Hidden Gems For The Whole Family To Enjoy at Georgia State Parks

Most of the Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites have identified their “hidden gems” – those special attributes, trails or unusual elements that make them special. Some of these are available for anyone to see them (as long as you know what to look for) and others are only available through guided walks at certain times of the year.

Sweetwater Creek GSP hidden gems

Below is a list of the hidden gems for each park.

Metro Atlanta | Northern Georgia | Middle and South Georgia | Coastal Georgia



Metro Atlanta

Panola Mountain (Stockbridge) Cultural History 

You may have heard about Panola Mountain’s unique ecology, but are you ready to discover some of the mountain’s lesser-known history? Join our expert guide to head off trail and explore Panola’s hidden cemeteries, whiskey stills, farming history and more.

Sweetwater Creek (Lithia Springs)

Lake Louise 
Hike to a lovely, small lake in a beautiful yet rugged section of the park.

Mid-19th Century Homestead  
Take a strenuous hike through a beautiful area to the oldest homestead in the park, dating back to before New Manchester Mill operated (1849-1864).

Alexander’s Mill Ruins  
Enjoy a moderately strenuous hike downstream along Sweetwater Creek to the ruins of Alexander’s Mill.

Chattahoochee River 
Hike along part of the four miles of riverside property along the Chattahoochee River.

Beaver Creek, Spillway Area, Upstream Sweetwater Creek 
This hike will visit the lovely confluence of Beaver Creek and Sweetwater Creek and explore upstream on foot.

Land of the Big Birds
Visit by foot and kayak an area that is home to Great Blue Herons, Bald Eagles and Ospreys,

New Perspective on a Class IV+ Rapid 
This strenuous hike will visit the largest of the Sweetwater Creek rapids by hiking the east ridge and then dropping down to the magnificent whitewater.

The “Old Tanyard” 
This hike will visit the “Old Tanyard” located in a very seldom visited area.

Sparks Reservoir Earthen Dam and Surrounding Area 
Kayak and hike around the Sparks Reservoir earthen dam and explore the beautiful area between the dam and Sweetwater Creek.

Angus Ferguson House and Mill Ruins 
This hike will visit the area where beloved “Angus Ferguson” lived for more than 50 years in the 19th century.

Green Building Tour of the Visitor’s Center/Museum 
This park’s Visitor’s Center/Museum is one of the “greenest” buildings in the country. This tour will focus on what makes this a LEED-Platinum building and will also reveal little-known secrets about some exhibits.

New Manchester “Behind the Scenes” 
This tour will focus on the daily life of New Manchester (1849-1864) residents visiting old homesites, wells, etc.

Chattahoochee Bend (Newnan) Eagle Watch 

This is a rare opportunity to see a remarkable bald eagle nest. A ranger will lead a short hike off trail to the viewing area, providing telescopes and binoculars for a closer look.

Hard Labor Creek (Rutledge) CCC Camp SP8 

Discover the remaining structures of one of two Civilian Conservation Corps camps that operated here in the 1930s.


smithgall woods

Northern Georgia

Cloudland Canyon (Rising Fawn)

Trek along Cloudland Canyon State Park’s least used hiking trail, dubbed “Can’t Hardly,” and discover its hidden natural gems on this morning hike. You’ll pass by dense stands of mountain laurel in bloom, rocky stream beds, and more.

Red Top Mountain (Acworth) Iron Hill Trail

Iron Hill has a rich history, much of which is unknown to the public. Until now, the trail that leads to the center of the old Iron Mine has been undisclosed and not well known to the public. This is a rare opportunity to see what remains of the once-booming iron industry, and stand inside the mouth of the mine. The area has many untold stories. Search for signs of the eleven different iron furnaces, old home sites, and the old campground. See areas of shifting fault lines, find treasures along the lake shore. This is not a hike to be missed!

Dahlonega Gold Museum (Dahlonega) Gold in Bricks 

See locally made bricks of the building that contain trace amounts of gold.

Hardman Farm (Sautee) Magneto Phone 

The phone, displayed in the dining room, reveals the use of the Hardman House from 1927–1931 when it was Gov. Hardman’s summer mansion and he had to be reached from Atlanta.

