Georgia’s State Parks Feed Mind, Body and Soul with Outdoor Adventures
This new year, stay on track with your fitness resolutions and venture out to Georgia State Parks. Get fit while having fun by partaking in the wide range of outdoor activities offered for all ages. From learning to become a Junior Ranger and hiking through canyons, to geocaching and golfing, Georgia State Parks offer family-friendly activities and affordable accommodations for any type of traveler.
Learn Outdoor Skills: Become a Junior Ranger
Children ages 6–12 will have fun learning in the outdoors as they work toward becoming a Junior Ranger. By following the guidelines in the Junior Ranger Activity Book they will experience nature first-hand, explore Georgia’s fascinating history and enjoy outdoor recreational activities. The experience builds as children work their way through three badge levels. Activities include identifying poisonous plants and tree species, observing wildlife, investigating the park’s history by visiting museums and historic sites, and participating in outdoor activities such as fishing, hiking, biking, camping and more. Children can take part in one of the Junior Ranger Spring Break Camps hosted at Georgia State Parks in March and April.
Complete the Challenge: Canyon Climbers Club
With just four state parks and hiking trails to conquer in the Canyon Climbers Club, completing the challenge can be done during Spring Break. Scale to the top of Amicalola Falls, explore the depths of Providence Canyon, brave the swinging bridge in Tallulah Gorge and master the staircase in Cloudland Canyon to accomplish the feats of the Canyon Climbers Club. The membership is $10, and after hiking all four parks, successful members receive a t-shirt and self-accomplishment.
Find a Treasure: Geocaching
Treasure-hunt fans can spend Spring Break on a quest that takes them from Georgia’s mountains to marshes with geocaching. Using a hand-held GPS, players find hidden boxes (caches) along trails and inside museums. Inside are trinkets for players to trade, as well as log books. Georgia’s State Parks and Historic Sites have offered the game since 2010, with more than 35,000 “finds” by players. At the historic sites, players answer questions about Georgia history to get the lockbox code.
Tee Off in Nature: Golf at State Parks
Eight Georgia State Park Golf Courses offer affordable rates and relaxed environments that welcome families and first-time golfers. Youth ages 18 and under pay as little as $7 for 18 holes, and lessons are available. A Junior Golf Tour is offered during spring and summer for young players ages 7 to 18. Each golf course is known for natural greens, tree-lined fairways and unique challenges.
Spend the Night Under the Stars: Camping & Glamping
While pitching a tent at one of the Georgia State Parks is a popular activity, the parks still harbor secret camping and glamping spots known only to those willing to travel off the beaten path. Choose from 2,700 campsites for tent camping, or six state parks that offer yurts — canvas and wood huts that provide heaters and furniture inside. As night falls, listen to the ribbits and croaks of frogs, a sure sign that spring is here. All campsites and yurts offer fire pits to build a campfire, and park visitor centers often sell all the makings of s’mores. Newbie campers can spend two nights in the First Time Camper’s Program, where rangers will assist with setting up tents and prepping the family for a night of camping.
Or Spend the Night Behind Closed Doors: Rent a Cabin
If you’d rather sleep in the comfort of a bed with a private bathroom, 30 of Georgia’s State Parks offer one-, two- or three-bedroom cabins. Save money by using fully-equipped kitchens to make meals for the family. During the day, rent aquacycles or kayaks and paddle park lakes and rivers. As night falls, participate in a moonlight hike, twilight paddle, or stargaze, and make a short trek back to the cabin for bedtime.
Activities on the Water
The Park Paddlers Club offers an abundance of scenic waterways to explore, for both seasoned paddlers and beginners. Whether paddling in a kayak, in a canoe, or on a stand-up paddleboard (SUP), paddle the 24 miles of water trails at the six participating state parks and earn a Park Paddlers t-shirt and bragging rights. In addition to the six state parks in the Park Paddlers Club, visitors can rent kayaks, canoes and SUPs to explore a variety of mountain lakes, coastal waters and winding rivers, all located within Georgia state parks. Find a complete list of parks with paddling at GaStateParks.org/Paddling.
Nothing says summer like a trip to the lake. Georgia State Parks’ sandy swimming beaches serve up all the amenities of a trip to the coast without the expense. Check out the beaches at parks like Red Top Mountain, Hard Labor Creek or Tugaloo. If swimming pools are more your style, head to F.D. Roosevelt, High Falls, Little Ocmulgee or Victoria Bryant state parks. Kids will find fun ways to play in the water with splash pads at Magnolia Springs, Little Ocmulgee and Gordonia-Alatamaha. Find a lake, pool or splash pad at GaStateParks.org/Swimming.
Georgia State Parks are an angler’s paradise with reservoirs, streams and rivers, lakes of all sizes, and saltwater fishing. Many bass fishermen equate “The Bass Capital of the World” to George T. Bagby’s Lake Walter F. George. In fact, the size and variety of fish are rivaled only by the varieties of unspoiled environments, from bass at Tugaloo and Hart Outdoor Recreation Area, to crappie at Seminole, Red Top Mountain and Richard B. Russell. Several of the parks have created programs that allow you to borrow equipment for little or no charge. Find a fishing spot at GaStateParks.org/Fishing.
In addition to lakeside beaches, dozens of Georgia State Parks provide public boat ramps and docks, a few with their own docks adjacent to campgrounds and cabins. Boat rentals are available at more than 20 state parks. Larger lakes even allow boaters to partake in water skiing, sailing and other personal watercraft activities, however, some parks on smaller lakes have horsepower restrictions to preserve the tranquil setting and wildlife. See a full list of boat ramps at GaStateParks.org/Boating.
Overnight accommodations are plenty and guests can choose from various options including glamping yurts, cabins, cottages and group shelters. Be sure to review the events calendar prior to visiting to participate in summer events including Pooch on the Hooch, which takes place at Don Carter State Park, Birding by Boat Paddles at Seminole State Park and any Parks After Dark programming like Twilight Lake Paddles at Sweetwater Creek State Park. To reserve a stay and plan the next outdoor outing, visit GaStateParks.org/Reservations.
Visit GaStateParks.org/Map for location info on all Georgia’s state parks!
Gwinnett County Parks
Bay Creek Park
Best Friend Park
Club Drive Park
Collins Hill Park
Duncan Creek Park
E.E. Robinson Park
Freeman’s Mill Park
George Pierce Park
Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center
Harmony Grove Park
Holcomb Bridge Park
J. B. Williams Park
Jones Bridge Park
Lions Club Park
Little Mulberry Park
Lucky Shoals Park
McDaniel Farm Park
Mountain Park Park
Peachtree Ridge Park
Rabbit Hill Park
Rhodes Jordan Park
Rock Springs Park
Ronald Reagan Park
Settles Bridge Park
Shorty Howell Park
South Gwinnett Park
Sweet Water Park
Tribble Mill Park
West Gwinnett Park
Yellow River Park
Learn more at GwinnettParks.com!
Photos courtesy of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources