FDR STATE PARK: 25 WAYS TO EXPLORE & ENJOY THIS GA TREASURE

FDR State Park is Georgia’s largest state park, so it should be no surprise that it is filled with things to do!  This park has it all: hiking, swimming, fishing, boating, beautiful views, camping, cabins, history, presidential love, and many unique events.  My family has been coming here for 35 years, and we still haven’t done everything there is to do.

Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park in Pine Mountain, Georgia is surprising because many people don’t expect mountain views in this part of Georgia — but that’s exactly what you’ll find here.  This 9,046-acre park is located about 80 miles southwest of Atlanta. 

This area is beautiful, and not only do I think so, but President F.D. Roosevelt thought so, too!  He began coming to the area in 1924 to find relief from his polio in the nearby warm springs, and he is a big reason it is such a beloved and treasured place today.  The nearby Little White House is also an amazing and unique place to visit and learn more about the man who loved this land.

There is so much to see, do and experience in this massive state park.  Here are 25 wonderful ways to explore the area that FDR loved.

FDR STATE PARK: 25 WAYS TO EXPLORE & ENJOY THIS GA TREASURE

STAY IN A CABIN BUILT BY THE CCC

One of the best ways to experience FDR State Park is spending the night in one of their 21 cottages.  The park has cottages that can accommodate anywhere from 2 to 10 people, and four of their cottages are pet-friendly.  Some of the cabins are located along Lake Delanor, and some (including most of the pet-friendly cabins) are near the Delano Trail.

One of the neatest experiences is staying in one of the cabins that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. Cabins 1-11 were built by the CCC, and all have a feeling of history that cannot be matched.  Truly a wonderful experience.

CAMPING AT FDR STATE PARK

Camping at FDR State Park is a great way to really immerse yourself in nature.  This park has 115 campsites, 16 backcountry sites, 5 pioneer campgrounds, and one group site that has a capacity for 75 people.  Some of the park’s 115 campsites sit along the beautiful 15-acre Lake Delanor. 

The sites here come with full hookups, a picnic table, and a fire ring with a grill top.

Site specific reservations can be made online 13 months in advance — and I’d recommend trying to book the lakeside sites as soon as you can — they tend to go quickly.

FDR STATE PARK: 25 WAYS TO EXPLORE & ENJOY THIS GA TREASURE

HIKE THE PINE MOUNTAIN TRAIL

The Pine Mountain Trail is a hiker’s dream!  This is a popular 23-mile trail, and is awesomely well-maintained by the Pine Mountain Trail Association.  They have several loops along the trail, which are great for day trips.  

Even with small children, we’ve managed to take in some of the sites along the PMT.  With our kids, we’ve hiked a part of it near the main office, and we’ve hiked part of it from the “No Name Parking Lot” across from cabin 5’s driveway.  There is so much of the trail to explore, so we try something new every visit.  

GEOCACHE

Geocaching is always something we try to do when visiting Georgia State Parks, and FDR State Park is no different.

There is a FDR State Park-sponsored geocache hidden off the Pine Mountain Trail near the main office, which makes for a fantastic kid-friendly hike.  It offers some cool views and some rock outcroppings that will give you a heart attack if you have fearless little ones.  This hike was easy enough for my 6-year-old and 4-year-old, but it felt like a big hike.  And the reward of the geocache was awesome. 

We’ve also geocached off the Pine Mountain Trail near Dowdell’s Knob – a great way to explore more of that area.  But the absolute best is the series of geocaches along the Mountain Creek Trail Loop from “No Name Parking Lot” across from cabin 5’s driveway. I cannot say enough good things about it. 

My kids think the only thing better than finding one geocache in the woods, is finding five, and that’s exactly what you’ll get here.  This trail is awesome and kid-friendly, with lots of neat things to explore, and the geocaches are placed so your kids have a reason to keep going. 

Read More: WHAT IS GEOCACHING – AND WHY YOU’LL FALL IN LOVE WITH IT

SWIM IN THE LIBERTY BELL SWIMMING POOL

The Liberty Bell Pool – named for its bell shape — is a spring-fed seasonal pool that was also built by the CCC.  I think the coolest thing about this pool is that it was made with local stones – I guarantee you’ve never seen anything like it.

The pool offers clean changing rooms, a nearby playground, and picnic tables.  Throughout the summer the facility hosts events, and offers swim lessons.  The pool is open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, and costs a small fee daily fee in addition to the Georgia State Parks parking fee, but it is so worth it.

VISIT THE PARK OFFICE

Visiting the park office at FDR State Park is a must. First, the building is historical — it was built by the CCC in 1938 using native rocks, and had a former life as an inn and a restaurant.  I mean, you get a history lesson upon arrival! 

