Looking for a resort vacation on a budget? Try Hard Labor Creek State Park, one of the largest parks in the Georgia State Park system. Offering a wide range of recreational opportunities in a beautiful setting, guests can swim, golf, fish, boat, hike, bike, or even play miniature golf at this park, located about an hour from Atlanta near Rutledge, Ga.
Georgia has so many state parks, you may not have made it out to visit this one yet — but you should! Here’s everything you need to know about this amazing park!
HARD LABOR CREEK STATE PARK: AN AFFORDABLE FAMILY RESORT
With a name like Hard Labor Creek, you may not think of relaxation and fun, but these days, that’s exactly what you’ll find here.
But where did the name come from?
The name is thought to come from the slaves who worked the rocky soil planting cotton, or from American Indians who found the creek hard to cross.
Visiting Hard Labor Creek State Park these days is a great way to enjoy the outdoors — no hard labor required. With newly renovated cabins, an amazing golf course, a beautiful lake, plenty of trails for both hikers and horseback riders, campsites and more, you’ll never run out of fun things to do here.
At this state park, you’ll find all sorts of wonderful amenities at an affordable price, making it a great choice for a weekend getaway or a week-long family vacation.
HARD LABOR CREEK GOLF COURSE
The Creek Golf Course at Hard Labor Creek includes an 18-hole course, a pro shop, driving range, rental carts and special rates for seniors.
The course here is known for its challenging layout in a picturesque setting. The course features Champion Bermuda greens and narrow tree-lined fairways. The signature 14th hole here is especially beautiful, with a wooden wheel that turns in front of a waterfall rushing under a bridge.
It’s a well-known fact the course here has the most challenging starting hole in the state. When we were visiting, one woman said her father is a semi-pro golfer who visits the course every time he is in town. That’s some high praise! If you need something a little more substantial, Golf Digest‘s Frugal Golfer rated the Hard Labor Creek golf course as the “fourth sweetest deal in the United States!”
To turn your golfing excursion into a full getaway, try one of the Georgia State Parks stay and play packages. You can choose from either a cottage package or a camping package at Hard Labor Creek State Park. Each package includes a two night stay in either a cottage or campsite, and two rounds of 18 holes of golf, per person, with a cart.
In addition to a full-sized golf course, you can practice your putting and have some fun at the 18-hole mini-golf course in front of the Main Office. Mini golf costs $5 for adults and $2.50 for children. Clubs and golfs balls are located at Trading Post. Guests can rent equipment during Trading Post hours from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily.
TRAILS AT HARD LABOR CREEK
MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAILS
There are 24 miles of trails for hikers and horseback riders at Hard Labor State Park, as well as 16.5 miles of single-track mountain biking trails.
You’ll find several mountain biking trail loops here for different experience levels — from beginners to advanced. Open year-round, make sure to check the trail direction of the day before you begin. Hikers should yield to bikers on these trails, and hike opposite the direction indicated on the signage.
Bicycle helmets must be worn by anyone 16 years or younger, but they’re encouraged for all. Please note, the park does not offer bike rentals.
To get to the mountain biking parking area, you’ll turn onto Knox Chapel Road, go past the golf course, travel .25 miles, and you’ll see the mountain bike trails down a gravel lane on the left.
You’ll find four mountain biking loops here, plus an easy connector loop, at varying degrees of difficulty. From the mountain biking parking lot, you can start with the beginner-friendly Orange Trail to get your bearings, before taking the 1-mile-long, also beginner-friendly Connector Trail, which takes you to the main trailhead. From there, decide it you want to try the beginner/intermediate 5-mile Green Loop, the challenging 5-mile Red Loop, or the beginner/intermediate Blue Loop.
Here’s a breakdown of what to expect on the trails:
- Orange Loop: 1-mile trail on level ground, which takes the rider through an interesting area of regenerating pine forest. Perfect for beginners.
- Green Loop: 5 miles of beginner/intermediate-rated rolling single track.
- Blue Loop: 5-mile loop rated for the beginner/intermediate riders, highlighting four creek-side excursions with cascading stream and boulder formations.
- Red Loop: More challenging 5.15-mile loop that will take the rider up and down gently sloping terrain and crosses older hardwood forest of mixed pine and hardwood stands. This trail is the most challenging, and is rated for the intermediate/advanced riders.
There are two trails just for hikers at Hard Labor Creek. Both trails are about one-mile and perfect for exploring the area.
BRANTLEY NATURE TRAIL
The Brantley Nature Trail is an easy 1-mile loop trail that starts right behind the mini-golf course. We loved hiking this trail with our kids! The trail takes you through mature hardwoods, and you’ll see boulders along the way — perfect for kids to play around. Our kids played in this area for over an hour! If you’re into geocaching, you’ll find quite a few along this trail — always a big hit with our family.
BEAVERPOND NATURE TRAIL
At the northernmost point of the Brantley Nature Trail, you’ll find the beginning of the 1-mile-long Beaverpond Nature Trail. Along this trail, you’ll cross small bridges and catch glimpses of the lake and wetlands. This trail is a loop, so it will take you right back to the Brantley Nature Trail.
