Panola Mountain State Park: The Complete Guide

Sloping view from atop a large granite monadnock, Panola Mountain, Georgia USA, surrounding forest and blue sky
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Panola Mountain State Park Office and Visitor Center

Address
2620 Georgia 155 SW, Stockbridge, GA 30281, USA
Phone +1 770-389-7801

Part of the 40,000-acre Arabia Mountain National Heritage Site located just 30 miles east of downtown Atlanta, Panola Mountain State Park is defined by a 100-acre granite monadnock that towers over dense woodlands and pristine lakes. A designated National Natural Landmark, the 1,635-acre nature preserve spans three counties and is home to rare plants including diamorpha smallii, a blooming plant that turns from white to brilliant red each spring. With leafy forests, two lakes, and 10 miles of paved and dirt trails, the park is popular for bouldering, bird watching, archery, tree climbing, hiking, cycling, and running. From the best hikes and trails to other activities, where to camp, and how to get there, plan your next trip to Panola Mountain State Park with this guide.

Things to Do

Just a short drive from downtown Atlanta, Panola Mountain State Park offers several activities for visitors of all skills and ages. Hike, bike, or skate the 30-mile, multi-use Arabia Mountain Path, which passes the historic T. A. Bryant House and Homestead, home to the Flat Rock Archives and other items detailing the history of this Black community. The trail also leads past the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, the spiritual home of local monks that has exhibit space, an abbey, a bookstore, and bonsai garden open to the public. Take a ranger-led hike to learn more about local plant and animal life or try your hand at bouldering, geocaching, archery, or even tree-climbing. The park also has a nature center, playground, picnic shelters, and a few no-frills campsites.

Best Hikes & Trails

The park's 10 miles of trails range from paved, accessible, multi-use paths ideal for cycling and running to gentle, dirt paths, all of which are easy to moderate in difficulty. Trails here will take you to scenic vistas, around calm lake waters, and through oak and pine forests. For those wanting to rent bikes, youth and adult bike rentals are available daily between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., and rates are $10 for one hour, $20 for two hours, and $25 for four hours.

  • PATH Foundation Trail: With 7 miles located inside Panola Mountain State Park, this paved, multi-use path is part of the longer, 31-mile PATH Foundation Trail that connects Panola Mountain to Arabia Mountain. Used for hiking, biking, and inline skating, the easy path is accessible in most places and passes points of interest like the park's conservation area, Alexander Lake, and the historic Vaughters Farm, once the largest dairy in the state of Georgia. Don't miss the boardwalk at Alexander Lake with an overlook that gives scenic views of the craggy mountain.
  • Watershed Trail: This gentle, well-maintained, 1.25-mile trail hugs two small creek branches and is great for spotting wildflowers, local wildlife, and exploring with small children.
  • Outcrop Trail: Another short and easy dirt path, this 0.75-mile trail winds through a dense forest of pine and oak trees to an overlook with spectacular views of Panola, Stone, and Arabia Mountains—the area's trio of monadnocks. Combine the path with the Watershed Trail for a longer hike that gives a close-up of the plant and animal life that make up the area's unique ecosystem.

Archery, Bouldering, and Fishing

Try your hand at archery with the park's 12 targets and a 3-D Trail. Passes ($10 for adults; $5 for children) can be purchased with cash only from the Nature Center, and the ranges are open daily from 7 a.m. to sunset. Guests must bring their own equipment. The park also hosts archery lessons on the 2nd and 4th weekends of the month for $15 per person, with equipment provided. Register in advance with the park.

The mountain's steep, rocky outcrops are popular with local rock climbers. Bouldering is allowed at the South River and Panola Mountain Boulders, but guests must obtain free permits at the Nature Center and bring their own crash mats.

Anglers can fish for channel catfish, largemouth bass, and bluegill/bream at Alexander Lake, Parking is available in the lot at 4871 Flat Bridge Road. All guests 16 and over must have a valid Georgia fishing license and bring their own equipment, as there is no on-site bait shop. Note that large-mouth bass are catch and release only, and only non-motorized boats are permitted on the park's two lakes.

Where to Camp

Panola Mountain State Park has five hike-in, primitive, tent-only campsites open to visitors wishing to stay overnight. Parking is available a little over a mile from the sites, which are dog-friendly and well-lit with pit privies and no water or electrical hook-ups. A maximum of six guests are allowed per site, and check-in is between and 1 p.m. daily. Reservations can be made online via the Georgia State Parks website.

Where to Stay Nearby

While there are no accommodations immediately surrounding Panola Mountain State Park, there are several options ranging from chain hotels to Airbnbs and owner rentals in nearby areas such as Stonecrest and Stockbridge.

  • Hilton Garden Inn Atlanta East/Stonecrest: Located 10 miles (a 20-minute drive) from the park, the Hilton Garden Inn is a moderately priced option with amenities ranging from an indoor pool and fitness center to on-site restaurant serving three meals a day. Parking is free, and the local is near Stonecrest and fast casual food options like Panera Bread and Applebees.
  • Hampton Inn Atlanta/Stockbridge: About the same distance from the park entrance as the Hilton Garden Inn, the Hampton Inn is slightly cheaper (around $100 per night). It's also 15 minutes from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, offers free parking and hot breakfast, and has a fitness center and indoor pool.
  • Best Western Premier Conyers: 13 miles away in Conyers (a 25-minute drive) and conveniently located off I-20, the Best Western is a clean, modest property with free full breakfast, on-site bar, heated indoor pool, and fitness center. Rates average around $100 per night.

How to Get There

Panola Mountain State Park is approximately 19 miles (a 30-minute drive) from downtown Atlanta.

The quickest and most direct route from downtown is via I-20 E. Stay on I-20 E for approximately 12 miles to Exit 68, Wesley Chapel Road. Merge right onto Wesley Chapel Road, then turn left after half a mile onto Snapfinger Road. Stay on Snapfinger Road for 5 miles, then continue to Continue onto GA-155 S. Follow GA-155 S for just under 2 miles, then turn left to the parking lot for the park's Office and Visitor Center.

From Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, and northern Atlanta suburbs, take 285-E to Exit exit 46 for I-20 E. Follow I-20 E for approximately 2 miles to Exit 68, Wesley Chapel Road, then follow directions listed above.

From Conyers and points east, take I-20 W to Exit 71, Panola Road. Follow Panola Road for 4 miles, then turn left onto GA-155 S. Follow for 2.5 miles, then turn left into the park.

Accessibility

Panola Mountain State Park welcomes visitors of all ability levels. At 10 feet wide, the paved PATH Foundation Trail is accessible for guests using wheelchairs and spans the entirety of the Arabia Mountain National Heritage site. There are designated accessible spaces in the parking lot, and the park's event space is also ADA-compliant. Note that walk-in campsites (which require a hike of more than a mile) and picnic shelters are not accessible to visitors using wheelchairs.

Tips for Your Visit

  • Stop at the park's Office and Visitor Center to register for bouldering, camping, and other activities or just grab a park map to guide your trip.
  • Register for archery and tree climbing classes and ranger-led hikes in advance by calling 770-389-7801, as classes fill up quickly.
  • Consider adding a trip to nearby Arabia Mountain to your visit, or take a long bike ride to explore both green spaces.
  • Arrive early or consider carpooling on weekends, as lots fill up quickly.
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Panola Mountain State Park: The Complete Guide