Posts Tagged ‘Georgia Parks; State Parks’

Leaf Watch in Georgia

Cloudland Canyon State Park

 “Leaf Watch” Website Tracks Best Fall Color in Georgia


“When will the leaves change?” is the question park rangers hear most often once cooler temperatures arrive.  Only Mother Nature knows for sure, but peak color in Georgia is usually toward the end of October or early November.  To help leaf peepers find the best scenery, Georgia’s State Parks offer an online “Leaf Watch” travel planner, found at

Beginning in October, regular updates will keep travelers posted on how fall color is progressing across Georgia’s Blue Ridge.  The website is filled with top trails and overlooks, mountain cabins and campsites, fall events, and safe hiking tips.  Shutterbugs are encouraged to post their favorite shots to the Georgia State Parks Facebook page and Instagram.

Georgia’s top state parks for leaf watching include Amicalola Falls, Black Rock Mountain, Cloudland Canyon, F.D. Roosevelt, Fort Mountain, Moccasin Creek, Red Top Mountain, Smithgall Woods, Sweetwater Creek, Tallulah Gorge, Unicoi, Victoria Bryant and Vogel. For quieter getaways, visitors may want to explore parks further south, which can offer pretty autumn color as well. They key for most vibrant color is warm, sunny days and cool, crisp nights.

Georgia’s State Parks offer a variety of accommodations where leaf peepers can stay in the heart of autumn scenery. Park guests can choose from fully equipped cabins, modern campsites and even yurts – a “glamping” trend that is like a tent-cabin.  Georgia State Parks’ most sought-after accommodations are often reserved 13 months in advance, and most fill up on weekends. Guests are encouraged to make plans as early as possible or visit during weekdays.  Reservations can be made by calling 1-800-864-7275 or at

Top Georgia State Parks for Fall Color


Just an hour north of Atlanta you’ll find the Southeast’s tallest cascading waterfall.  The falls can be enjoyed from both easy and difficult trails.  A short, flat path leads to a boardwalk offering the most spectacular views.  There’s also an easy-to-reach overlook at the top.  For a tougher challenge, start from the bottom of the falls and hike up the steep staircase.  Amicalola Falls gets very busy on pretty October weekends.  Pumpkin farms and apple orchards are nearby.


At an altitude of 3,640 feet, Black Rock Mountain is Georgia’s highest state park.  (Brasstown Bald is the state’s highest peak.) Roadside overlooks and the summit Visitor Center offer sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The 2.2-mile Tennessee Rock Trail is a good choice for a short, moderate hike.  For an all-day challenge, take the 7.2-mile James E. Edmonds Backcountry Trail.  If driving Hwy. 441 north to the park, stop by Tallulah Gorge State Park and quirky Goats on the Roof.


One of Georgia’s most beautiful parks offers easy-to-reach rim overlooks and challenging hiking trails.  A favorite hike takes you down a long, steep staircase to the bottom of the canyon, where you’ll find two waterfalls.  (Remember, you have to hike back up, but it’s worth it.)  The 5-mile West Rim Loop is moderately difficult and offers great views of the canyon.  “Glamping” yurts are located off this trail.


Many people are surprised to find hardwood forests and rolling mountains south of Atlanta.  The 6.7-mile Wolf Den Loop is a favorite section of the longer Pine Mountain Trail.  For a touch of history, drive to Dowdell’s Knob to see a life-size bronze sculpture of President F.D. Roosevelt and great views of the forested valley.  Ga. Hwy. 190 is a pretty driving route.


This park is best known for a mysterious rock wall along the mountain top, plus a variety of trails. For the easiest walk, take the 1.2-mile loop around the park’s pretty, green lake.  For a challenging, all-day hike, choose the 8-mile Gahuti Trail.  Mountain bikers have more than 14 miles to explore.  Hwy. 52 has beautiful mountain scenery and overlooks worth stopping for.


Georgia’s smallest state park sits on the shore of a gorgeous deep-green lake.  Guests can choose from the 2-mile Hemlock Falls Trail or 1-mile Non-Game Trail with a wildlife observation tower.  Hwy. 197 is a particularly pretty road, passing Mark of the Potter and other popular attractions.


Just 40 minutes north of Atlanta you’ll find a variety of trails with nice fall color.  The easy, flat 4-mile Iron Hill Loop is open to bikes and foot traffic, offering great views of the lake and forest.  Another good choice for lake views is the 5.5-mile Homestead Trail.  Families with young children will like the paved walking path behind the park office.  Be sure to explore the log cabin and blacksmith shed.