In addition, if you walk around the back, the views are amazingly beautiful.  Right away, you’ll be happy you’ve come.  It has a stone amphitheater next to it, which also hosts beautiful views, and occasional events.  This is one park office that you should get out and explore.

EXPLORE DOWDELL’S KNOB

Dowdell’s Knob was one of FDR’s favorite spots.  It’s said he came to this area for quiet contemplation, and I believe it.  This area overlooks the Pine Mountain Valley, and it is the most peaceful spot.  

A life-size statue of F.D. Roosevelt overlooks the valley, and my kids visit him every trip. FDR had many picnics here, and a grill he had built for that purpose still stands.  There are picnic tables here, and access to the Pine Mountain Trail as well. 

Dowdell’s Knob is a 15 minute drive down GA 190 West from the park office.

TAKE A SELFIE WITH FDR

As we mentioned, FDR’s sculpture is located at Dowdell’s Knob and man, is he popular!  My kids love him.  They just call him “the President” and he’s totally okay with them sitting beside him.

He also allows selfies, so snuggle up and snap!

HIKE TO A PLANE CRASH SITE

From Dowdell’s Knob, you can hike a short trail off the Pine Mountain Trail to a plaque and memorial rock that remembers the five victims and one survivor of a 1953 plane crash. 

The plaque and rock were placed there in 2012, and memorializes the place where a B-25 plane crashed into the side of Pine Mountain on a rainy October night over 60 years ago. Our kids were enormously fascinated with this area and the history behind it.

VISIT THE LITTLE WHITE HOUSE

FDR built the Little White House while he was still governor of New York in 1932, and continued to visit throughout his presidency until his death in 1945.  FDR found that swimming in the warm natural springs brought him great relief from his polio, and that’s one of the reasons he loved this area so much. 

Now Roosevelt’s Little White House is a historic site and museum, and visitors can tour his home that has been meticulously preserved.  One of the more unique offerings at the museum is the “Unfinished Portrait” – the portrait FDR was posing for when he suffered a stroke and later passed away.  The Little White House, and the museums, are a must-see.

PARTICIPATE IN THE 400 MILE CHALLENGE

Admittedly, you may need to visit more than once to complete the 400 Mile Challenge at FDR State Park, but it’s a great excuse to visit often.

The 400 Mile Challenge encourages you to walk, run, hike or bike 400 miles in the park within a year of your start date. The challenge is based on the honor system which encourages responsibility and honesty. It’s up to participants to keep records of their mileage.

After completion, participants who completed the 400 miles challenge will receive a certificates and t-shirts, depending on which price they signed up for.

  • $10 fee which includes a 400 Mile t-shirt after completion.
  • $20 fee which includes mesh drawstring bag, and a 400 mile t-shirt after completion.
  • $65 fee which includes an annual ParkPass, mesh drawstring bag, and a 400 mile a t-shirt after completion.

GO FISHING IN THE LAKE BUILT BY THE CCC

Lake Delanor is a 15-acre lake that divides the camping sites from the cabins.  Some of the camping sites and cabins are right on the lake, so those sites make it extra easy to cast your line. 

The Civilian Conservation Corps built this lake, and after years of visiting this lake I just now realized that its name comes from combination of the Roosevelts’ names — Delano and Eleanor.  The lake has bass, catfish, and crappie, and Georgia State Fishing license rules apply.

GO HORSEBACK RIDING

Roosevelt Riding Stables provides guided horseback riding at FDR State Park, making this state park one of the only ones that provides horses for this purpose.

The stables are located within FDR State Park and offer different guided trail tours that range from 1 hour to half a day.  You can ride alongside an old wagon trail, go past spring-fed creeks, or ride up to the top of the mountain, depending on which trail ride you choose.

Participants must be at least 6 years old, and there is a 250 pound weight limit.

One of the coolest horseback rides they offer are their Wine & Cheese rides. Offered throughout the year, you’ll enjoy a 2 to 2.5 hour ride to the Overlook and enjoy wine along with light hors d’oeuvres as you take in the spectacular views.

If you’re a horse owner, you can bring your own horse to explore the more than 20 miles of equestrian trails within the park.  Fees apply, and reservations are recommended for the guided tours.

CHECK OUT THE VIEWS FROM THE SCENIC OVERLOOKS

Within the park, on your way to Dowdell’s Knob or into town, I highly recommend stopping at the scenic overlooks along the way.  They are well-maintained, and have beautiful far-reaching views of the Pine Mountain Valley below. 

My kids love exploring these little areas, and I know there are some geocaches around some of them as well.

SHOP IN THE TOWN OF PINE MOUNTAIN

You could not pick a more beautiful nearby town than Pine Mountain.  My parents often join us on our FDR State Park camping trips, and they include a visit to town every time. 