Traveler’s Rest (Toccoa) Post Office & Gold

Take a ranger-led tour to dscover the old post office and hidden compartment where Mr. Jarrett used to hide his gold.

Unicoi (Helen) Quartz and Mica on the Lake Trail

Unicoi State Park rests on a fault line. Take a guided hike to explore the Lake Trail where a large formation containing mica (fool’s gold) and quartz can be seen, showing the fault line.

Victoria Bryant (Royston) Beaver Pond Overlook

The Beaver Pond Overlook sits on the edge of a small pond just off the Broad River Loop Trail. This pond serves as a perfect habitat for numerous species including beaver, ducks and heron, as well as numerous amphibians and reptiles.

Vogel (Blairsville) Byron Herbert Reese Homestead

Learn about local author Byron Herbet Reese, whose actual homestead is now where Vogel’s Lake Trahlyta was created.

Moccasin Creek (Clarkesville) Old CCC Camp 

Explore an old 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps camp located within walking distance of the park.

Don Carter (Gainesville) Lady Slippers 

Take a hike with a ranger to look for Pink Lady Slippers and talk out about their role in the forest, as well as their traditional uses.

Elijah Clark (Lincolnton) Elijah Clark 

Who was Elijah Clark and what was his role in Georgia history? Learn about Clark’s role in keeping Georgia part of the U.S., his battles, and homelife, including tours of his reconstructed house and gravesite.

Etowah Indian Mounds (Cartersville) Perimeter Trail 

The perimeter trail offers a true sense of how big the Native American Village was and allows guests a perspective of the mounds which become more noticeable from different angles. The ancient mounds are not just square or rectangle, but much more complicated and well planned.

Fort Mountain (Chatsworth) Scenic Overlook & Hidden Waterfall Hike

Hike along the 301 Mountain Bike Trail to see a beautiful view of the Cohutta Mountains and western valley. The overlook was naturally formed by high winds from a storm    system. Then, access a hidden waterfall by hiking the 301 Mountain Bike Trail to the 407 Horse Trail. This strenuous hike is approximately 6 miles.

Ft. Yargo (Winder) Turtle Creek Bike Trail 

Experience the art of riding Fort Yargo’s bike trails with a naturalist-led 1-mile ride on the Turtle Creek Bike Trail.

James H Floyd (Summerville) Mining Industry History

Take a ranger-led hike to the Marble Mine and learn about the mining operation that used to call this area home.

Richard B. Russell (Elberton) Forgotten History

Our popular disc golf course is home to ruins of past homesteads that visitors easily overlook. A natualist-led hike will replay how families lived in the 19th century. A demonstration garden is also planned for the site.

Watson Mill Bridge (Comer) Power House Ruins

See how power was generated at the turn of the century.

Rocky Mountain Fishing Area (Rome) Pump Storage Power Plant

Take a hike to the lower overlook to learn how a pump storage hydorelectric plant operates.

Tallulah Gorge (Tallulah Falls)

A series of 12 hidden gems events will will take place at Tallulah Gorge in 2016. Each month will offer a unique event ranging from easy hikes to strenuous ones to paddling on a lake. Please sign up in advance for the events.

Railroad Bed
People hike the paved part of the old railroad bed all the time, but few people hike the unpaved part of the trail. This trek will take visitors on the unpaved part out to Highway 441.

Jail House
Very few people use the trail that goes past the old jail house. This trail has lots of wildflowers and other interesting plants and history.

Persistent Trillium
Take a ranger-led hike to see the Persistent Trillium, an endangered species.

Needle’s Eye
This will be a strenuous hike that includes getting on rope to access part of the old trail system that went through the “Needle’s Eye.”

Tugaloo Lake
Few people get the opportunity to paddle this remote lake.

Gorge Floor Cave
The gorge floor has a small cave that is easily missed unless you know where to look.

Tallulah Lake Waterfalls
There are two waterfalls coming into Tallulah lake that can be found by boat. This paddle will give guests the opportunity to see those waterfalls.