Protecting more than 6,000 acres around Dukes Creek, this is the perfect spot for fly fishing while enjoying fall color.  Day visitors can picnic near the creek, and overnight guests can hike a private trail to Dukes Creek Falls.  A 1.6-mile loop climbs to Laurel Ridge and provides a view of Mt. Yonah once most leaves are off the trees.  This park is near many wineries and Helen’s Oktoberfest.


Just west of Atlanta you’ll find 9 miles of hiking trails, a beautiful creek and small lake.  For an easy walk, take the popular 1-mile Red Trail which follows the creek to the ruins of an old mill.  For more of a workout, continue past the mill to the Blue Trail, where you’ll climb steep bluffs for outstanding creek views.  Sign up for a guided hike to learn more about this park’s Civil War history. A new yurt village opened this September.


Tallulah is one of the most spectacular canyons in the Southeast, and you can choose from easy or difficult trails.  Hike along the rim to several overlooks with waterfall views, or get a permit from the park office to trek all the way to the bottom.  During November, you can watch expert kayakers as they enjoy the bi-annual “whitewater releases.”  Be sure to see the park’s film because it includes heart-racing footage of kayakers and news clips from Karl Wallenda’s famous tightrope walk across the gorge.


Avoid Oktoberfest crowds in Helen by hiking a pretty 3-mile trail which leads from the park into town.  You can enjoy lunch and window shopping before hiking back to the trailhead.  Mountain bikers can zip past fall color on the park’s challenging 7.5-mile bike loop.  If you’re up for a steep hike, take the 4.8-mile Smith Creek Trail up to Anna Ruby Falls.  (To avoid having to hike back, leave a second car at the falls.)


Nestled in the rolling hills of Georgia’s upper Piedmont, this is one of northern Georgia’s best kept secrets. A beautiful stream flows through the park, providing the perfect setting for an after-picnic stroll. Hikers can follow either the short nature trail or the longer perimeter trail that travels through hardwoods and crosses creeks.

VOGEL STATE PARK – Blairsville

The 4-mile Bear Hair Gap Trail makes a nice day trip for experienced hikers, offering great mountain color and a birds-eye view of the park’s lake.  For an easier walk, follow the Lake Loop to a small waterfall.  The twisting roads around Vogel, particularly Wolf Pen Gap Road, offer some of north Georgia’s prettiest fall scenery.

September events across the state

Below is a selection of September events at Georgia’s State Parks & Historic Sites. For more programs, visit and the parks’ web pages.  More information on accommodations and recreation can be found at or 1-800-864-7275.  Thank you for helping promote Georgia’s natural and historic resources!


Your State Parks Day — Volunteer Projects
Saturday, September 26, 2015
Volunteer with Georgia’s State Parks and Historic Sites on a variety of service projects. Many will be working to establish Monarch Butterfly gardens as part of the nationwide effort to increase pollinator habitat. Free admission for all volunteers sponsored by the Friends of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites. 770-383-8900.

Coastal Georgia

Labor Day at Fort McAllister
Saturday, September 5, 2015 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Fort McAllister State Park – Richmond Hill, GA
Join us for old fashioned family fun, Civil War-era games and prizes. $5-$8 plus $5 parking. 912-727-2339.

Tools and Skills that Built a Colony
Saturday, September 5, 2015 until Monday, September 7, 2015 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Wormsloe Historic Site – Savannah, GA
See craft demonstrations such as woodworking, blacksmithing, cooking, spinning, flint knapping, leatherworking, woodsman skills, pewter casting and more. $4.50-$10. 912-353-3023.

Labor Day at Fort King George
Monday, September 7, 2015 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Fort King George Historic Site – Darien, GA
Watch musket and cannon firings, and see various jobs soldiers would “labor” on as part of their duties. $4.50-$7.50. 912-437-4770.

Labor Day Commemoration
Monday, September 7, 2015 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Fort Morris Historic Site – Midway, GA
Commemorate Labor Day with hourly soldier talks, plus musket and cannon firings at this scenic coastal fort. $3-$4.50. 912-884-5999.

River Clean Up
Saturday, September 26, 2015 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Crooked River State Park – St. Marys, GA
Join our river cleanup with Rivers Alive and the Cooperative Extension Office. We will clean along the water way and remove trash from fishing areas. Please wear clothing that can get dirty. Bring water, a hat, sunscreen and bug spray. 912-882-5256.

Tabby Ruins and Jones Narrows Clean Up
Saturday, September 26, 2015 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Wormsloe Historic Site – Savannah, GA
Join Wormsloe Historic Site in clearing brush and collecting firewood for Your State Parks Day. Dress comfortably. Work gloves will be provided. Please register by September 26. Sponsored by the Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites. 912-353-3023.

