop where you will find every souvenir you can imagine.
  • The Rim Trail is handicap accessible for at least the first 1/4 mile, leading to the first overlook. Recycled, pressed rubber makes a gentle surface to travel on as you leave the visitor center and begin your hike.
  • The campground only has 9 campsites that are 50 foot in length. The rest are 25 feet and are a tighter fit for large RVs.

Bonus!

Peregrine Falcons

Be on the lookout for some amazing Peregrine Falcons! The last several years there have been a nesting pair on the cliffs below the visitor center. Occasionally, a sighting is made of this magnificent bird screaming in while on the hunt!

Jimmy Carter National Historic Site

Jimmy Carter was the 39th President of the United States and he just happened to be from our home state of Georgia. President Carter rose from simple beginnings in the small, South Georgia town of Plains. Our family is always looking for an excuse to get out and explore so we thought we’d look into it.

Ride the Sam Shortline Train!

On our drive to go camping at Kolomoki Mounds State Park, we added a visit to the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site and Boyhood Home. To get there we rode the Sam Shortline Train from Cordele, Georgia to Plains. The SAM Shortline Train is operated by the Georgia State Parks, who do a wonderful job making the trip a fun family experience.

Full disclosure. We were given tickets to the train by a friend, and as such we did not pay to ride. It is a great experience but it is not the cheapest thing we have ever recommended. With that said, I think your money would be well spent. The unique travel, the money saved on gas and not having to endure a car ride were all positives.The train does have a snack car that serves hot dogs, candy bars, chips, ice cream, nachos, and more. You ride a rail bridge across Lake Blackshear. It is quite the experience.

Plains, Georgia

President Jimmy Carter is our only Georgia born president, and a respectable man. We learned more about the former President and how his young life was shaped by this small town in the Georgia countryside. President Carter still lives in Plains after all these years! What a commitment to your roots! What a very humble man he is. Plains is where President Carter staged his presidential campaign in the 70’s. There are several shops along the store fronts in Plains and they are within an easy walk of the train. There is a layover of an hour and a half for the train. These shops cater to the tourists like us, coming to experience the historic site. One shop we visited specialized in political merchandise. The kids bought a ruler. Some of the memorabilia was pretty neat. Another shop sold Peanut Butter Ice Cream, which was delicious! Many other treats and souvenirs were available.

Plains High School Visitor Center and Museum

The high school that President Carter attended is now used as the National Park Service’s visitor center for the site and his boyhood home. It is within easy walking of the train depot, directly across the tracks from the store fronts. The visitor center still looks like an old school but does have many unique displays featuring the President’s career in politics before becoming president, his Nobel Prize, and a replica of his desk. The kids completed the Junior Ranger activity and were awarded with their Junior Ranger badges. Dad bought a book.

Jimmy Carter National Historic Site and Boyhood Farm

From Plains, the SAM Shortline Train moves down the tracks to the next stop in Archery, Georgia. Here you arrive at the countryside farm that President Carter grew up on. You can see a working windmill water pump, the simple home his family lived in, and the old country store his father operated. You really can find a sense of what simplicity and values President Carter started with and what he forged himself to become. I loved that my children could see how a person can grow from humble beginnings.

Visit Georgia Veterans State Park

Once this layover is complete, the train simply is pulled back along the way you came, allowing for a restful ride back towards the depot at Georgia Veterans State Park. Georgia Veteran’s State Park is a great place to camp and explore. There are several military vehicles on display at the park and worth at least a brief look. The kids were less than enthused but we made an effort.

Things to know

  • The SAM Shortline Railroad is operated by the Georgia State Parks. They operated the train on a regular basis but offer several different trips and schedules. Check here for scheduling and prices.
  • Georgia Veterans State Park is where we hopped on board the train. This state park is a resort with a huge lake, a hotel, a golf course and campsites.
  • Cordele is very easily accesible from Interstate 75 in South Georgia and would make a fine day trip from anywhere in Georgia.
  • Plains, Georgia and the surrounding communities is an agricultural area that grows peanuts and cotton. This why all the shops sell peanut snacks, peanut butter ice cream, peanut butter fudge, and well, you get the idea.
  • All the museums that we mentioned close by 5 p.m.
  • You can access all these destinations by car. It would make for a great road trip. There was plenty of parking at every stop.
  • Try the peanut butter ice cream in downtown Plains!
  • The SAM Shortline Train features several special events seasonally such as Thomas The Train and The Polar Express. Be sure to check plan your dates to coincide.
  • Camp at nearby Kolomoki Mounds State Park like us! Highly recommended.
  • There are several Georgia State Parks to camp at in Southeast Georgia if you want more excellent choices.