Witch’s Head
The Witch’s Head is a rock formation off the beaten trail and can only be accessed by a guided hike.

North Rim of the Gorge
Go off the beaten trail to see beautiful views of the gorge that few people know about.

Dam, Power House & Cable Car
This is a very strenuous hike going across the dam and hiking on the gorge floor to the power plant where guests get to ride out the cable car.

Point Rock
This hike to Tallulah Lake features a rock where many vacationers’ photos were taken in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Secret Sunset Spot
We’ll show visitors the best spot in the park to watch sunset.

Tugaloo (Lavonia) Tugaloo’s Moonshine

Guests will learn about the life of early settlers who once lived at what is now Tugaloo State Park. Hike near unique remnants of old moonshine stills and see evidence of an old homeplace in the park.

New Echota (Calhoun) New Town Creek Trail & Cherokee Research Library

Experience the “natural side” of New Echota with a hike along the Beaver Pond Trail and New Town Creek Trail — great for birding, walking or running. Also, check out the Cherokee Research Library for history and genealogy.

Amicalola Falls (Dawsonville) Moonshine Truck

Find the blue tanker truck that is a reminder of the Prohibition Era moonshine runners. It is “hidden” along the trail leading to the beautiful cascading waterfall. While drivers were racing to get away from the “Revenuers,” the truck slipped 200 feet down the steep incline to rest against a stand of Poplar trees. There was no way to pull the truck from its position, so there it has remained for well over a half-century.

Black Rock Mountain (Mountain City) Greasy Creek Falls 

Discover a beautiful waterfall not listed on the park’s trail map.

Chief Vann House (Chatsworth) Burn on the Staircase & Fall into Quilts

Guests can see the scar that occurred when the Georgia militia tried to smoke Cherokee Indian Joseph Vann from his home in 1835. In October and November, see the oldest known slave-made quilt in Georgia.

Smithgall Woods (Helen) Honey Bee Hives (Apiaries) 

Most guests hike our nearby Visitor Center Trail along Dukes Creek or into the woods and hills along the Laurel Ridge Trail. However, by hiking a little further along Tsalaki Trail, guests may see a working apiary. Honey from these beehives is also for sale inside the Visitor Center.


high falls

Middle and South Georgia

AH Stephens (Crawfordville) CCC Fire/Water Tower

Explore the Civilian Conservation Corps Tower and learn about its history and the role it played in protecting the local counties.

Ga Veterans (Cordele) B-29 Superfortress Plane

The Boeing B-29A Superfortress was flown primarily by the United States during World War II and the Korean War. It was one of the largest aircraft operational during World War II and very advanced for its time. The B-29 production total was 3,970 aircraft. Only 22 B-29s are preserved at museums worldwide and Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park is proud to feature one.

Providence Canyon (Lumpkin) Providence Language 

This unusual park lies on marine sediments with loamy sand topsoils. Nankin, cowarts, mobila and orangeburg are the most prominent soils specific to Coastal Plains. Join a naturalist-led hike to learn about our unique geography.

Roosevelt’s Little White House (Warm Springs) The Mayflower

President Franklin D. Roosevelt liked model ships. See a small replica of the Mayflower in his den, carved from the original ship’s timber which sailed in 1620.

SAM Shortline (Cordele) Thronateeska River

Ride the train as it crosses a tressle over Lake Blackshear, formed by the damming the Flint River. This was called “Thronateeska” by the Creek Indians more than 300 years ago.

Hamburg (Mitchell) 1920s Grist Mill 

Join a ranger-led tour of the grist mill where you’ll learn about its operation and role in local commerce.

High Falls (Jackson) Rocks of High Falls 

Travel back in time with published geologist Bill Witherspoon and learn about the unique rock features that can be found only at High Falls State Park.

Indian Springs (Flovilla) Oldest State Park in Georgia

Hear a brief history of the Georgia State Park system focusing on the creation and evolution of Indian Springs State Park, thought to be one of the oldest state parks in the nation.

