Get away from the daily grind of everyday life and cut loose on a day trip to some of the breathtaking National Parks in Georgia. Day tripping is a fun way to explore this beautiful state. Georgia is full of amazing things to see and do, and it boasts some of the country’s best hiking trails. To help you decide how to spend your day trip, here is a guide to exploring Georgia’s national parks this summer.
Where to Go
Paces Mill, Chattahoochee National Park
For day trippers interested in exploring both Georgia’s natural beauty as well as enjoying Atlanta’s cultural offerings, there are some amazing hiking trails to experience within the city’s perimeter, one of which is the trail to Paces Mill in the Chattahoochee National Park.
At only 3.6 miles round trip, this is a great trail for casual hikers since it is paved and doesn’t have a very steep incline. The trail is incredibly scenic and provides an excellent opportunity to spot some wildlife.
East Palisades Trail, Chattahoochee National Park
For incredible sharp rock formations, sandy shores, and spectacular river views, you can’t miss the East Palisades Trail. This trail is fantastic for hikers, runners, and kayakers. For serious adventure, bring along your kayak and ride the Class 1 and 2 whitewater rapids. Or follow the Chattahoochee River and then hike up to the bluffs for stunning views. The trail spans four miles and offers a rollercoaster of elevation and descent.
Tray Mountain, Chattahoochee National Park
Georgia is home to a significant stretch of the Appalachian Trail. Every year, thousands of intrepid explorers hike the famously grueling trail to test their endurance. While this is not an event you can complete in a day, you can experience a small portion of the trail beginning at the Indian Grave Gap and continuing up Tray Mountain.
This hike is not for the faint hearted, so be prepared for a steep ascent and some rough terrain. However, once you reach the summit of Tray Mountain, you will be rewarded with stunning views of some of Georgia’s classic scenery.
Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Trail, Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield National Park
Not only does Georgia boast incredible natural beauty, but it is also the location of some fantastic historical sites. Civil War enthusiasts will appreciate the park’s historical monument, ruins, earthworks, and the cannon. The 11-mile round trip passes through the battlefields at Pigeon Hill and Cheatham Hill and through a 1930s CCC camp.
Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga National Military Park
Another brilliant trail steeped in history sits on the border of Georgia and Tennessee in Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park. The trail along Lookout Mountain takes hikers through the site of the Cherokee Battle and the Battle of Lookout Mountain during the Civil War. You can also brush up on your history before you depart at the Ochs Observatory and Museum.
The ridge of the mountain spans three states and gives you stunning views of downtown Chattanooga and the Tennessee River.
What to Bring
Day tripping means packing light, so only the bare necessities should go in your backpack. That said, there are some important hiking essentials you will need to pack for a comfortable hike along the trails in Georgia’s national parks during the summer.
This item is number one on the list for a reason. Nothing ruins a trip faster than bug bites and the continuous, unbearable itching that follows. So, before you head out, spritz on a heavy-duty bug repellent and pack extra to reapply.
Apply plenty of sunscreen at least 20 minutes before you head outdoors. Make sure it is a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least a 30+ UV rating.
Water and Snacks
Hiking Georgia’s mountainous trails can be a strenuous experience, so it is important to pack snacks and water to replenish your energy. Trail mix, granola bars, and fruits like apples and bananas make great instant energy snacks. In addition to your water bottle, pack a small, portable filter to allow you to refill your bottles at any natural water source along the trail.
First Aid Kit
Rough terrain, slippery rocks, and poisonous plants and animals mean accidents can happen along the trail, even to the most experienced hikers. A first aid kit ensures you can patch up yourself (or someone else) until you locate help.
An Extra Pair of Clothes
Many of the trails through the National Parks have astounding rivers and lakes running through them and, depending on when you plan your day trip, you may also come across some itinerant weather. So, it is always a good idea to have a spare set of clothes in your pack, as well as some bags to put in any gear that gets wet.
Though most of the trails are carefully marked to avoid hikers becoming lost and disoriented, you should always have a compass and map of the area in your pack, as well as some general knowledge about how to find natural markers that indicate the way back to the path. For more dedicated hikers, you could also pack a GPS that can work offline.
Georgia’s national parks are a treasure to be enjoyed by everyone, so it is important to leave the trails as pristine as possible. A good rule of thumb to abide by is “leave no trace.” That is, ensure you take any trash with you to dispose of at the proper facilities, don’t remove any flora or fauna from the trail, and try not to disturb the natural environment.
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Article Written By: Shannon Morrison