The 11 Best State Parks in Georgia

Providence Canyon Park
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With nearly 50 state parks offering everything from dramatic gorges and whitewater rapids to multi-colored canyons, Georgia has some of the country's most mesmerizing scenery. Hike to tumbling waterfalls near the Tennessee border, summit craggy ridges in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, or paddle along moss-draped marshlands near the coast at these 11 best state parks.

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Cloudland Canyon State Park

Cloudland Canyon State Park
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For some of the state's best waterfalls, head to this park, located on the Cumberland Plateau on Lookout Mountain in the northwestern corner of the state. The aptly named, 2-mile out-and-back Waterfall Trail descends more than 400 feet into a deep gorge formed by Daniel Creek. The arduous hike, which includes sections of gravel and a 600-step staircase, is worth it for views of two separate falls: Cherokee Falls and Hemlock Falls, which plunge from 60 and 90 feet deep into the canyon below. Or try the scenic, 4.8 mile West Rim Loop, a rocky, moderate to difficult trail that rewards hikers with shady oak and maple forests, thickets of blooming Rhododendron and mountain laurel in the spring, and stellar views of the canyon and surrounding mountains. Camping, cottages, picnicking, swimming and tennis courts are available, with exceptional caving nearby. 

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Providence Canyon State Park

Providence Canyon State Park in Georgia
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Located in the southwestern part of the state near the Alabama border, this colorful canyon is dubbed "Georgia's Little Grand Canyon." The Providence Canyon Outdoor Recreation Area has over 10 miles of hiking trails, but the most popular (and scenic) is the Canyon Loop Trail, an easy to moderately challenging 2.5-mile journey that rings all nine of the park's canyons. The best vistas are found closest to the fence, and that due to the fragile soil, no walking is allowed on the canyon's floors or rims. Experienced backpackers seeking a challenge will want to tackle the 7-mile Backcountry Trail, a rugged and technically challenging hike that leads into dense forests and offers views of six of the park's canyons. Don't skip the small park museum, and if staying overnight, reserve one of the few pioneer or backcountry campsites in advance.

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Skidaway Island State Park

Sunset at Skidaway Island

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Just outside of historic Savannah, this tranquil park hugs the Skidaway narrows, part of Georgia's intracoastal waterway. Rent a bike or walk or run through the six-mile trail network that wind through curtains of Spanish moss, pristine salt marshes, and dense maritime forests to an observation tower where visitors can spot local wildlife like deer, egrets, fiddler crabs, and raccoons. An interpretive center includes exhibits like a 20-foot Giant Ground Sloth replica and reptile room.

For those wanting to spend the night, the park offers RV sites with sewer hookups, pioneer campgrounds, and camper cabins with screened porches, kitchens, and outdoor entertaining areas with grills, fire rings, and picnic tables.

04 of 11

Stephen C. Foster State Park

Okefenokee Swamp
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The stunning 80-acre Stephen C. Foster State Park in southeast Georgia is part of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, the continent's largest blackwater swamp and one of the state's seven national wonders. Paddle along 15 miles of water trails through cypress knees and low-hanging Spanish moss to spot local wildlife like bears, reptiles, birds, and over 12,000 species of alligators. The park also has hiking trails, archery, guided tours, and fishing access. Accommodations include cottages RV and ten campsites, and an eco-lodge.

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05 of 11

Sweetwater Creek State Park

Sweetwater Creek State Park
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Located just 20 miles from downtown Atlanta, Sweetwater Creek State Park's proximity to the city and 15 miles of trails make it popular with city dwellers looking for a quick escape. Take the mostly-flat first half of the mile-long Red Trail⁠—the park's most traversed⁠—to see the ruins of a five-story Civil War-era textile mill towering above the creek's rapids. The ruins may look familiar as they were featured in movies like the "Hunger Gamesseries. For a more strenuous hike, try the Yellow Trail, a 3-mile loop that takes you across the river and ascends deep into hardwood forests before descending into thickets of mountain laurel and a natural rock dam that gives way to views of the ruins and rapids below. The park also has ranger-led hikes as well as an interactive on-site museum.