National Civil War Naval Museum

Our family loves museums! The National Civil War Naval Museum is fascinating. My poor kids have a history buff for a father and so while visiting F.D. Roosevelt State Park, we made the drive into Columbus to check it out.

What an amazing place we found! There were so many exhibits, including the wreck of an actual ironclad! It was huge and there was even a framed mock-up that gave you some appreciation for the actual size of the vessel! Outside the museum are several cannons and a sailing ship that can be explored.

The kids completed a scavenger hunt that was provided on site and really enjoyed the exhibits. Dad was so enthralled that he had to literally be pulled away from nearly every placard and display. Here are some great photos of the kids exploring the museum.

A Great Family History Trip!

The various ships on display are extensive. There are actual size versions of the famous ironclad ships, the USS Monitor and the CSS Albemarle. There is also a replica sailing vessel named the USS Hartford. The ship is cut away below decks and visitors can tour life aboard the ship from the level of seaman and even the captain’s quarters.

The museum has a very extensive collection of flags from both the Union and the Confederacy. You could even see bullet holes and battle damage from their time aboard these fighting ships.

The CSS Jackson

By far the main attraction of the National Civil War Naval Museum is the wreck and mock up of the Confederate ironclad, the CSS Jackson. There is an entire wing of the building that features this nautical construct.The ship was actually built in Columbus, Georgia! When Union Cavalry entered the city it was burned to the hull and set adrift down the Chattahoochee River where it sunk. The vessel was recovered in 1961 and eventually housed in the museum.

Things to know!

  • Children 6 and under get in FREE.
  • Aduts are $7.50 and Students are $6.00
  • The Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday thru Saturday. Open Sunday 12:30 p.m to 4:30p.m.
  • The CSS Abermarle is open to explore. Kids can get a great idea what the inside of an ironclad gunship was like by climbing aboard.
  • The Sea Witch exhibit has closed for repairs.
  • There is a great gift shop on site. It had several books on Civil War Naval history.
  • Columbus, Georgia is hot in the Summertime. If you visit during this time of year, bring plenty of water and dress comfortably. We always fill a couple of Nalgene bottles before going anywhere in Georgia.
  • The building is air conditioned and is great for escaping the heat after viewing the outdoor exhibits.
  • Request the scavenger hunt sheets at the front desk.

Great books for adults on Civil War Naval History!

Great books for KIDS on Civil War Naval history!

F.D. Roosevelt State Park

If you are looking for an outstanding, unique outdoor experience for your family then look no farther than the dazzling heights of F.D. Roosevelt State Park.

Named after the always revered President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, F.D. Roosevelt State Park is an outdoor wonder that was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. Roosevelt had a home nearby and would often visit Pine Mountain, upon which the park sits. There is an amazing story here and a great deal of history. The CCC influence on the property is apparent in nearly every building.

Things to do at FDR State Park

This 9,000 acre state park feature 40 miles of hiking trails, including the Pine Mountain Trail, which winds up and over Pine Mountain for 23 miles. It is a well known backpacking destination and fun for the whole family. The park is located 80 miles Southwest of Atlanta and 35 miles Northeast of Columbus, Georgia. The hills of the area give you a sense of irony. Despite being in South Georgia, you would think you are in the Appalachian Foothills. The park has over 120 campsites and 16 back-country campsites. 21 Cabins sit along the crest of the mountain and offer some amazing views. Here are some pictures of the cabin we stayed in.

One of the unique and lasting experiences at FDR State Park is the Liberty Bell Pool. This spring fed swimming pool was built by the very same CCC boys who developed the rest of the site. It is aptly named due to it’s bell shape. The water is nice and cool in the hot months of Summer. Our kids had a blast! Kids + Water is always a good recipe for fun.

Liberty Bell Pool-FDR State Park

Amazing views off Pine Mountain

Along the scenic drive up Pine Mountain at FDR is a really neat picnicking area called Dowdell’s Knob. Apparently, FDR himself would drive his custom built vehicle to this point for relaxation and the occasional picnic. There is a life-size statue of the President, which is great for taking fun pictures. The view off the mountain from here is breathtaking. Our family spent a couple of hours just goofing around here. We truly had an amazing day exploring F.D. Roosevelt State Park.

Thing to know about F.D. Roosevelt!

  • FDR had a home at the base of Pine Mountain in Warm Springs, called The Little White House. The natural springs of the area were said to be good for FDR’s polio. This is the home where FDR passed away while vacationing during World War 2. The home is now a historic site and visitors to this area can tour the property. Make it a part of your trip!
  • Eat at The Whistling Pig BBQ joint! It is delicious and within an easy drive of the park. It is good ole bbq and sweet tea, but our family enjoyed it immensely.
  • FDR requires a parking pass for every vehicle. Avoid paying the fee and make this park a FREE visit then check out a park pass from your local library! Georgia residents only.
  • The park pass does not cover admission to the Liberty Bell Pool.
  • Horseback riding was available when we visited but check with the park office as it is a seasonal concession and may not be available on certain dates.
  • Fall can be a little bit delayed in South Georgia, making early November a perfect time to visit the park.
  • Kayaks, Canoes, and Paddle Boats are available for rent.
  • Last of all, our favorite place on F.D. Roosevelt. Click here for a 360 degree view from Dowdell’s Knob. It’s a great spot to take in the sunset!

