Smithgall Woods State Park in Helen, Georgia. Photo by @howardpartyof5

Smithgall Woods State Park in Helen, Georgia. Photo by @howardpartyof5

10 Georgia State Parks for Fall Color

Head to these 10 parks for stunning scenery during #GaLeafWatch!

Rich reds, vibrant oranges and golden yellows make autumn color in Georgia beautiful. This fall, be sure to visit Georgia's top 10 state parks for leaf watching. For quieter getaways, visitors can explore more hidden gems, which offer pretty autumn color, as well.

Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville, Georgia. Photo by Geoff L. Johnson

Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville

Just an hour north of Atlanta you’ll find the Southeast’s tallest cascading waterfall at Amicalola Falls State Park. The falls can be enjoyed from both easy and difficult trails. A short, flat path leads to a boardwalk offering the most spectacular views. There's also an easy-to-reach overlook at the top. For a tougher challenge, start from the bottom of the falls and hike up the steep staircase. Amicalola Falls gets very busy on pretty October weekends. Pumpkin farms and apple orchards are nearby in Dawsonville and Ellijay.

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Black Rock Mountain State Park in Clayton, Georgia

Black Rock Mountain State Park near Clayton

At an altitude of 3,640 feet, Black Rock Mountain is Georgia’s highest state park. Roadside overlooks and the summit Visitor Center offer sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Clayton. The 2.2-mile Tennessee Rock Trail is a good choice for a short, moderate hike. For an all-day challenge, take the 7.2-mile James E. Edmonds Backcountry Trail. If driving Hwy. 441 north to the park, stop by Tallulah Gorge State Park and quirky Goats on the Roof.

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Cloudland Canyon State Park in Rising Fawn, Georgia. Photo by @apharis

Cloudland Canyon State Park near Chattanooga

Photo by @apharis

One of Georgia’s most beautiful parks, Cloudland Canyon offers easy-to-reach rim overlooks and challenging hiking trails. A favorite hike takes you down a long, steep staircase to the bottom of the canyon, where you'll find two waterfalls. (Remember, you have to hike back up, but it’s worth it.) The 5-mile West Rim Loop is moderately difficult and offers great views of the canyon. “Glamping” yurts are located off this trail.

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Camping at F.D. Roosevelt State Park in Pine Mountain, Georgia. Photo by @boneal110

F.D. Roosevelt State Park in Pine Mountain

Photo by @boneal110

Many people are surprised to find hardwood forests and rolling mountains south of Atlanta. At F.D. Roosevelt State Park, the 6.7-mile Wolf Den Loop is a favorite section of the longer Pine Mountain Trail. For a touch of history, drive to Dowdell’s Knob to see a life-size bronze sculpture of President F.D. Roosevelt and great views of the forested valley. Ga. Hwy. 190 is a pretty driving route in Pine Mountain.

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Fort Mountain State Park. Photo by Handel Estivene, @handel.estivene

Fort Mountain State Park in Chatsworth

Photo by @handel.estivene

Fort Mountain State Park is best known for a mysterious rock wall along the mountain top, plus a variety of trails. For the easiest walk, take the 1.2-mile loop around the park’s pretty, green lake. For a challenging, all-day hike, choose the 8-mile Gahuti Trail. Mountain bikers have more than 14 miles to explore. Hwy. 52 in Chatsworth has beautiful mountain scenery and overlooks worth stopping for.

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Moccasin Creek

Moccasin Creek State Park on Lake Burton

Georgia’s smallest state park sits on the shore of gorgeous deep-green Lake Burton in Clarkesville. At Moccasin Creek State Park, guests can choose from the 2-mile Hemlock Falls Trail or 1-mile Non-Game Trail with a wildlife observation tower. Hwy. 197 is a particularly pretty road, passing Mark of the Potter and other popular attractions.

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Smithgall Woods State Park in Helen, Georgia

Smithgall Woods State Park in Helen

Protecting more than 6,000 acres around Dukes Creek, Smithgall Woods State Park is the perfect spot for fly fishing while enjoying fall color. Day visitors can picnic near the creek, and overnight guests can hike a private trail to Dukes Creek Falls. A 1.6-mile loop climbs to Laurel Ridge and provides a view of Mt. Yonah once most leaves are off the trees. This park is near many wineries and Helen’s Bavarian-style downtown.

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Tallulah Gorge State Park in Tallulah Falls, Georgia. Photo by @ruruhappylife

Tallulah Gorge State Park near Clayton

 Photo by @ruruhappylife

Tallulah Gorge is one of the most spectacular canyons in the Southeast, and you can choose from easy or difficult trails. Hike along the rim to several overlooks with waterfall views, or get a permit from the park office to trek all the way to the bottom. During November, you can watch expert kayakers as they enjoy the bi-annual “whitewater releases.” Be sure to see the park’s film because it includes heart-racing footage of kayakers and news clips from Wallenda’s famous tightrope walk across the gorge.

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Unicoi State Park in Helen, Georgia, in the fall

Unicoi State Park – Helen

Hike a pretty 3-mile trail that leads from Unicoi State Park into downtown Helen. You can enjoy lunch and window shopping before hiking back to the trailhead. Mountain bikers can zip past fall color on the park’s challenging 7.5-mile bike loop. If you’re up for a steep hike, take the 4.8-mile Smith Creek Trail up to Anna Ruby Falls. (To avoid having to hike back, leave a second car at the falls.)

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View of Blood Mountain from Vogel State Park in Blairsville, Georgia

Vogel State Park in Blairsville

The 4-mile Bear Hair Gap Trail at Vogel State Park makes a nice day trip for experienced hikers, offering great mountain color and a birds-eye view of the park’s lake. For an easier walk, follow the Lake Loop to a small waterfall. The twisting roads around Vogel in Blairsville, particularly Wolf Pen Gap Road, offer some of north Georgia's prettiest fall scenery.

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Published: August 2020
Written by: Kim Hatcher