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Amicalola Falls State Park

Amicalola Falls And Bridge
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Ample accommodations, 10 separate hiking trails, and 829 acres of lush scenery make this one of the most popular outdoor destinations in the state. At 729 feet, Amicalola Falls is the tallest waterfall in Georgia. For novice hikers, the falls are accessible via 600 stairs and a slightly steep quarter-mile hike from the parking lot. More experienced trekkers often opt for the Approach Trail, an 8.5-mile hike that begins in the park and ends at the southernmost point of the Appalachian Trail. The park also offers hour-long guided hikes, zip-lines, 3-D archery, and animal meet-and-greets. Fuel up after your hike with dinner at the on-site Maple Restaurant for panoramic views of the falls and surrounding mountainside.

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Red Top Mountain State Park

Lake Allatoona at Red Top Mountain State Park
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Located on Lake Allatoona just north of Atlanta, Red Top Mountain State Park is named for the soil's rich color due to a high iron-ore content. The 12,000-acre lake is a haven for water lovers, who flock from the city to boat, kayak, water ski, and fish in the tranquil waters or cool off with a dip off the sandy swimming beach during the warmer months. But don't sleep on the 15 miles of trails, which include paved options for those using wheelchairs and strollers, and gravel hiking and cycling paths that wind through forest canopy and the remnants of a mid 19th century mining community. Stay overnight in rental cottages, a lakeside yurt, or the sprawling campground.

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Tallulah Gorge State Park

Tallulah Gorge State Park

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At two miles wide and nearly 1,000-feet deep, Tallulah Gorge in northeast Georgia is one of the most spectacular gorges in the Southeast. Of the more than 15 miles of hiking trails, the 3-mile North & South Rim path is the most popular and circles around the gorge to several scenic overlooks with views of the Tallulah River and waterfalls. Adventurous hikers can book one of 100 daily passes to traverse the 2.5 mile out-and-back Gorge Floor Trail, which descends over rocks and boulders and over a suspension bridge that sways 80 feet above the floor. For a gentler experience, take the Tallulah Gorge Shoreline Trail, a paved, relatively flat former rail trail that follows the banks of the Tallulah River that's perfect for running, cycling, or hiking with small children.

During certain times of the year, kayakers may brave rapids produced when Georgia Power Co. opens its dam, releasing thunderous rapids through the canyon. The park also has an interpretive center with exhibits highlighting the area’s history, terrain, and unique ecosystem as well as two playgrounds, picnic shelters, and 50 tent, RV, and trailer campsites.

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09 of 11

Vogel State Park

Trahlyta Falls In Vogel State Park In Georgia
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Tucked away in the Chattahoochee National Forest, Vogel State Park sits 2,500 above sea level at the base of Blood Mountain: Georgia's highest peak.  A 4.3-mile moderately difficult trail from the Byron Reece trailhead north of Neel’s Gap takes you from a mosses valley to the mountain's craggy summit, which offers sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains below. The challenging 13-mile Coosa Backcountry Trail climbs to the pinnacle of Duncan Ridge and connects to several other trails in the forest. In the summer, take advantage of beach access at the 22-acre lake to kayak, paddle, or swim. Year-round cottages, campsites, and primitive backpacking sites are available for overnight visitors. Note that while the park is popular in all seasons, it's particularly busy during peak leaf time and parking can be scarce, so plan to arrive early on weekends or try your hike on a less crowded weekday.

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Panola Mountain State Park

Sloping view from atop a large granite monadnock, Panola Mountain, Georgia USA, surrounding forest and blue sky
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Part of the 40,000 acre Arabia Mountain National Heritage Site located just 30 miles east of Atlanta, this former quarry turned nature preserve features a large granite monadnock as well as dense forests and hidden lakes. Hike, bike, or skate the 30-mile, multi-use Arabia Mountain Path, which passes the historic T. A. Bryant House and Homestead—home to Flat Rock Archives and other items detailing the history of this African-American community—and the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, the spiritual home of local monks which has exhibit space, an abbey, a bookstore, and bonsai garden open to the public. The park also offers bouldering (permit only), bird watching, geocaching, archery, and ranger-led hikes showcasing the park's rare plant and animal life.

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F.D. Roosevelt State Park

panoramic Pine Mountain, Georgia landscape with clouds in blue sky
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At 9,049 acres, this state park named for former President Franklin D. Roosevelt—who retreated to the nearby warm spring to treat his polio—is just 80 miles southwest of Atlanta and has more than 40 miles of trails that travel through dense hardwood forests and towering pine trees, past tumbling waterfalls, and over bubbling creeks. For the best views, take the moderately-paced Dowell's Knob Loop, a 4.3-mile path that loops through wildflowers and rocky forest for a sweet reward: panoramic views from the 1,395-foot summit, the former President's prized picnic spot.

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