Brasstown Bald

A Majestic Mountain Experience

A visit to the mountains of North Georgia would be incomplete without a visit to highest point in the state! At 4,784 feet above sea level Brasstown Bald takes that distinction. Within easy driving distance from other well known vacation areas in North Georgia, Brasstown Bald is a great family destination. A museum, shuttle service, hiking trails, and beautiful views are among the many offerings provided at this family oriented attraction.

Our Family Trip to Brasstown Bald

We decided that as native Georgians we had to visit the highest point in our state, at the very least. We drove over during our stay at Black Rock Mountain State Park, about an hour’s drive. We parked in the main parking lot which is quite a bit below the summit area, where the museum is located. There we paid our $5 fee and received some stickers for our troubles. We were offered to wait on the shuttle van to carry us up the road to the summit, which is closed to visitor traffic, or we could walk the trail to the top. Once we realized that the trail was just over half a mile (.6 miles), we chose the adventurous route and started off on foot. The climb was simple enough but a small challenge. I remember the path being paved for most of the way so it is less than rugged. The kids loved exploring and we took our time so it was quite a nice little hike. When we got to the top it was spectacular!

A Fun Family Activity

At the Summit, there are many ways you can spend your time. Brasstown Bald sits on National Forest land and the property was operated by the US Forest Service until recent years. As such there is a forestry museum that lays out how Forest Rangers would man Brasstown Bald as fire lookouts and the various historical aspects of the site. It is very informative and a lot of fun for the kids. There is also a theater that plays a short video about the area. Of course you must head to the very top of the museum, to the pinnacle. Marked by, you guessed it, a brass cover marking the peak. Take lots of pictures and walk around. From the observation platform you can see Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and of course, the Georgia mountains. When you are done, relax in the rocking chairs provided. Rest your legs as you wait for the shuttle or anticipate the walk back down the trail.

Things to know about Brasstown Bald

  • Picnic Tables were provided at the Summit and the lower visitor center. Food options are not in abundance so pack a lunch.
  • Brasstown is nearby several North Georgia Family Vacation towns such as Helen, Blairsville, and Hiawassee. Clayton, Georgia is also an hour away.
  • There are 5 Georgia State Parks within an hour of Brasstown Bald. All of which are perfect for camping. Vogel State Park, Unicoi State Park, Mocassin Creek State Park, Black Rock Mountain State Park, and Tallulah Gorge State Park.
  • Dogs are allowed, but must be on a leash.
  • The lower visitor center has a fun gift shop and general store. Light snacks and drinks can be purchased there.
  • Anna Ruby Falls, a world famous waterfall is also nearby. Another great place to visit. Check out the youtube videos below.
  • Check the weather before you go!
A rare picture of the Georgia Family Adventures collaborators!

Laura S. Walker State Park

Laura S. Walker State Park is a hidden gem of the Georgia State Parks system. Located near Waycross, Georgia, this park is a great base of operations from which to access the Golden Isles of Georgia’s coastline. Jekyll Island is a 30 minute drive and St. Simon’s Island is another 10 minutes! Laura S. Walker State Park even has a great 18 hole golf course!

This spacious state park has several fun, family oriented activities. There is a little bit of everything to do here! The 120 acre lake is perfect for kayaking, boating, and fishing. Two separate swimming areas are designated along the lake for kids to splash around in. SUP Paddle Boards, Kayaks, and Paddle Boats are available to rent from the park office. The small, but spacious campground is a perfect place to hang out under the pines. Laura S. Walker’s campground is truly one of the coziest Georgia state park campgrounds. 5 miles of hiking trails feature some great opportunities to immerse yourself in nature. You may even see a gopher tortoise! Bicycles are allowed on the trails and they also can be rented from the park office. Laura S. Walker also has a very nice dog park which is specifically partitioned into two separate areas. One for small dogs and one for larger dogs. For those that don’t want to rough it there are some very nice cabins. They are clean and very comfortable. More details below. The Okefenokee Swamp Park and the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge are also within easy driving distance.

Enjoy these great videos of our family at Laura S. Walker State Park

Cabins!

