Hiking and backpacking at FDR Park

5 ways to explore the history, nature of F.D. Roosevelt Park 

Outdoor adventurers and wanderers of the Peach State have a paramount playground at Georgia's largest state park.

F.D. Roosevelt Park in Pine Mountain is 9,049 acres of meandering trails, miniature waterfalls and majestic mountain ranges that stretch until the sky meets the treetops.

"We are a one-stop discovery," said Jarrod Simpson, F.D. Roosevelt State Park Assistant Manager. "There is something at this park for everyone."

Former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt — a.k.a. FDR and the United States' 32nd commander-in-chief — regularly visited the Harris County area both before and during his time in office.

Roosevelt's Little White House
Photo: For the AJC

"He frequented the Little White House Historic Site in nearby Warm Springs, Georgia, and had a personal involvement in the creation of the park," Simpson said. "Some of his personally owned property is now part of the park."

For open-air explorers who crave nature with a Deep South narrative, these five park features are tempting reasons to organize a springtime outing at the park:

Roosevelt Riding Stables: Experience the park by way of horseback along the stables' 42-mile riding trails. The stables feature more than 25 horses on rotation but welcome bring-your-own-horse riding as well. "Visitors can saddle up and gallop alongside spring-fed creeks, follow an old wagon trail historically used by valley hunters and trappers, or climb up the mountainside to the Lake Franklin Overlook," said Simpson. "They can also catch stunning views of Pine Mountain Valley."

The Liberty Bell Pool: Opening in 1941, this aquatic attraction and regional iconic symbol of American independence draws large crowds to start their summer fun. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) constructed the pool in 1938 to resemble the Liberty Bell. "At 533,000 gallons, the pool is nearly the same volume of an Olympic-sized swimming pool and is the largest spring-fed swimming pool in the state," Simpson said. "From Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, the pool is a great place to soak up the rays then cool off Wednesday through Sunday. Special rates apply for veterans, on weekdays and to groups."

Cascade Falls and the Wolfden: These are two of the most-visited sites of the park. Cascade Falls contains a series of scenic waterfalls surrounded by lush forest. At the top of the falls are the Wolfden, a cliff and small cave overlooking it. "Hikers will embark on a 2-mile trek to Cascade Falls, crossing water 13 times using stepping stones and bridges while passing through lovely native plants and trees," said Simpson. "Hikers are allowed to wade in the pool of the falls but are warned to take caution as the area is slippery and rocks are at the bottom of the pool."

Dowdell's Knob at FDR
Photo: For the AJC

Dowdell's Knob: It's the highest point in all of Harris County at approximately 1,400 feet above sea level. In fact, the towering overlook was a favorite retreat of FDR. "Dowdell's Knob naturally offers spectacular panoramic views of the region," Simpson said. "Guests can sit alongside a life-sized bronze statue of former President F.D. Roosevelt, which was erected in 2007, to commemorate the 62nd anniversary of his death. He would often entertain his closest friends and family here."

The Pine Mountain Trail: F.D. Roosevelt State Park is home to one of the largest trail systems of the Southeast, the Pine Mountain Trail. Offering 23 miles of trail and seven loops, it caters to casual to serious hikers and backpackers. "Anyone interested in hiking on the PMT is heavily encouraged to first visit the park office to purchase a trail map and speak with park staff to identify trails best suited to their ability," said Simpson. "For those who like to plan their trips ahead of time, visit pinemountaintrail.org to learn about this premier trail system to the public."


Lake Franklin Event Center: The park's newly remodeled Lake Franklin Event Center provides visitors with a scenic venue to host conferences, weddings and other special events throughout the year. The center affords a breathtaking view of Dowdell's Knob and Lake Franklin — a 25-acre spring fed reservoir dug by the CCC. It also includes a large, stone fireplace; multipurpose round tables and folding chairs; sizable catering kitchen; and built-in audio/visual system.

American Frontier Days: Walk through time from the mid-1700s to late-1800s with local historians and artisans. Compete in Tomahawk throw competitions and witness black powder demonstrations. Location: park baseball field on Hwy 354; donations accepted for admission. State park vehicle parking fee: $5. Saturday, March 10, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, March 11, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

5K CottonTrail Rabbit Run and 1 Mile Fun Run: Run over the creek and through the spring woodlands just as the park's rabbits do. Fill out an application form on the park's website. Pre-registration before March 15 includes a T-shirt. Location: Boat House along Lake Deleanor in the campground. Fee: $20 for individuals; $16 for groups of six or more. State park vehicle parking fee: $5. Saturday, March 24, at 8 a.m.; registration at 9 a.m.

Earth Day Events: Celebrate Earth Day with the park. Globally, 2018 aims to educate about ending plastic pollution. State park vehicle parking fee: $5. Saturday, April 21.

  • Bird Walk starts, 9 a.m. Bring your own binoculars, or borrow the park's loaners to spot birds with guides near the lake and woodland edges. Location: Fishing Dock on Lake Deleanor in the campground. Fee: Free.
  • Archery Shoot, 10 a.m. The park will provide instruction and all equipment for stationary target shooting for ages 8 (if able to draw the bow) to adult. Pre-register and pay at the office or bring correct change at the door. Location: Across the street from the park office. Fee: $12.
  • Lake Paddle, 1-2:30 p.m. Join park staff on a paddling excursion across Lake Deleanor. This two- to four-person water activity is for ages 8 and up; however, adults must accompany children. Participants must pre-register and pre-pay at the park office. Limited space. Location: Boat House. Fee: $10 per person, which includes life jackets, paddles and boat.
  • Party for the Planet, 7 p.m. Join the park for dancing and roasting marshmallows by the campfire during this outdoor party, so make sure you bring a marshmallow stick. The event is for ages 4 and up and will have Earth Day trivia games with prizes for winners, too. Location: Stone Amphitheater next to the park office. Walk-ins welcome. Fee: $5; under age 4 is free.                                                                                                              

One-tank trips is an occasional series from The Atlanta Journal Constitution that highlights places you can visit on – you guessed it – one tank of gas. Contact Stephanie Toone at stephanie.toone@ajc.com with questions or ideas.

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