Surprise! These 6 Lesser-Known Georgia State Parks are Awesome

Georgia State Parks are known for their awesome activities, hiking trails, lakes, amazing views, camping opportunities, and outdoor adventures. Parks like Cloudland Canyon, Vogel, Amicalola Falls, Tallulah Gorge, Sweetwater Creek, and Providence Canyon are some of the state’s most popular state parks — for good reason! They’re awesome.

But what about the others?

Georgia State Parks asked their rangers to share some of their favorite getaways, and the results may surprise you! Here are six lesser-known Georgia State Park destinations that are perfect for a 2024 trip!

Surprise! These 6 Lesser-Known Georgia State Parks are Awesome
Seminole State Park courtesy of Georgia State Parks

1. Best Overlook: Fort Mountain State Park (Chatsworth)

Distance from Atlanta: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Stunning sunsets and sweeping views are star attractions of Fort Mountain State Park’s West Overlook. It really is spectacular!

This kid- and dog-friendly hike is just 1.6 miles round trip, and you can also explore a 1930s fire tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, as well as an unsolved mystery. No one knows why a 855-foot-long stone wall was built across the mountain top. Hikers will have something to ponder along the way!

In addition to hiking, mysteries, and views, you’ll also find cabins, campsites, a swimming beach, horseback riding trails, fishing, and paddling here.

2. Best for Bike Riding: Panola Mountain State Park (Stockbridge)

Distance from Atlanta: 25 minutes

Just southeast of Atlanta you’ll find Panola Mountain State Park. The bike trails here are a great alternative to the busy BeltLine or Silver Comet Trails.

Seven of the 35 miles of this paved PATH Foundation’s greenway wind throughout the park, taking riders to granite outcrops, hardwood forest, fishing lakes, a small covered bridge, grassland birding area, the South Fork River, Vaughter’s Farm and Arabia Mountain.

You can bring your own bikes, or Panola Mountain also rents them.

Archery, tree climbing, geocaching, bouldering, and fishing are also popular here.

3. Best Lakeside Camping: Hamburg State Park (Mitchell)

Distance from Atlanta: 1 hour and 50 minutes

One trip to Hamburg State Park in middle Georgia and you’ll see why campers love its quiet, small campground and historic mill.

Nearly 30 sites are on the edge of a pretty, 225-acre lake, shaded by oaks, sweetgum and pines. Campers can reserve either pull-through or back-in sites for RVs tents and pop-ups. Amenities include grills, fire rings, a playground, fishing dock and dump station.

Hike along Hamburg Lake or fish for crappie, bass and catfish. Photographers like to capture the 1920s grist mill after ample rain when water rushes over the dam.

4. Best Fishing: Seminole State Park (Bainbridge)

Distance from Atlanta: 3 hours and 40 minutes

Seminole State Park in southwest Georgia is a small park that sits on a cove surrounded by one of Georgia’s largest lakes.

At more than 37,000 acres, Lake Seminole is an angler’s dream. Largemouth bass are among the most sought-after species, and you can also catch bluegills, shellcrackers, crappie, and channel and blue catfish. Three ramps make it easy to launch boats, and the park rents kayaks as well.

Anglers can stay overnight in lakefront cottages or spacious campsites. We’ve stayed in a cabin here, and the sunset views on the lake cannot be beat. You’ll also find a swim beach, mini golf, hiking, and geocaching here.

5. Best Paddling: George L. Smith State Park (Twin City)

Distance from Atlanta: 3 hours

Gliding under thick cypress trees with their characteristically wide trunks and Spanish moss-draped canopies make you feel like you’ve traveled back to primeval times at George L. Smith State Park off I-16.

Blue sky reflects off this park’s nearly black pond, formed by a historic covered bridge and mill. Paddlers can bring their own kayaks or reserve them from the park office, spending days looking for osprey, herons, egrets, beaver, turtles and frogs. Anglers can catch bass, bluegill and crappie. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a modern dinosaur; alligators are occasionally seen slipping away as soon as they see paddlers.

My kids absolutely loved renting kayaks and exploring the waters here. George L. Smith State Park also has cabins and campsites, fishing, geocaching, and hiking.

6. Best Wildlife Viewing: Crooked River State Park (St. Marys)

Distance from Atlanta: 5 hours

Crooked River State Park’s location on the Intracoastal Waterway makes it perfect for wildlife enthusiasts and nature photographers.

During low tide, kayakers frequently spot dolphins, manatees, stingrays and alligators, while fiddler crabs wave their large claws and scamper across the mud flats. Bobcat, fox, armadillo, raccoon and opossum call this park home, and sharks have even been seen at the boat dock, scavenging for what anglers leave behind.

If you want guaranteed wildlife sightings, stop by the park’s nature center to see a corn snake, diamondback terrapins, gopher tortoises, mud turtle and other reptiles.

We love the cabins here, with views of the water through the trees possible from some of the spots. You’ll also find campsites, hiking, and fishing. This is a great home base for a Cumberland Island daytrip adventure, where you’ll see even more wildlife, including wild horses!

Looking for more Georgia State Park adventures? Check out some more of our favorites!

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Surprise! These 6 Lesser-Known Georgia State Parks are Awesome