One of the great things about Laura S. Walker State Park is the cabins! These cabins are more like a small 2 bedroom home and they are are incredibly clean! I have stayed in several vacation rentals over the years but these were pristine. They come with most everything you need such as cups, plates, cookware, and utensils. All linens and towels are provided of course. They have screened in back porches overlooking the lake and nearby swamp and a fire pit as well. Each bedroom in the cottage has a queen size bed and the sofa converts to a full size sleeper. They all have DirecTV provided. These cabins are pet friendly. You will not find many dog friendly hotels in Waycross. Cabin number 4 allows dogs. Of all the state parks in Georgia with cabin rentals, these are the best. There are several motels in Waycross, but these are ideal for a family and there are plenty of beds. These pictures will give you a sense of what these cabins look like!

Things to know.

  • The trails are quite easy to walk as they are mostly flat.
  • When hiking after a rain be prepared to dodge a few mud puddles.
  • The park does have a few alligators in the lake but they hide deep in the far recesses and sightings are very rare.
  • Each vehicle is required to purchase a park pass. If you are camping the park pass fee is only required one time and lasts throughout your entire stay.
  • The only wifi on the park is located at the park office. Many campers just sit on the porch in a rocking chair while they connect.
  • Several restaurants and a Super Wal-Mart are just 10 minutes down the road in Waycross.
  • The cabins are a great bargain to consider when pricing similar accommodations on Jekyll or St. Simons Islands. Stay here and make the easy drive to Brunswick and the Golden Isles.
  • Campsites are site specific at Laura S. Walker, so choose carefully. What you book is what you get. See the next two tips below.
  • Every site in the campground has water and electric. Sites 37 and 44 have full hookups for your sewer. They are also larger sites for which a larger RV or Fifth Wheel would have more room. These sites have a higher nightly rate. There is a central dump station near the dumpster.
  • There are several waterfront campsites near the lake’s edge. They are sites 5, 6, 8, and 12. These sites have a higher nightly rate and will have boat traffic occurring near them.
  • Several group shelters are available for family gatherings, weddings, and special events.
  • A group camp that houses up to 142 is offered as well.
  • Book a cabin anytime! It is always best to have a reservation but if you are just passing through, contact the park office at (912) 287-4900 before 3 p.m. to check last minute availability. There is usually a 2 night minimum on weekends and holidays and booking online will not work, but by calling direct you might get lucky!
  • Yes, South Georgia can be very hot in the Summertime. All the more reason to get a cabin with Air Conditioning and cool off. Be sure to bring plenty of water. We always fill a couple of Nalgene bottles before heading off on our adventures.
  • These waterproof bags from Bumkins are awesome for putting wet swimsuits in after swimming and kayaking. No mess and no need to constantly have plastic grocery bags.
  • LSW, as it is known, is adding an outdoor workout station with several pieces of equipment!
  • Hwy 177 running through the park is great for cycling. Several riders use this road to ride in the many warmer months. There is a bike pump station provided in the parking lot. If you like to ride this is a great place!
  • While visiting in December and January be sure to go see the Okefenokee Swamp Christmas lights!

Stone Mountain

Family fun on the mountain!

If you live anywhere close to Atlanta, you must make at least one pilgrimage to Stone Mountain!

This place has so many things to do! There are several hiking trails, laser shows, ropes and climbing courses, camping, boating, golf, train rides, and playgrounds. There are several festivals and holiday events at Stone Mountain, most notably the 4th of July laser show.

There is a $20 per vehicle parking charge but that covers a lot for your family. The playgrounds, hiking trails, and access to the summit of the mountain. On days that there are laser shows, there are no additional fees for the event.

It was a very cool day in April that we visited. At ground level we explored the playground, the Washington King Covered bridge, and the Nature Garden Trail. Eventually, we worked our way over to the aerial tram.

Since we had a little one we kept the hiking short and rode the Summit Skyride to the top of Stone Mountain, mostly for the experience. Children 3 and under are free so we didn’t have to pay for our youngest! This was the only excursion we splurged on but thought it was a great ride for the kids and saved us a long hike.

At the summit it was windy and cool, but we had great views of the Atlanta skyline and the surrounding landscape. A sight to behold for sure! The summit is available to explore at your leisure. You can hike up from below on a mile long trail or you can hike down to the bottom after riding the Skyride up. We rode it both ways.


Things to know

  • Bring at least a light jacket. Even when the weather is fine at the base of the mountain, with elevation gain you might be chilly at the top.
  • A small store at the pinnacle has all sorts of treats but you can also bring snacks to enjoy on the summit.
  • Bring sunglasses. As you see in the picture above, the kids wish we would have.
  • Extra excursions and attractions do have a charge at Stone Mountain but you can buy package deals if you have a good idea of what you want to do.
  • Stone Mountain is great for jogging or trail running.
  • Educational opportunities are everywhere here. Dig into the Dinotopia attraction or the Quarry Exhibit.
  • Plan for a whole day here, or even several. A long vacation can be enjoyed without ever leaving the property!
  • In the winter the place becomes Snow Mountain, with several winter attractions like snow tubing!