Metro Atlanta

Dirty Spokes Trail Run
Saturday, September 5, 2015 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Hard Labor Creek State Park – Rutledge, GA
This park’s trails offer something for every runner. The well groomed system with gentle slopes and beautiful scenery will leave you breathless (if that doesn’t, the 7.0/3.5 mile will). Register at $5 parking. 706-557-3001.

Labor Day Weekend Night Kayak
Saturday, September 5, 2015 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Sunday, September 6, 2015 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Hard Labor Creek State Park – Rutledge, GA
Join a ranger and experience the beautiful night sky by kayak. Learn about the park history, astronomy, and enjoy a paddle under the stars. Tours meet at beach area, space is limited, per-registration required. $15 plus $5 parking. 706-557-3001.

New Moon Kayak Tour
Friday, September 11, 2015 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday, September 12, 2015 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Hard Labor Creek State Park – Rutledge, GA
Lake Rutledge is a great place to enjoy the night sky. Join this ranger-led tour of the lake and enjoy night sounds, star-gazing, and a relaxing time on the water. A new moon means that many stars will be visible on the night-time paddle. The program will proceed if it is cloudy or lightly drizzling. Register in advance. $15 plus $5 parking. 706-557-3001.

Harvest at the Homestead
Saturday, September 19, 2015 11 a.m.
Sunday, September 20, 2015 11 a.m.
Red Top Mountain State Park – Acworth, GA
Fall was a busy time at old homesteads. Join us by the log cabin for old-timey toys and games, crafts, blacksmithing, cooking and more. Also enjoy the park’s trails, picnic areas, fishing and boating. $5 parking. 770-975-0055.

Total Lunar Eclipse Paddle
Sunday, September 27, 2015 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Hard Labor Creek State Park – Rutledge, GA
Enjoy this rare occasion to see a total lunar eclipse while paddling on Lake Rutledge. The eclipse will start at about 8 p.m. and reach the peak (Blood Moon phase) at about 10:00 p.m. Space is limited, please preregister. $20 plus $5 parking. 706-557-3001.

Middle & South Georgia

Labor Day On The Lake
Saturday, September 5, 2015 until Monday, September 7, 2015 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Florence Marina State Park – Omaha, GA
Our family celebration includes games, nature programs and crafts, plus educational boat tours throughout the day. $1 – $5 plus $5 parking. 229-838-4706.

Labor Day at Jarrell Plantation
Saturday, September 5, 2015 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Jarrell Plantation Historic Site – Juliette, GA
How better to celebrate Labor Day than learning about old-time labor? Enjoy handicraft making demonstrations, learn about how household chores were done, and try some yourself. $4-$6.50 plus 478-986-5172.

Americus Explorer Train Ride
Saturday, September 5, 2015 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Saturday, September 19, 2015 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
SAM Shortline Train – Cordele, GA
Riding in air-conditioned, 1949 vintage train cars, you can travel from Cordele through Georgia Veterans State Park, across Lake Blackshear, visit Historic Downtown Americus, and tour Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village. Fee. 229-276-0755.

Watermelon Express Train Ride
Friday, September 11, 2015 9:30 a.m. to 3:05 p.m.
Friday, September 18, 2015 9:30 a.m. to 3:05 p.m.
SAM Shortline Train – Cordele, GA
Enjoy this ride from our Downtown Cordele Depot to Historic Plains, the small Georgia town made famous by President Jimmy Carter. Fee. 229-276-0755.

Lovebug Festival
Saturday, September 19, 2015 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
General Coffee State Park – Nicholls, GA
Explore the wonderful world of insects with edible bug programs, crafts, dragon fly and butterfly hikes, insect demonstrations and more. $1 plus $5 parking. 912-384-7082.

Twilight Night Paddle
Saturday, September 19, 2015 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Friday, September 25, 2015 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
High Falls State Park – Jackson, GA
Watch wading birds and enjoy the setting sun in this peaceful, ranger-led canoe trip to Buck Creek. This program is open to adults and children 8 years or older who are accompanied by an adult. Reservations required. $15 includes boat and gear. $5 parking. 478-993-3053.

Horse and Hiking Trails Clean-Up Day
Saturday, September 26, 2015 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
A.H. Stephens State Park – Crawfordville, GA
Do you love to hike? Do you love to horseback ride? Help maintain your state park by cleaning up our nature trails and equestrian staging area. 706-456-2602.

