Our rangers love sharing their favorite getaways, so we've curated this list of six Georgia State Parks that might surprise you. These lesser-known destinations are perfect for your 2024 travel bucket list. Tag us #GaStateParks during your adventures.
1. Fort Mountain State Park, Chatsworth
Stunning sunsets and sweeping views are star attractions of Fort Mountain’s West Overlook. This kid- and dog-friendly hike is just 1.6 miles round trip, and you can also explore a 1930s fire tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, as well as an unsolved mystery. No one knows why a 855-foot-long stone wall was built across the mountain top. Was it crafted by early indigenous people? By Hernando de Soto’s conquistadors? Hikers have something to ponder while enjoying that gorgeous sunset.
2. Panola Mountain State Park, Stockbridge
Best park to ride a bike
Skip the busy Beltline and crowded Silver Comet for this National Heritage Area just southeast of Atlanta. Seven of the 35 miles of this paved PATH Foundation’s greenway wind throughout the park, taking riders to granite outcrops, hardwood forest, fishing lakes, a small covered bridge, grassland birding area, the South Fork River, Vaughter’s Farm and Arabia Mountain. Come ready for a workout because some sections are quite hilly, especially between Alexander Lakes and the park’s visitor center. Panola Mountain even rents bicycles for those who like to get their hearts pumping while enjoying beautiful scenery.
3. Hamburg State Park, Mitchell
Best lakeside camping
One trip to this middle Georgia park and you’ll see why campers love its quiet, small campground and historic mill. Nearly 30 sites are on the edge of a pretty, 225-acre lake, shaded by oaks, sweetgum and pines. Campers can reserve either pull-through or back-in sites for RVs tents and pop-ups. Amenities include grills, fire rings, a playground, fishing dock and dump station. After a day of hiking along Hamburg Lake or fishing for crappie, bass and catfish, guests can enjoy hot showers in a new bath house. Photographers like to capture the 1920s grist mill after ample rain when water rushes over the dam.
4. Seminole State Park, Bainbridge
This small park sits on a cove surrounded by one of Georgia’s largest lakes. At more than 37,000 acres, Lake Seminole is an angler’s dream. Largemouth bass are among the most sought-after species, and you can also catch bluegills, shellcrackers, crappie, and channel and blue catfish. Three ramps make it easy to launch boats, and the park rents kayaks as well. The shoreline offers a shallow, sandy bottom with many lily pads and aquatic plants – perfect for young fish to grow. Anglers can stay overnight in lakefront cottages or spacious campsites.
5. George L. Smith State Park, Twin City
Gliding under thick cypress trees with their characteristically wide trunks and Spanish moss-draped canopies make you feel like you’ve traveled back to primeval times. Blue sky reflects off this park’s nearly black pond, formed by a historic covered bridge and mill. Paddlers can bring their own kayaks or reserve them from the park office, spending days looking for osprey, herons, egrets, beaver, turtles and frogs. Anglers can catch bass, bluegill and crappie. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a modern dinosaur; alligators are occasionally seen slipping away as soon as they see paddlers.
6. Crooked River State Park, St. Marys
Best wildlife viewing
This park’s location on the Intracoastal Waterway makes it perfect for wildlife enthusiasts and nature photographers. During low tide, kayakers frequently spot dolphins, manatees, stingrays and alligators, while fiddler crabs wave their large claws and scamper across the mud flats. Bobcat, fox, armadillo, raccoon and opossum call this park home, and sharks have even been seen at the boat dock, scavenging for what anglers leave behind. A bird blind makes it easy to see colorful painted buntings during spring and summer. And if you want guaranteed wildlife sightings, stop by the park’s nature center to see a corn snake, diamondback terrapins, gopher tortoises, mud turtle and other reptiles.