Fort Frederica National Monument

South Georgia’s Coastal National Park

On this trip we visited Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simon’s Island, near Brunswick, Georgia. Fort Frederica is one of Georgia’s 11 National Park Service operated sites. It is here that the Spanish and English armies clashed in 1742 at the Battle of Bloody Marsh. Thus settling all disputes over the ownership of the colony of Georgia in favor of the English. The monument is representative of the old fortifications and remains of the colonial settlement along the Frederica River marsh.

Our family had a great visit! We made the rounds in just a couple short hours as the monument is expansive but easy to navigate on foot. The kids participated in the Junior Ranger scavenger hunt which was pretty neat. The staff gives each kid a hat, a haversack, which included a telescope, a compass, and a colonial era toy. This gave the kids a sense of adventure and as such we went around the site reading placards and gathering the clues. We made the most of this and gained some valuable historical knowledge.

The Gift Shop

Fort Frederica’s gift shop was actually pretty cool. It had several books on the Fort and the early colonial period in Georgia. There are crafts, antique games, stickers, magnets, and even toys. There is a dress up bin that allows kids to get in the costume of the era. I was impressed by the interaction this site allowed children to have. Being given the uniforms and haversacks really allowed the kids a fun way to immerse themselves in the history. As I said, this was a quick stop and admission wasn’t bad because it was all FREE! You know we love free stuff! Our family of six literally spent nothing but gas to have this experience. We did spend money on a great lunch at Barbara Jean’s Seafood after so go there when you work up an appetite. Remember, Free Admission!

Things to know about Fort Frederica NM

  • St. Simon’s Island is a popular place during the Summer. Get there early before traffic builds.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. There are sticks and acorns on the ground so tread lightly. Not ideal for sandals.
  • Fort Frederica National Monument is dog friendly! You may bring your pet if it remains on a leash and you bring equipment to pick up after them.
  • Several great restaurants are nearby. We recommend Barbara Jean’s of course and Southern Soul Barbeque.

Museum of Aviation-Robins Air Force Base

A Free museum!

Visit the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins, Georgia! This doesn’t happen very often. A totally awesome, action packed, and educational experience! Best of all, it was totally FREE! There is absolutely no charge for admission!

The museum is filled with hundreds of real aircraft on display. There are plenty of real life cockpits for the kids to climb inside and imagine themselves flying in the wild blue yonder! The artifacts, exhibits, and educational offerings are amazing for a place that doesn’t cost a dime. We could literally get nose to nose with the aircraft and the kids were encouraged by staff to touch! How often does that happen? We had an amazing time and think you will too.

About the museum

The Museum of Aviation is open everyday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., though it is closed on major holidays. You will need most of this time, as there is just so much awesomeness to see. This place was flat out inspiring!

There are three buildings and thousands of items on exhibit linked to aviation. Planes from the modern age, WW2 bombers, and several helicopters were on display. I cannot say enough about the resources offered. There are a few self guided tours and the museum engages kids by offering coloring pages and scavenger hunt handouts from their Kid Zone, on the second floor. Most of these resources can be downloaded here before you go, saving time.

The kids were able to really get up close to several of the exhibits and experience what it was like to fly the aircraft. We were lucky enough to be on site for a event that had several Air Force pilots in attendance. Our children engaged a couple of the guys standing around in their flight suits. The pilots were very friendly and answered several questions for them. This was not part of the museum, just a kindness by the servicemen. I regret not getting photos. Always be ready with a camera is what I am learning after several missed opportunities.

We did get some great fun pictures of the family exploring the place though. Check out the pictures from our adventure below.

What to know about The Museum of Aviation

  • An easy drive from Atlanta or anywhere in Georgia, Warner Robins is a good size town, centrally located, just outside Macon, Georgia. Most every major restaurant chain is present here. Finding food will not be a problem.
  • Since the museum is FREE, coming and going throughout the day is not a problem. Break for lunch anytime and then come back.
  • Occasionally, there are events like a food truck rendezvous that will have food vendors in the parking lot.
  • There are several hotels nearby such as Best Western, Choice Hotels, and perhaps even consider a vacation rental.
  • Parking is also FREE!
  • Bring Water! Fill a couple of Nalgene bottles before you go. It can be quite hot in the Summer months with so many outdoor exhibits.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and DO bring a stroller for little ones as there is a good amount of standing and walking around.
  • There are several picnic tables outside the museum. Packing a lunch and eating onsite is a budget friendly option that is easy enough to do. The picnic tables were mostly shaded and comfortable.
  • There is a great gift shop with several books, magnets, and stickers.
Zoo Atlanta

ZOO ATLANTA

I know how you feel Willy B!

