5 AMAZING REASONS TO VISIT PANOLA MOUNTAIN STATE PARK (+ 10 MORE NEARBY ADVENTURES)

Panola Mountain State Park in Stockbridge, GA is a must-visit. Not only will you find the 100-acre granite monadnock here, but you’ll also find bike paths, two lakes, hiking trails, ranger-led hikes, tree climbing adventures, archery classes, and more.

Panola Mountain was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1980, due to its ecological features. A visit here will feel like you’re worlds away from Atlanta — but you’re really not. You’re only 15 minutes away!

Ready to learn more about this amazing Georgia state park? Here are 5 amazing reasons to visit Panola Mountain State Park, plus 10 more adventures that you’ll find nearby!

5 AMAZING REASONS TO VISIT PANOLA MOUNTAIN STATE PARK (+ 10 MORE NEARBY ADVENTURES)
Courtesy of Panola Mountain State Park

PANOLA MOUNTAIN STATE PARK ADVENTURES

Panola Mountain State Park is the crown jewel of the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, one of only three National Heritage Areas in the state.

Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area is a partnership among the state of Georgia, the surrounding counties, the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, and other communities as well.

With bike paths, hiking trails, picnic shelters, a playground, archery, geocaching, orienteering, birding and tree-climbing programs — there is plenty to see and do here.

PANOLA MOUNTAIN

Panola Mountain is the centerpiece of the state park. The mountain is a 100-acre granite outcrop — similar to Stone Mountain. Panola Mountain is smaller and more pristine than Stone Mountain — because unlike Stone Mountain or Arabia Mountain, Panola Mountain has never been quarried. It remains a restricted area and is closed to the general public.

Throughout the year, Panola hosts ranger-led hikes that will take you to the mountain and give you a closer look at the ecology and the amazing plants who make their home in the harsh environment. You can see the outcrop and its unique ecosystem just as Native Americans did long ago. Advance registration is required.

If you just want to see the mountain, you can catch glimpses of it from the easy 0.75-mile Rock Outcrop Trail, located just behind the Visitor Center. There’s also a viewing platform located just off the PATH Trail (more below), which gives an awesome view of Panola Mountain.

ARCHERY AT PANOLA MOUNTAIN STATE PARK

Panola Mountain State Park is known for its awesome archery ranges. Here you will find 12 Lane Bow Butt Targets and a 3-D Trail. The ranges are open from 7 a.m. to sunset, and daily passes can either be purchased from the Nature Center (open 8 a.m.-5 p.m.) or from the brown Iron Ranger at the start of the trail to the static range where passes can be purchased with cash only. (The brown Iron Ranger is the same sort green box you sometimes see for Park Passes.)

The daily archery range passes are $10 for adults 18+ and $5 for kids. Panola Mountain State Park also offers annual passes, that are $100 for adults and $50 for children.

The state park doesn’t provide rental equipment for the ranges, so you must bring your own.

If you’re looking to learn about archery — Panola Mountain State Park offers lessons and classes for beginners. No experience is necessary to take one of their classes, which are normally offered on the 2nd and 4th weekends of the month. For ages 8+, the cost is $15/person and equipment is provided.

When you go, be sure to make a reservation prior to heading out — the classes are popular and large groups can fill a class quickly. You are welcome to bring your own archery equipment, but it’s not necessary as they have impressive and colorful compound bows for visitors to use.

TREE CLIMBING AT PANOLA MOUNTAIN STATE PARK

Who loved climbing trees when they were a kid? I sure did. On a return trip to Panola Mountain State Park, I had the chance to relive those moments by climbing Naomi Ruth, the park’s beloved Southern Red Oak during an introductory tree climbing class. This amazing tree tops out at 100 feet!

With helmet on and harness fastened, the instructors walked myself and others through the process of inching up the ropes, which were already hanging from the tree. I must admit that it took a little getting used to, but there was crazy satisfaction making my way up, up, up into the canopy.

Tree Climbing at Panola Mountain is a must-do activity, and there are several types of climbs they offer. Keep in mind that participants for this activity must be 8 years old and up, and extra fees apply.

  • Introduction Climbs: These fun climbs are held once a month on a Saturday from 1-4 p.m. They offer two sessions — one at 1 p.m. and one at 3 p.m., and you’ll need to arrive 30 minutes before your climbing session begins. These are mostly held at Panola Mountain State Park, unless otherwise stated. Advance registration is required.
  • Group Event Climbs: These are great for birthday parties, scout trips, church groups, field trips and more. These are suitable for all ages and abilities. A group contact request form is required.
  • Night Climbs: Experience fluorescent lichen, nocturnal critters, unbelievable stargazing and more when you participate in a Night Climb! You may even see a barred owl!
  • Wild Climbs: These are for those who like their fun off the beaten path. Climbers will leave established climbing groves and strike off to the unknown backcountry to access wild trees of the forest or swamp. This allows climbers excellent opportunities to expand their wilderness experience, and gives naturalists access to the arboreal canopy for exploration and research.