Pine Mountain is home to antique shops, local boutiques, and awesome local restaurants.  Make sure to stop by Three Lil’ Pigs Bar-B-Que for some of the best barbecue sandwiches around. And if you forget any major camping supplies while at FDR, they’ve got a grocery store only 5 minutes down the road.

RENT A BOAT

You can rent single- or double-kayaks, canoes, or aqua cycles from the park office and explore Lake Delanor from the water! 

They offer hourly, half-day and full day rentals, and your rental includes the required life jackets.  Don’t jump in, though – no swimming is allowed!

CAMP WITH YOUR HORSE 

Want to go camping with your favorite equine friend?  You can!  FDR State Park offers camping with your horse. 

You can reserve a primitive campsite with a high line for $10, or a primitive campsite with a stall and a bag of shavings for $32.  I mean, you’d be basically living the cowboy/cowgirl dream!

VISIT NEARBY ATTRACTIONS

One of the greatest things about the location of FDR State Park is that it is so close to a couple of awesome attractions.

Callaway Gardens is just a 5-minute drive away.  Callaway is home to beautiful gardens, excellent golfing, and has many special events throughout the year, including an amazing Christmas lights display. 

And Wild Animal Safari is also nearby, and allows guests the chance to get up close to some amazing animals — or them the change to get close to you.  So after you’re done exploring the park, you can get out and explore more of the area! Have fun!

Read More: CALLAWAY GARDENS ZIPLINE AND TREETOP UNFORGETTABLE ADVENTURE TRILLS FOR AGES 4+

BECOME A JUNIOR RANGER

I think the Junior Ranger Program offered by the Georgia State Parks system is one of the coolest activities for kids out there.  Free Junior Ranger activity books are available at every Georgia State Park, and children between the ages of 6-12 can earn badges once they complete the requirements. 

It’s a really neat and fun way to get out and explore FDR State Park, and your kids will love the feeling of accomplishment!

EAT AT THE COUNTRY KITCHEN

The Country Kitchen gets its own spot because it is that neat. It’s a Callaway Gardens restaurant, but it’s not inside the gardens, instead located just down the road from FDR State Park.  It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so it’s a nice respite from cooking over a campfire.  It specializes in Southern dishes with a creative flair.

The best part of this restaurant is the spectacular views!  They have huge windows that overlook the beautiful valley.  There is also a country store inside the restaurant that sells many local goods.  The Country Kitchen doesn’t accept reservations, and can definitely get busy during popular times/seasons, so arrive early!

CELEBRATE HALLOWEEN AT FDR STATE PARK

I think camping during Halloween-time would be beyond awesome, and the only thing that could make it better has to be FDR State Park’s annual Campground Halloween Adventure.

Held the Saturday before Halloween, prizes are awarded for best decorated campsite and there’s campsite trick-or-treating once it gets dark.  They also hold a pumpkin decorating contest, scarecrow contest, Halloween-themed events, crafts, and games.

PARTICIPATE IN THE EASTER EGG ROLL AND EGG HUNT AT THE LITTLE WHITE HOUSE

Let your kids participate in an Easter Egg hunt at the (Little) White House!  Held the Saturday before Easter Sunday, this popular annual event lets kids hunt for eggs on the Little White House lawn. 

And after all age groups have gotten their fill of eggs, kids can participate in the authentic Easter Egg Roll – just like they do at the White House in Washington, DC! Extra fee required.

ADD A PHOTO OF YOUR VETERAN TO AN HONOR TREE

I think this is the most beautiful way to honor our much beloved veterans during the holiday season.  Guests are invited to hang 3×5 pictures of their loved ones — who have served or are serving in our nation’s armed forces — onto three “honor” trees. 

The trees will be placed in the museum at the Little White House throughout the holiday season in December.  You can write a message on the back of your photo, and strings are provided for hanging.  Please only bring copies of your pictures, as the photos cannot be returned.

LET YOUR DOGS SWIM AT THE LIBERTY BELL POOL

FDR State Park hosts a dog swim and luau at the Liberty Bell Pool every year at the end of the swimming season.  This annual event invites our four-legged best friends to take a turn in the pool for the day! 

Offered for one Saturday in September, it’s a day just for our furry friends, and they get to participate in a variety of contests: best swimsuit, best trick, best splash, DOGGIE LIMBO.  I mean, could there be anything better?!  It costs $8 for your dog to participate, and humans can’t get in the pool that day.

FULL MOON RANGER PADDLE

Every full moon, FDR State Park hosts a Full Moon Ranger Paddle, which lets you explore the lake at night.

Join a ranger on a relaxing evening paddle enjoying nature, the night sky, and possibly seeing some wildlife. They provide life jackets, paddles, 2-person canoes, kayaks, paddleboats or john boats.

A separate fee applies, in addition to the $5 state park parking fee. Pre-registration required. Please contact the park for more information.

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