Perfect Activity

If your family only visits one destination in the Atlanta area this year, Zoo Atlanta is the one. Kids love Zoos! My brood love seeing animals and creatures of all sorts. Zoos bring out the wonderment and discovery in every kid. That desire to learn about creatures is innate in all of us from birth and zoos give your children the opportunity to explore! You simply cannot go wrong with a trip to a zoo.

Admission

Great news! Children under 2 years old get in FREE! Additionally, Active duty military, veterans, military retirees, and reservists get in FREE too! However, the fine print says that you must have a military ID and that all other family members must pay regular price admission. I think this is an awesome offer. Now, zoo admission is somewhat pricey but not Orlando theme park expensive. Just be aware if you have a good size family. When you expect to be doing multiple destinations in Atlanta like the World of Coke, Fernbank Museum, or the College Football Hall of Fame, look into the Atlanta City Pass for deep discount. The memberships are where it’s at if you have more than 4 people in your family. We have six and it was actually cheaper to buy a Zoo membership than it was to pay for all of our individual admission prices. This way you save a few dollars and can come back for free within the year. We used the membership to go several times. I have found that buying a membership at several zoos, museums, and attractions that we have visited is indeed the best way to go. If you live in Georgia, your local library should have a Zoo Pass that you can check out for free! This pass gets a family of four into the zoo with no charge. CHECK IT OUT! LITERALLY!

Things to do

Bring towels and a Swimsuit! Zoo Atlanta has a great playground and a splash pad for the warmer months. There is a petting zoo, train ride, and rock climbing wall. There is an aerial ropes course as well. You can even pay to help feed the animals and take a behind the scenes tour. There is more to do than you can get to in a single day. Many of these extras are indeed additional costs to the regular admission fee.

Things to know before going

  • School groups will always come en mass. If school is in session, there will be field trips aplenty. If school is out then there will be Summer camps. It is just a part of the zoo marketing itself and just prepare for the groups sharing the space.
  • Concessions are adequate but they are pricey. If you don’t mind paying $4 for a hot dog and $8 for a small cup of Dippin Dots then you have no worries. We always packed lunches and brought our own food.
  • I always recommend the kids carry their own little day packs so that jackets, swim clothes, and lunches can be transported wherever they go. Otherwise mom and dad will have their hands full all day and with a family our size that can get old.
  • Bring water and drinks. It can get hot certainly, and you won’t have to pay high prices for a bottle of water.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. Walking around the zoo in flip flops or sandals is not recommended. Your feet will be sore at the end of a long day.

The zoo is where it’s at! Go on a weekday if you can swing it. Zoo Atlanta is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. It may even close on the rare days that Atlanta gets severe weather, so plan ahead. Take your family to the zoo! Tell ’em we sent ya!

Georgia State Parks

Kolomoki Mounds State Park

The whole family had been itching to get out and go camping, in March of last year we found a good stretch of weather and headed to Kolomoki Mounds State Park near the Southwest corner of Georgia. Woodland Indian mounds are all over the park and several hiking trails scatter around them. The visitor center is built around an excavated mound which gives an interesting perspective on the archaeology of the site. We got some canoeing and fishing in while we were there also. All in all we had a great time as it was a quiet time of year.

Camping

The small campground is nice and we were able to get a great site right on the water. We all fit comfortably into our new tent without much trouble. The old tent was getting pretty well worn out and we spring for a new one. This one was smaller but still had plenty of room. We hung the hammock and mostly just lazed around the campsite for a couple of days. I say lazed but truthfully we hiked about 10 miles over both days, fished near our campsite constantly, and took two separate canoe and kayak trips. My wife as you can see in the pictures below mostly hung out in the hammock, reading a book. This was a very relaxed couple of days.

The Best Part

After a short hike we stumbled upon a great playground set that had recently been installed and we found the mini golf course that was not open. The clubs, balls, and scorecards were available at the office. The kids played several rounds of mini golf while the parents relaxed on a shady bench enjoying the show. We played around on the beach on the lake but didn’t stay in too long, the water was still plenty cool.

Calm Before The Storm

We timed the trip right as we had a very comfortable stay with mild weather. In October 2018, Hurricane Michael wreaked havoc on the park and the communities of Southeast Georgia. Several months of hard work have opened the campground, the mounds, and the visitor center. Two of the three main trails are still closed as of this writing. It is absolutely worth going at anytime even with the remaining storm damage. Campsites are site specific so pick out a good one online.

Okefenokee Swamp Park

The Okefenokee Swamp is an incredible natural wonder in the Southeastern corner of Georgia, near Waycross. This 400,000 acre Swamp is home to one of the most diverse ecosystems in the word. The biggest attractions are the Alligators and various snakes that call it home. On the northern corner of the refuge is the Okefenokee Swamp Park. Your destination for a safe and amazing adventure!

