Canoes lined up on a lake with a colorful sunset in the background

Canoes at Mistletoe State Park in Appling, Georgia. Photo by @thegeorgiaphotographyfanatic

6 Best Reasons to Explore Georgia State Parks this Summer

Georgia summers are made for relaxing. For some people, that means being on the water, either in a boat, fishing on the shore or splashing in the cool water. Others want more active adventures, golfing pristine courses or early morning hikes under shaded trees. And no summer would be complete without summer camp.

Where can you do all of these activities? At Georgia State Parks! Here is your guide to the very best summer has to offer.

A stairway leading up to a waterfall overlook

Amicalola Falls in Dawsonville, Georgia. Photo by @gcalebjones

1. Hiking

There are 44 Georgia State Parks with hiking trails. There is something amazing to see at all of them, but here are few you shouldn’t miss:

At Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville, test your strength with an early morning workout hiking the stairs. To do the entire falls is 620 steps, but the views are totally worth it.

Providence Canyon in Lumpkin is a favorite. Striated layers of golden-hued earth are the result of poor farming practices and make for gorgeous views as you walk along the rim trails where trees keep things a bit cooler.

Visitors play and relax on a lakeside beach

Fort Mountain State Park in Chatsworth, Georgia

2. Swimming

Whether you prefer swimming in lakes or a pool, you can find exactly what you are looking for at Georgia State Parks. Twenty-three sites offer swimming or water play areas. For something unique, take the kids (or kids at heart) to Watson Mill Bridge State Park in Comer to play on the sliding rocks. If you prefer to splash vs. swim, Magnolia Springs in Millen, Little Ocmulgee in McRae, and Jack Hill State Park in Reidsville have splash pads perfect for younger children.

Woman paddling along water surrounded by tall trees

Stephen C. Foster State Park in Fargo, Georgia

3. Boating

Boat lovers can use Georgia State Parks as their second home. Thirty-eight parks offer some type of boating or paddling adventure. Boat owners can bring their own boat and use the ramps, and docks, or if you don’t own a boat, you can rent a watercraft. For something truly spectacular, book a guided boat tour through the mysterious Okefenokee Swamp at Stephen C. Foster State Park in Fargo.

Two boys fishing off a pier

Elijah Clark State Park in Lincolnton, Georgia

4. Fishing

Whether you are a bass fisherman, prefer trout fishing or like to fly fish, you can catch yourself a big one at 43 different state parks. Some of the largest bass ever caught in the U.S. came from Georgia lakes, which is why some call Lake Walter F. George in Fort Gaines the Bass Capital of the World.

But you don't have to be a world-class fisherman to enjoy angling at the parks; the fishing tackle loaner program at many of the parks – including A.H. Stephens, Elijah Clark, George T. Bagby and Victoria Bryant – is perfect for those who do not have their own equipment.

Golf cart on a path at Hard Labor Creek State Park

Hard Labor Creek State Park golf course in Rutledge, Georgia

5. Golfing

There are eight state parks in Georgia that have 18-hole golf courses. For a true challenge, visit Hard Labor Creek State Park near Rutledge. This course is well-designed and known for having the hardest starting hole in the state. And the price is right, too. Golf Digest Frugal Golf magazine rates the Hard Labor Creek golf course as the fourth sweetest deal in the United States.

If regular golf is too much for you, Hard Labor Creek also has an 18-hole mini-golf course near the main office where you check in.

Girl hiking on a wooded trail

Photo by @kayandkidscorner

6. Junior Ranger Program

Summer is synonymous with lazy days playing outside. What better place to do that than Georgia State Parks? 

Junior naturalists (of any age) can pick up free Junior Ranger activity books at 59 state parks and historic sites. Complete the activities, receive special badges and be sworn in as official Junior Rangers. Learn about alligators in South Georgia, about forts along the coast, or about bears and hemlock trees in North Georgia. Complete even more activities and earn patches as rewards!

Published: April 2024
Written by: Sue Rodman
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