Digging a Monarch Butterfly Garden
Saturday, September 26, 2015 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
A.H. Stephens State Park – Crawfordville, GA
We will learn about the North American Monarch Butterfly and install a garden that will create a wonderful habitat. $5 parking. 706-456-2602.

Bridge & Sidewalk Refurbishing
Saturday, September 26, 2015 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Roosevelt’s Little White House Historic Site – Warm Springs, GA
Volunteers are being sought to help pressure wash the bridge and sidewalks on the drive into the site. Equipment will be provided. You may get wet, so bring an extra set of clothes or shoes. Come for an hour or make a day of it. Volunteers will receive free admission. 706-655-5870.

Peanut Festival Train Ride
Saturday, September 26, 2015 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
SAM Shortline Train – Cordele, GA
All aboard for a wonderful adventure with fun, food and lots of peanuts. Vendors with arts and crafts will fill the park as you step off the train. 229-276-0755.

Northern Georgia

Labor Day Twilight Paddle
Friday, September 4, 2015 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Fort Yargo State Park – Winder, GA
Enjoy this relaxing paddle around scenic Lake Marbury. Learn about the history of the old fort, and enjoy the view under the setting sun. Space is limited, advance registration required. $15 plus $5 parking. 770-867-3489.

Holiday Gorge Floor Hike
Saturday, September 5, 2015 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Sunday, September 6, 2015 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Monday, September 7, 2015 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Tallulah Gorge State Park – Tallulah Falls, GA
This is a strenuous trek, include hiking down 531 stairs, a river crossing jumping from rock to rock, and climbing boulders along the side of the river to Bridal Veil Falls where you can swim. Total miles is 3.5. No pets; wear appropriate footwear; children must be 10 or older; bring food and water. Space is limited; register in advance. $10 plus $5 parking. 706-754-7981.

12th Annual Mountain Music Festival
Saturday, September 12, 2015 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Vogel State Park – Blairsville, GA
Join us for bluegrass and gospel music, as well as art and craft booths with handmade items for sale. A food concession will be provided by Vogel Volunteers. $5 parking. 706-745-2628.

Youth Fishing Days at Buck Shoals
3rd Saturday of Month 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. from September 19, 2015 until September 20, 2015
Smithgall Woods State Park – Helen, GA
Children and their special “big person” can fish in a lake stocked with catfish, bass and bream. Fish caught can be kept. Bring your own bait and rods. This event is not at Smithgall Woods, but at Buck Shoals, a nearby unopened state park. Call for directions. $5 parking. 706-878-3087.

Stone Wall, Fire Tower Overlook, Trail Clean-Up
Saturday, September 26, 2015 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Fort Mountain State Park – Chatsworth, GA
Join in on a park clean-up day along the Stone Wall, Fire Tower and Overlook trail. Crews will pick up trash along the trail, cut and trim small trees along the stone wall and trail leading up to the Fire Tower. 706-422-1932.

Outdoor Adventure Day
Saturday, September 26, 2015 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
James H. (Sloppy) Floyd State Park – Summerville, GA
Enjoy a day on the water with the kids’ fishing event and canoe instruction. On land, a live reptile show will be offered. Children can learn more about hunter’s safety at the archery range, BB gun range and the laser shooting system. Hot dogs and drinks will be available. 706-857-0826.

Full Moon Paddle
Saturday, September 26, 2015 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Tallulah Gorge State Park – Tallulah Falls, GA
Enjoy a relaxing paddle around Tallulah lake as the full moon reflects off the water. This ranger-led event is an exciting way to get out in the evenings and enjoy nature. Space is limited, so register in advance. $15 plus $5 parking. 706-754-7981.

Your State Parks Day at Tugaloo
Saturday, September 26, 2015 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tugaloo State Park – Lavonia, GA
Tugaloo State Park will be having family fun with to celebrate the end of summer. We will have canoe races in the cove by the park office. After the races we will also have a volunteer event to clean up the shoreline after a very busy summer season. $5 parking. 706-356-4362.

Total Lunar Eclipse Paddle
Sunday, September 27, 2015 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Fort Yargo State Park – Winder, GA
Don’t miss this rare occasion to see a total lunar eclipse while paddling on Lake Marbury. Join a ranger and enjoy the beautiful night sky by kayak. Tour will meet at the beach area. Register in advance. $20 plus $5 parking. 770-867-3489.

Full-Moon Suspension Bridge Hike
Sunday, September 27, 2015 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Tallulah Gorge State Park – Tallulah Falls, GA
Enjoy a one-mile hike that takes you down the stairs across, the suspension bridge and on the rim of the gorge under the full moon. Register in advance. $5 plus $5 parking. 706-754-7981.