There are two trails available for horseback riders. Both trails offer beautiful wooded settings for a peaceful ride or hike. The horse trails are also open to hikers, but on weekdays only.
LAKE RUTLEDGE EQUESTRIAN TRAIL
The Lake Rutledge Equestrian Trail is a 16-mile, moderate to difficult trail through the woods along the east banks of Lake Rutledge. You’ll encounter creeks along the way, which will make you feel like you’ve been transported to the mountains.
You can expect some short, moderately difficult climbs. There are four return loops featured here, which can be used to shorten your ride if needed. For those looking for solitude, the section of trail across Fambrough Bridge Road is the perfect choice.
You can access the Lake Rutledge Equestrian Trail via Fairplay Road.
LAKE BRANTLEY EQUESTRIAN TRAIL
The Lake Brantley Equestrian trail is an 8-mile, moderate to difficult trail through the hardwood forests along the east banks of Lake Brantley. Keep an eye out on this trail, and you may see a rock quarry used by the Civilian Conservation Corps along the way. You’ll also see deep gorges and granite outcroppings during your ride.
For a shorter ride, you can take the Gray Loop and cut the distance in half.
WATER SPORTS AT HARD HABOR CREEK
As mentioned previously, Hard Labor Creek State Park features two lakes — Lake Rutledge and Lake Brantley. The lakes here are popular with locals and visitors alike.
The lake beach at Lake Rutledge is popular with swimmers, and is the perfect place to cool off after your hike in the warmer months. Guests can also rent kayaks, canoes, or pedal boats at the park office, and enjoy exploring the lake from the water.
Fishing is popular in both lakes, and you can expect to catch include largemouth bass, striped bass, catfish, black crappie and beam. Visitors must provide their own fishing equipment. A fishing license is required.
HARD LABOR CREEK OBSERVATORY
There is always a starry night at Hard Labor State Park, even when the clouds are out. That’s because there is an observatory on the property. The Hard Labor Creek Observatory is operated by Georgia State University, not the state park, but they do have public nights.
The public nights are crazy popular when they happen, so make sure to plan ahead! The fact that there’s less light pollution at Hard Labor Creek makes it the perfect place for astronomers (and guests!) to see the stars. I’m sure the experience is out of this world! (Sorry, I couldn’t help it.)
HARD LABOR CREEK PARK HISTORY
Hard Labor Creek was constructed as a Recreation Demonstration Area by the Civilian Conservation Corps between 1934 and 1941. The park has been open to the public ever since.
When exploring the park, keep an eye out for some of the CCC’s remaining structures, including Camp Rutledge, which is now used as a Group Camp.
Inside the cabins and cottages at Hard Labor Creek State Park, you’ll find historic photos of the construction of the park by the CCC. Hard Labor Creek is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
STAYING AT HARD LABOR CREEK STATE PARK
There are several overnight options at Hard Labor Creek State Park, including tent camping, RV camping, horse campsites, group camps, and newly-renovated cottages.
The park has 20 cottages that each have two bedrooms and two baths, sleep up to six, and have spacious kitchens and living quarters with new furniture. You’ll also find TVs and a fireplace inside, so you can stay extra cozy.
I especially loved the large front porch with rocking chairs, as well as the large picnic tables, perfect for a game of cards. Outside, you’ll find a fire pit for s’mores!
HARD HABOR CREEK STATE PARK CAMPGROUND RENOVATIONS
The park finished a complete main campground renovation in July 2016. Overnight guests can choose from 51 electric campsites, with water and electrical upgraded on all the sites. Twelve sites also have full hookup sewer services.
We’re more tent campers, so for me, the most important upgrade is the two new comfort stations with full amenities, including a handicapped restroom with a completely flat floor. There are also 11 equestrian camping areas near stalls, 30 stables, and an Equestrian Riding Ring.
HARD LABOR CREEK STATE PARK ACCESSIBILITY
Hard Labor Creek State Park is one of 10 Georgia state parks that offers an All-Terrain Georgia Action Track Chair.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources partnered with the Aimee Copeland Foundation to provide the free, high mobility all-terrain track wheelchair here. The initiative encourages those with mobility impairments to reconnect with nature, and allows them to explore nature trails, go fishing, and more.
The all-terrain track chairs allow Georgians who otherwise might not be able to navigate difficult types of terrain the ability to hit the trails, without worrying about mud, water, sand and snow.
The chairs can be used for hiking, hunting, fishing and other outdoor education and recreational activities. Reservations are required, but usage of the chair is free.
MORE INFORMATION FOR FUN NEAR HARD LABOR STATE PARK
- YOUR GEORGIA VACATION
- GOLF RESORTS: 16 Georgia Golf Resorts Even Non-Golfers Will Love
- SOUTHERN CROSS RANCH: A Genuine Dude Ranch in Georgia
- RIDE ATVs IN GEORGIA: Georgia Off-Road Adventures
- RUTLEDGE, GA: 6 Reasons You MUST Stop in this Delightful Town
- PANOLA MOUNTAIN STATE PARK: 5 Amazing Reasons To Visit Panola Mountain State Park
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