‘Must-visit’ state parks
The following are five of Georgia's "must-visit" state parks:
280 Amicalola Falls State Park Road, Dawsonville. 706-265-4703
Amicalola Falls State Park is known for amazing views of its namesake waterfall, which, at 729 feet, is Georgia's tallest. It's also the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast. Amicalola can appeal to almost everyone, since it can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, depending on your comfort level. To view the falls, visitors can choose an easier pathway or a more difficult trail. If you'd like to stay overnight, accommodations range from a campground to rustic cottages to a mountain-top lodge.
Credit: grady allen
Credit: grady allen
1788 Highway 356, Helen. 706-878-2201
If you want to be active, you'll find plenty to do in Unicoi State Park's 1,029 acres. Fish for bream or trout in mountain streams, or rent a kayak or canoe to take out on Unicoi Lake. Guided tours are also available to help you explore the Lake Trail and see the fault line that the park rests on, as well as a large formation that contains fool's gold. Twelves miles of hiking trails are available, or you can take a quicker tour via zipline canopy. At the end of the day, rest in a "barrel" cabin or at the lodge.
122 Cloudland Canyon Park Road, Rising Fawn. 706-657-4050
This state park is known for its interesting scenery, which includes waterfalls, canyons that are a thousand feet deep and wild caves. Case Cave requires rappelling about 30 feet down into the cave, where you’ll be able to explore about three miles of passageways, including a lake. You don’t need ropes to explore Sitton’s Cave, which has formations such as stalactites that you’ll see as you travel along the muddy banks of its underground river.
Caves can be dangerous environments without the proper equipment and knowledge, so unless you’re an experienced spelunker, you should take a guided tour.
405 Vogel State Park Road, Blairsville. 706-745-2628
Vogel is located at the base of Blood Mountain and is a popular spot to leaf-peep in the fall. It's also home to a 22-acre lake, complete with a beach area where you can relax in the summer. Hikes range from an easy loop that leads to Trahlyta Falls to a more challenging 13-mile backcountry hike.
Many facilities in the park were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression.
2970 Georgia Highway 190, Pine Mountain. 706-663-4858
Georgia’s largest state park comprises over 9,000 acres near Pine Mountain. You can find a life-size sculpture of FDR at Dowdell’s Knob in the park, where he sometimes enjoyed a picnic on his frequent visits to the state.
The park also has a pool that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps as well as 42 miles of hiking trails.
Other parks worth the trip
76 High Falls Park Drive, Jackson. 478-993-3053
Cascades on the Towaliga River give High Falls State Park its name. High Falls Lake is one of the state's top spots to catch hybrid and white bass, and the park is home to the tallest cascading waterfall south of Atlanta.
Red Top Mountain
50 Lodge Road SE, Acworth. 770-975-0055
Located on 12,000-acre Lake Allatoona — only 45 minutes north of Atlanta — this park is known for its water sports, including water skiing, fishing and swimming. It also has 15 miles of forested trails.
52 Diamond Causeway, Savannah. 912-598-2300
Skidaway borders the intracoastal waterway, so expect to see terrain such as salt marsh and wildlife including fiddler crabs.
46 John Coffee Road, Nicolls. 912-384-7082
Learn about the state's agricultural history through Heritage Farm, which has log cabins, a tobacco barn, cane mill, farm animals and more. Its cypress swamp land is an ideal habitat for rare plants and wildlife such as gopher tortoises.
What to know before you go
State park visitors pay $5 daily. If you visit the parks frequently, consider a ParkPass for $50, which is good for 12 months and exempts you from the daily fee.
For more information or to view an interactive map of state parks, visit gastateparks.org.