For special-needs climbers, call the nature center at Panola Park and they can arrange canopy assistance…there is no reason any kiddo (or adult) should miss out on the excitement of climbing trees!

Check the Panola Mountain State Park event calendar for the next tree climbing dates!

BIKING AT PANOLA MOUNTAIN STATE PARK

Riding your bike at Panola Mountain State Park is amazing. There are 7 miles of paved trail in the park, part of the larger 35 mile + paved PATH Trail.

You can take the PATH Trail over the South River and to Vaughters Farm, which is also a part of Panola Mountain State Park. The farm features a barn, which showcases DeKalb County’s farming past. This barn and the surrounding meadow is a perfect picture-taking spot.

On our first visit to Panola Mountain, we brought along bikes and did the lake loop a few times. If we had more time, I would have liked to take the path to Arabia Mountain, but we decided to save that for another day.

This park is part of the Georgia State Parks Muddy Spokes program. And if you don’t have a bike, Panola Mountain State Park rents bikes too, from 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

HIKING, BOULDERING, & FISHING AT PANOLA MOUNTAIN STATE PARK

In addition to everything we’ve mentioned, there’s still more to do at Panola Mountain State Park. Interested in fishing? This state park has two fishing lakes, including Alexander Lake. Fish in the lake include largemouth bass, channel catfish, and bluegill/bream.  Non-motorized boats are allowed.

Bouldering is also a popular activity at Panola Mountain State Park. You must register at the Nature Center to get a free permit before heading out and supply your own crash mats.

Hiking is a great way to explore the park and see everything it has to offer. Located in the Conservation Area of the park (the same space you’ll find the Nature Center, picnic shelters, playground, and meeting room), you’ll find some great and easy hiking trails. We already mentioned the Outcrop Trail, but the Watershed Trail is another great one to explore.

The 1.75-mile Watershed Trail skirts two branches of a small creek draining the Piedmont region uplands. It’s an easy, family-friendly trail located near the Visitor Center.

MORE HIKING TRAILS NEARBY

If you’re looking for more hiking trails nearby, Henry County offers some great ones. Here are a few of our favorites!

  • Reeves Creek Trail at Memorial Park. Dogs and bikes are welcome at Memorial Park in Stockbridge, which features three miles of trails. There are two trailheads with parking – one at Memorial Park and one at Flippen Road. I suggest the Flippen Road entrance where you’ll find exercise equipment, as well as a Little Free Library.
  • Village Park at North Henry. This 34-acre destination park opened in 2017 and has been a popular Henry County destination since. There is a 1.1-mile walking/jogging trail, playground, a splash pad for the kids, and fitness equipment for adults. Catch a game at one of the two multipurpose sports fields or get your own going on the event lawn. Pets are not allowed.
  • Clark Community Park. This Stockbridge city park has paved walking trails perfect for strollers, plus a playground, picnic areas, and dog park. FYI – the dogs are not allowed on the trails, just in the dog park.
  • Bud Kelley Park. Bud Kelley Park in McDonough is a 124-acre park that has a playground and fitness area, in addition to two miles of paved trails. Your pets are welcome, and the playground area has restrooms.
  • Nash Farm Park. Nash Farm Park in Hampton is a 204-acre park that was the site of one of the largest Cavalry raids in Georgia’s history. Learn about the park’s past from historic markers along the walking trails.
  • Heritage Park. In addition to almost a mile of paved walking trails, Heritage Park in McDonough is a 129-acre park that has not one, but two playgrounds, a community garden and something very special.

    The Heritage Park Veterans Museum is a hidden gem.  The museum is free and has memorabilia from WWI to the present and guided tours led by veterans. The veterans are what make this extra special. There is also a Veterans Wall of Honor outside the museum.

MORE HENRY COUNTY ADVENTURES

Looking for even more to do while you’re in the area? We’ve got some more Henry County adventures you don’t want to miss!

  • Visit the animals at Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary. Located in Locust Grove, Noah’s Ark is a sanctuary for both exotic animals and farm animals. They’ve got 1,500 animals, and offer tours most of their animal habitat most afternoons. They also have a Welcome Center, playground, and picnic area.
  • Explore the trails at the Cubihatcha Outdoor Center. Explore 10 miles of trails set between two beautiful reservoirs at Cubihatcha Outdoor Center in Locust Grove. Take a self-guided tour to view the diverse habitats, or book a walk led by staff naturalists. Note that the trails here are only open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Enjoy BMX fun at Sandy Ridge Park. My boys LOVE the BMX tracks around the state, and this one at Sandy Creek Park in McDonough is great. These parks are open to the public and a lot of fun for all ages, as it’s challenging to a new rider to just get around the course, while an experienced rider will likely try to ‘get air’ as they go around. In addition to the BMX track, there are two playgrounds and a paved trail.

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