What To See and Do

This is the place that you are guaranteed an interesting and very accessible peek into the great Okefenokee Swamp. Here is where you can see all the natural aesthetics of the Swamp but in a manner that doesn’t involve long hikes or boat rentals. Alligators can be found sunning themselves in ponds near the entrance and swimming the canals near the train depot. It is rare for them to approach visitors as they prefer to not let anyone come close to them. Alligators, Snakes, and Black Bears are all on exhibit at the Swamp Park, conveniently behind enclosures. Tours are offered by the park in flat bottom tour boats or by a small but effective train ride. Ticket packages can be bought that include your preferred means of travel. There is a small snack bar for beverages and eats. However, the nearest restaurant is in Waycross, Georgia, a 10 minute drive. Folkston, Georgia is about 20 minutes South on HWY 1. The Okefenokee Swamp Park also displays the history of the Swamp and it’s settlers very well. The gift shop was stocked aplenty and had all kinds of fun souvenirs. The park’s price of admission is reasonable but added up quick for our family of six. Save money by taking a family member from a neighboring county! Local residents get a decent discount with some kind of proof of address. Have them buy your tickets and take the savings. Weekends are busier and look out for the hotter months of June, July, and August.

Where To Stay

Waycross, Georgia has many good hotels within about a 15 minute drive of the Swamp Park. My recommendation is that you look into the cabins at Laura S. Walker State Park. We have stayed in them and they are very clean and comfortable. The park also offers camping with a few sites along the waterfront at Laura Walker Lake, as well as several full hookup campsites, but those sites book up very fast. Laura S. Walker has a dog park, playgrounds, an 18 hole golf course, as well as paddle boat and kayak rentals.

Bonus!

Christmas at The Swamp Park

Okefenokee Swamp Park is great to visit around Christmas time as well. They deck the place out with Christmas lights everywhere! Santa is there to hang out with and the train takes you on a Polar Express kind of ride, with, you guessed it! More lights! It can be quite cool in the Winter, even in South Georgia. As such there is usually a large fire burning in a very neatly built fire pit and hot cocoa available at the snack bar. Do not miss this fun and enjoyable Christmas activity! Availability for this event runs through most of December. Christmas is always an adventure at the Okefenokee Swamp Park!

Black Rock Mountain State Park

Black Rock Mountain State Park is my absolute favorite place in the entire state of Georgia! Our family has visited several times. This incredibly photogenic state park will leave your family inspired and in awe of the natural world, just like it did ours. Jaw dropping overlooks, waterfalls, extensive hiking trails, and several different types of camping await you!

The park can be found in the Northeastern corner of Georgia. At 3600 feet above sea level, Black Rock is Georgia’s highest state park. It may surprise you to know that Stone Mountain, which is near Atlanta and well known for it’s dazzling views, sits at just over 1000 feet. This great elevation provides Black Rock Mountain State Park with it’s wonderful climate. While the rest of the state of Georgia sizzles in the Summer heat, Black Rock remains a fall like temperature, offering sweet relief. Visitors often need a jacket or sweatshirt even in July. To accommodate that need a well outfitted visitor center sells t-shirts, sweatshirts, and light jackets. Assorted other souvenirs such as magnets, key chains, post cards, and the like are available. The visitor center is immediately adjacent to the main overlook which is breathtaking and offers an aerial view of the town of Clayton below. Hang a hammock and enjoy the breeze!

Camping at Black Rock Mountain

The park offers overnight accommodations by renting cabins, campsites with water and electric, in addition to several walk-in campsites. Additionally, along the more than 10 miles of rugged hiking trails at Black Rock there are four back-country campsites. It is possible to do several point to point backpacking hikes as you move from campsite to campsite. You must have a reservation but you can always check last minute availability by calling the park office before 4 p.m. The main campground has two sections and is on a ridge about half way up the mountain. The roads are narrow but navigable for experienced RV campers. Many campsites will not fit large RV’s so keep that in mind when booking your site. The road up the mountain is just wide enough for two way travel but it is very curvy and quite steep. The walk-in campsites are located off a central parking lot with a bathhouse. Each walk-in campsite is tent only camping. You must carry all gear to the site, which is 50 to 100 yards away from the parking area. Really not that far but it could mean the difference for some visitors.

