Yurt camping at High Falls State Park in Jackson, Georgia
Yurt camping at High Falls State Park in Jackson, Georgia

Secret Camping Spots at Georgia State Parks

While pitching a tent at one of the Georgia State Parks is a popular activity, the parks still harbor secret camping and glamping spots, and unique accommodations known only to those willing to travel off (or even above) the beaten path. Here are 10 hidden gems you've got to try.

Treetop Bivouac Camping – Panola Mountain State Park

Tree climbing with Field Trips with Sue in Panola Mountain State Park - Photo by Lesli Peterson
Tree climbing with Field Trips with Sue in Panola Mountain State Park - Photo by Lesli Peterson

The adventurous camper can sleep like a log with Panola Mountain State Park’s treetop bivouac camping program, called ZZZ’s in the Trees. Secured by harnesses for the night, campers can safely scale the majestic trees in the park to get to their quarters: canvas “treeboats” (sturdy hammocks) suspended high above the ground. The treeboats are open, not enclosed like a tent, and sway gently in the breeze, providing a relaxing canopy getaway for those comfortable with heights. Reservations for the treetop camping are required and can be made by calling the state park.

Paddle-In Camping – Reed Bingham and High Falls State Park

Reed Bingham State Park

Reed Bingham State Park

Reed Bingham State Park, 20 minutes east of Moultrie offers paddle-in camping on Eagle Island for up to 30 campers. Eagle Island sits in the middle of the park’s 375-acre lake, popular with boaters, fishermen and skiers, and provides privacy from passing boaters. The island is only a 15-minute paddle from the shore, and campers may rent canoes or kayaks or bring their own.

High Falls State Park in Jackson provides paddle-in camping to a secluded peninsula. The paddle-in takes about 30 minutes. The campsite can sleep up to 25 people and comes with five canoes.

Squirrel's Nest Camping – Unicoi State Park

Squirrel's Nest Camping at Unicoi State Park in Helen, Georgia

Squirrel's Nest Camping at Unicoi State Park in Helen, Georgia

Forget bird’s eye view. Campers can have a squirrel’s eye view at Unicoi State Park, just north of Helen. The park’s 16 squirrel’s nest camping shelters feature raised and covered wooden platforms with open sides that allow campers to spend the night side-by-side with the local wildlife. Each nest sleeps four.

The Hike Inn – Amicalola Falls State Park

The Hike Inn at Amicalola Falls
The Hike Inn at Amicalola Falls

A five-mile hike from the top of Amicalola Falls will bring visitors to the 20-guest room Hike Inn. Guests have access to hot showers, but there are no outlets at this backcountry getaway. The Hike Inn serves breakfast and dinner every day in a family-style setting and is perfect for Appalachian Trail hikers or families looking for a wilder kind of vacation.

Paddle-In River Camping and Adirondack Shelters – Chattahoochee Bend State Park

Paddle to a campsite at Chattahoochee Bend State Park in Newnan.

Paddle to a campsite at Chattahoochee Bend State Park in Newnan.

Chattahoochee Bend State Park, near Newnan provides seven paddle-in, riverside campsites for boaters traveling down the Chattahoochee River. The park also offers campers the unique experience of spending the night in a screened Adirondack shelter.

Luxury Cottage Camping – Smithgall Woods State Park

Smithgall Woods

Smithgall Woods

If you have never seen a chandelier in the middle of the woods, stay a night at Smithgall Woods State Park’s Smithgall Cottage. Rustically opulent and built of smooth Montana lodge pole pines, the cottage features immaculately decorated rooms, including a great room with a large stone fireplace, an exercise room, a kitchen, a dining room and four bedrooms (2 Kings; 1 Queen; 1 Double/Double) with private baths. Nestled at the heart of the park, the cottage’s large decks overlook the surrounding bubbling brooks and gorgeous forest scenery.

Suwanee River Eco-Lodge – Stephen C. Foster State Park

Stephen C. Foster State Park

Stephen C. Foster State Park

Run by Stephen C. Foster State Park, the Suwanee River Eco-Lodge in Fargo, consists of 10 cottages and a conference room that can seat up to 100 people. Perfect for hunting or paddling vacations, business meetings, retreats, reunions and weddings, the eco-lodge sits just 18 miles from the beautiful Okefenokee Swamp.

Backcountry Camping – Fort Mountain

Platform camping at Fort Mountain State Park Photo courtesy Georgia State Parks

Platform camping at Fort Mountain State Park Photo courtesy Georgia State Parks

Situated two miles apart from each other deep in the woods outside Chatsworth, Fort Mountain State Park’s four backcountry campsites offer visitors private and secluded campsites. While each campsite comes with a fire ring, visitors must bring all camping gear to these rustic sites. Fort Mountain’s backcountry sites number 3 (called Moonshine) and number 4 (called Rock Creek) offer visitors gorgeous seasonal views looking out over the Chatsworth valley area.

Backpacking is also offered at F.D. Roosevelt, Vogel and some other state parks. Walk-in campsites let campers enjoy more privacy than regular campgrounds, without a very long hike from the car.

Other unique opportunities include:

Yurt at Tugaloo State Park
Yurt at Tugaloo State Park

Yurt "Glamping"

There is no need to pitch a tent when High Falls, Tugaloo, Red Top Mountain, Fort Yargo, Sweetwater Creek and Cloudland Canyon state parks offer the glamorous camping (“glamping”) option of yurts. Made of wood and canvas, yurts sleep up to six people and come with beds, futons, screened windows and locking doors, as well as an outside deck, picnic table and grill/fire ring.

First-Time Camper Program

For those who have never ventured into the woods, six state parks offer loaner gear through the First-Time Camper program. The program's equipment was donated to the parks by Coleman and REI, and first-time adventure seekers can spend two nights in a modern campground with a tent, sleeping pads, chairs, a camp stove, lantern and marshmallow-roasting sticks. Park staff and volunteers can help set up the tents and provide "Camping 101" instructions.

Published: August 2018