Trip Ideas

Georgia Outdoor Bucket List

From the Little Grand Canyon to the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast, experience 11 of Georgia’s most stunning natural attractions.

  • Driftwood Beach

    Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island will amaze you with the beautiful driftwood and trees that resemble a tree graveyard.

    Robert Rainbow via Flickr
  • Hike the Appalachian Trail on Blood Mountain

    Even if hiking the entire Appalachian Trail isn’t on your bucket list, you can always say you experienced a bite-sized portion of it. A 2.5-mile hike on Blood Mountain Trail takes you from Neels Gap to the mountain’s 4,458-foot summit, the highest point in Georgia on the Appalachian Trail. This is not for the faint of heart, as the climb is pretty steep (you’ll gain about 1,350 feet — most of it during the last mile) and requires navigating around rocks and boulders. The views of the surrounding mountains, though, make it worth the effort. Before or after the trek, make sure to peruse the wares at Mountain Crossings, which is full of hiking treasures.
  • Go camping at Cloudland Canyon

    One visit here and you’ll understand why it’s widely considered one of the best places to camp in the state. Cloudland Canyon State Park, positioned on the western point of Lookout Mountain in Rising Fawn, has something for everyone. Take your pick from 72 campsites, 10 yurts (circular tents), 16 family-friendly cottages, and 13 backcountry campsites (for the real outdoorsy types). As for activities, there are 30 miles of mountain-biking trails, several hiking loops of varying lengths and difficulties (be sure to explore the two-mile Waterfalls Trail), guided caving excursions and picnic shelters. Then there are the extraordinary views — watching the sunset here is a must.
  • Hike a monadnock at Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area

    Located just east of Atlanta, Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, a National Natural Landmark, took 400 million years to form. Hike its granite monadnocks, which are isolated and exposed rock hills only found in a handful of places. There are also more than 30 miles of paved multiuse trails open to cyclists and pedestrians (the Arabia Mountain PATH) that take you past 21 historic sites and vistas. Don’t miss the Flat Rock Archives (open to the public on Tuesdays), a museum dedicated to the slaves and their descendants who maintained this community for approximately 150 years.
  • Watch the sunrise on Driftwood Beach

    This stunning beach on the north end of Jekyll Island looks like an artist set up wooden installations across its sandy shores. The only artist here, though, is Mother Nature. One of three main beaches on the island, Driftwood Beach gets its name from the large pieces of driftwood and tree skeletons scattered across the sand due to erosion on the northern shoreline. It’s peaceful here, not overrun by tourists, and perfect for kicking back with a book, horseback riding, or simply gazing across the St. Simons Sound.
  • Hike through Georgia's Little Grand Canyon

    Georgia’s "Little Grand Canyon" looks similar to its much larger Arizonian counterpart, with gorgeous red- and orange-hued cliffs — but it wasn’t formed in the same natural way. Providence Canyon Outdoor Recreation Area in Lumpkin resulted from poor farming techniques used during the 1800s, which left furrows from plows in the soft soil that turned into the deep 150-foot gullies of today. Still, it sure is a sight for your camera lenses. Hike along three miles of trails through the canyon; if you go in July or August, look out for the pretty plumleaf azalea in bloom — the flower is exclusive to this region.
  • Paddle the Okefenokee Swamp

    Swamp tour time! The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, spanning 628 square miles, offers entertainment and education for the whole family. Ogle American alligators, migratory birds and several species of bats as you explore the Okefenokee Swamp by kayak, canoe or swamp boat. The roughly 8,000-year-old swamp is considered the headwaters of the Suwanee and St. Marys Rivers and is world-renowned for its amphibian populations. The best times for alligator sightings are the spring and summer, when you most likely will get an up-close-and-personal look at the 14- to 19-foot creatures that can weigh as much as 500 pounds. You’ll also learn about the more than 600 plant species that have been identified in the Okefenokee Swamp, designated by the Ramsar Convention as a Wetland of International Importance.
  • Climb the stairs at Amicalola Falls

    Georgia is home to the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast: Amicalola Falls. It towers 729 feet above Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville and is accessible via easy walking paths or a more challenging hiking trail with staircases. When you make it to the top, enjoy a picnic while you take in the sounds and scene of rushing water. For more adventurous hikers, make reservations to spend the night five miles away at Len Foote Hike Inn, a backcountry lodge accessible only by foot. 
  • Wade in the water at Indian Springs

    Right smack in the middle of Georgia (in Flovilla) sits the 528-acre Indian Springs State Park, one of the oldest state parks in the country. A main attraction here is the water — a great way to cool off during a hot Southern summer. Wade in Big Sandy Creek or swim in Chief McIntosh Lake, or rent a rowboat and enjoy a waterfront picnic. Creek Indians believed the spring water had healing qualities, and you can still sample its flow inside the stone Spring House. Done with the water? Hit up the bike paths, nature trails, or miniature golf, or pitch a tent in one of the 60 roomy campsites.
  • Birdwatch on the Altamaha River

    Pack your binoculars and long-lensed camera for the bird-viewing mecca that is the Altamaha River. Spanning more than 100 miles, the scenic river is formed by the merging of the Ocmulgee and Oconee Rivers and borders 11 different counties in southeast Georgia. Hop in on the action within any of these counties, and look out for bald eagles, great horned owls, ruby-throated hummingbirds, swallow-tailed kites, red-cockaded woodpeckers and hundreds of other types of birds. See them as you hike the trails, or hire a local outfitter to guide you on a paddling trip or fishing tour of the area.
  • Tour Heggie's Rock

    This 130-acre granite outcrop in Appling is like nothing you’ve seen before. The rocky landscape, which looms 70 feet overhead, showcases exposed granite, moss- and lichen-covered rocks, soil islands, and dish gardens (shallow pools) that support rare and unusual plants. Heggie’s Rock was made a National Natural Landmark in 1980 and is now only open to visitors via a Nature Conservancy–guided tour, as they work to protect it from erosion and monitor its rare plants.
  • Explore the ruins at Radium Springs

    Creek Indians are said to have fished in the clear, fresh waters of Radium Springs in Albany. Later, it became one of Georgia’s most popular resort areas and gained its name when traces of naturally occurring radium — extremely uncommon — were found in the water. You can no longer swim in the state’s largest natural spring, but it’s now a historical site accompanied by a botanical garden. Experience a day of strolling through its beautiful gardens, sitting in one of the gazebos, and exploring the ruins of the former resort and 1920s casino. 

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