Jarrell Plantation (Juliete) Jarrell 1920 House

The 1920 house is still owned by the Jarrell family, who have since converted the 10-bedroom house into a bed and breakfast. Everyday site visitors are only able to see the outside of the house, so this will be an exclusive opportunity to tour the inside as well as meet the descendants of Benjamin Richard Jarrell.

George L. Smith (Twin City) Gopher Tortoise Habitat

Find excellent examples of gopher tortoise habitat and see the effects of prescribed burning for habitat enhancement. The burrowing gopher tortoise is Georgia’s state reptile.

Mistletoe (Appling) Silky Camellia 

Use geocaching skills to locate the Silky Camellia and other attractions along the Cliatt Creek Trail.

FDR (Pine Mountain) CCC Liberty Bell Pool 

This unique, 533,000-gallon, Civilian Conservation Corp-built pool is fed by nearby Kings Gap Spring. Guests can swim, visit with local historians, and search for hidden clues within the rocks.

Florence Marina (Omaha) City of Florence 

What does an English port, newspaper and natural disaster have in common? Florence Marina State Park invites you to join our City of Florence guided hike to find out.

General Coffee (Nicholls) Sherdly Noticeable 

Use a set of clues posted on the park’s Facebook page to find hidden, hand-made by rangers, one-of-a-kind pottery pieces hidden throughout the park. One piece will be hidden each week in June and July 2016, possibly August as well. Pottery designs will showcase the Native American history of the area.

Little Ocmulgee (Helena) Boardwalk to Cyprus Swamp 

See waterfowl and alligators.

Magnolia Springs (Millen) Lime Sinks off Lime Sink Trail 

Join a ranger to go “off trail” to get closer to the sinkholes located off of the Lime Sink Trail.

Reed Bingham (Adel) Vulture Venues 

Guests will be taken to an area of our Little River Trail where they can sometimes see more than 100 vultures.

Seminole (Donalsonville) Old Hunting & Fishing Camp 

Walk through the ruins of an old hunting and fishing camp.


fort king george

Coastal Georgia

Crooked River (St Mary’s) Shell Middens; Rare Plants & Fungus 

Walk the low-country Sempervirens Trail to learn about shell middens and their unique ecosystem where guests can find rare plants and fungus.

Fort King George (Darien) Spanish Mission Property 

Explore recently acquired neighboring property thought to be where part of the 1575 Spanish Mission Santo Domingo de Talaje once stood.

Fort Morris (Midway) Scenic Vista of St. Catherine’s Sound

Hike around the fort to a grand vista over the River Medway to St. Catherine’s Sound. This scenic coastal spot is a view that has seen little change in hundreds of years.

Fort McAllister (Richmond Hill) Freshwater Sloughs 

Enjoy a hike to fantastic freshwater sloughs (swamps) that dot the maritime forests.

Laura Walker (Waycross) Cattle Egret Rookery

Discover where the cattle egret builds its nest and raises its young.

Skidaway Island (Savannah) Living Shoreline 

Hike along the Sandpiper Trail and learn how the NOAA’s Living Shoreline project helps our ecosystem.

Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation (Brunswick) Old Rice Fields 

Discover how today’s marshland was once the highly cultivated basis of a coastal agricultural empire.

Gordonia-Alatamaha (Reidsville) Pitcher Plant Bog Habitat 

Did you know some plants eat bugs? Take guided tours to see an endangered plant species and pitcher plant bog. Spring and early summer are best times to view carnivorous pitcher plants.

Stephen C Foster (Fargo) Hidden Pond 

Bike to a pond near the mysterious Okefenokee Swamp that usually only park rangers see.

Reynolds Mansion (Salep Island) Chocolate Plantation & Shell Ring 

Take an exclusive day trip to the north end of Sapelo Island to tour the ruins of Chocolate Plantation and see ancient Native American shell rings dating back more than 4,500 years. Chocolate was once a prosperous antebellum Sea Island cotton plantation. The name “Chocolate” derives from the old Guale Indian village on Sapelo named Chucalate.

Wormsloe (Savannah)Great Savannah Race Embankments

Learn about The Great Savannah Races of 1908-1911 (the first Grand Prix) and the race embankment that still remains on Wormsloe property.