Enjoy these videos from our visits to Black Rock Mountain State Park

The park does have a Pioneer camping area that is specifically meant for large groups, though anyone can rent it. The pioneer area has a central cabin that has a refrigerator, microwave, and some seating, but nothing more. There is a loft above and a main hall below where sleeping bags, cots, and air mattresses can be laid out for sleeping. Outside the cabin is a water spigot for drinking and washing dishes as well as several three sided, covered, addirondack shelters with 4 bunks in them. No mattresses though, just wood inlays to roll out sleeping gear. Tent camping is allowed on the grounds near the main cabin. A pit toilet with men’s and women’s divided, serves as the facilities. An outdoor cold water shower is attached to the pit toilet with a privacy stall wrapped around it. The long gravel road to the camp can be very rough and is cut into the side of the mountain. Vehicles with 4 wheel drive or high clearance is recommended.

The Cabins

Black Rock Mountain State Park has 10 cabins and they have 2 bedroom and 3 bedroom versions, all with double queen beds. Every cabin has an elevated porch with rocking chairs on the backside. Cabin 10 is the only dog friendly cabin. Cabin 4 has the best view off the mountain from the back porch and is one of the three bedroom cabins. This makes it the most popular. The cabin area has a simple playground for kids. For a quiet, relaxed vacation, you cannot go wrong in these cabins.

Base Camp

Black Rock Mountain State Park is the ideal location for a vacation in Northeast Georgia. Tallulah Gorge State Park is a 15 minute drive from here. Moccasin Creek State Park is 20 minutes. Helen, Georgia and Brasstown Bald is just an hour. Highlands, North Carolina and the scenic Dry Falls are also about an hour. Franklin, NC is about 45 minutes to the North while Clemson, South Carolina is one hour and ten minutes to the East.

Things to know!

  • There is a $5 parking fee for all vehicles. You will need to have cash if the visitor center is not open or if the collection booth is unattended.
  • Black Rock stays cool throughout the Summer months due to it’s elevation. While temperatures soar below, Black Rock feels like fall weather most days.
  • Black Rock gets nearly as much precipitation each year as does Seattle, Washington.
  • Late Spring and Fall are the best times of year to visit. In Spring, Mountain Laurel and Rhododendrum are blooming as well as several wildflowers. The Fall has the annual brilliant color change of the leaves. These are also the busiest seasons.
  • Holidays and weekends can be very busy at the park, be sure to reserve ahead of time.
  • Georgia reservations can be made 13 months in advance. Book early!
  • The cabins at Black Rock are the most proximate State Park cabins to Tallulah Gorge State Park and Moccasin Creek State Park. Those properties only have camping.
  • Black Rock’s campground is small and while there are several sites, many cannot accommodate large RV’s and Fifth wheels. The reservations are site specific so plan accordingly.
  • The road up the mountain is long, winding and just wide enough for two way traffic. It can be navigated in RV’s but be sure your equipment is up for the climb.
  • Bears are plentiful at Black Rock Mountain SP but sightings are less than guaranteed. If you do see bears do not feed them and admire them from a distance. Lock up your food when possible.
  • Black Rock closes seasonally from December 1st through March 15th. The ice and snowy conditions make it necessary.
  • There is a small trading post in the campground that is usually open on weekends.
  • There are several great restaurants near the park, in Clayton. I recommend The U-Joint, Clarks On Main, and Fortify.
  • Clayton has a Super Wal-Mart and an Ingles Supermarket. Ingles is closest to the park and has a great selection.
  • Visit the Foxfire Museum at the base of Black Rock Mountain. The museum preserves Appalachian settler life with tours, living history, and demonstrations. There is a great book series developed by the museum. Check them out here!
  • Clayton has several hotels if you would rather stay in town. There are also several vacation rentals in the area.

Double Bonus!

Your parking pass for Black Rock Mountain State Park is good for the entire day. Get to Black Rock early, perhaps just after the sun has risen, pay your parking fee, explore the park then take the same pass to Tallulah Gorge and Mocassin Creek State Parks and enjoy them at no additional cost. The three parks can all be seen easily in the same day so this makes for a full day of family adventures for a very small price.

Black Rock Mountain has a small 17 acre lake which is great for taking the kids fishing, viewing gushing water features, hiking the 1 mile long Lake Loop Trail, and some minor rock scrambling. Black Rock Lake is where two of my children caught their first fish.

We wish you the greatest family adventure at Black Rock Mountain State Park. May you find exactly what we found and make the journey your own. Godspeed.

Fall at Black Rock Mountain State Park

Georgia Family Travel

Thanks for joining us here at Georgia Family Adventures! Please stay tuned for posts about family travel in georgia and other adventures. Our family of six have endeavored upon these last 10 years to travel in the southeast as much as possible.

We absolutely love living in Georgia and traveling as a family. We have traveled from the mountains of North Georgia to the Golden Isles of the coast. As it were, we have done a lot and want to share it with you. If your are looking for family travel ideas in Georgia this is the place. Perhaps, we can help you enjoy the many amazing recreational opportunities our state has to offer!

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Fall on Black Rock Mountain State Park
Georgia Family Travel
Fall at Black Rock Mountain State Park

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