Kayaking at George L. Smith State Park in Twin City, Georgia. Photo credit: Georgia Department of Natural Resources
Top 5 Must-Visit Lesser-Known Georgia State Parks
Summer in the Peach State is unlike any other with more than 60 Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites that are the perfect playground for outdoor explorers of all ages and skill levels. Known for the panoramic views, unique activities and must-see wildlife, waterfalls and hikes, Georgia's State Parks remain a year-round haven for adventure seekers.
Take the road less traveled and wrap up the summer with a visit to one, or all, of the more undiscovered Georgia State Parks below. Get out and discover something new before the sun sets on summer!
George L. Smith State Park, Twin City
Meander through the Spanish moss-draped cypress and tupelo trees while paddling in the glass-like, black waters at this serene state park in Twin City. With natural beauty, lakeside camping and cozy cottages, this secluded park is the perfect South Georgia retreat. George L. Smith State Park is best known for its picturesque 412-acre “pond” and refurbished Parrish Mill, a combination gristmill, sawmill, covered bridge and dam built in 1880. A group shelter near the bridge is popular for family reunions and parties. Some campsites sit right on the water's edge, while cottages with gas fireplaces and screened porches are nestled into the woods.
George L. Smith State Park's mill pond beckons anglers and paddlers to explore by kayak, canoe, paddle or john boat, all which are available to rent at the park. Canoeists and kayakers can join the Park Paddlers Club, which offers a list of the best paddling spots in Georgia's State Parks to check off a list. While on the water, nature enthusiasts might spot beavers, blue heron, white ibis and other wading birds. Hikers can stretch their legs on seven miles of trails while searching for gopher tortoises, Georgia's state reptile.
- Kayak, Canoe & Aquacycle Rental
Mistletoe State Park, Appling
Known as one of the best bass fishing spots in the nation, Mistletoe State Park in Appling is located on 71,100-acre Clarks Hill Lake near Augusta. Boat ramps provide easy access to one of the Southeast's largest lakes. During the summer, guests can cool off and lounge at the sandy beach. Along with fishing, boating and swimming, guests to the park have opportunities for hiking, birdwatching and geocaching along 15 miles of trails. Many programs are hosted throughout the year, such as astronomy programs, concerts and nature walks. Bike riders who explore this park can join the Muddy Spokes Club.
Mistletoe State Park has 10 fully equipped cottages on the lake, five of which are log cabins. The campground is situated on a peninsula, offering spectacular views of both sunset and sunrise over the open water. A four-bed tent cabin with electricity and water faces the lake. Overnight guests may rent canoes to explore the large lake.
Not to be missed activities:
Reed Bingham State Park , Adel
The 375-acre lake at Reed Bingham State Park in Adel is popular with boaters and skiers, and fishing for bass, crappie, catfish and bream is excellent. Paddlers can rent canoes and kayaks to explore this beautiful lake lined with fragrant water lilies and tupelo trees. Guided pontoon boat tours are sometimes offered during events. The beachside pavilion, picnic shelters and group shelters are scenic spots for parties, reunions and other celebrations. Reed Bingham is less than six miles from I-75, making it a relaxing stop for travelers. The park is home to four dozen campsites, including a private island where you can paddle your canoe up and set up camp for the night. Talk about a private island escape!
Visitors to Reed Bingham State Park usually see abundant wildlife, including species such as gopher tortoises, yellow bellied sliders and indigo snakes. Nesting bald eagles are often seen in winter. American alligators are often seen sunning along the lake's edge. During winter, thousands of "buzzards," actually black vultures and turkey vultures, roost in the trees and soar overhead. Nearly 80 percent of the Coastal Plain's plant community can be found along the park's Coastal Plain Nature Trail, making this park's habitat some of the most diverse in the country.
Turn up the adventure:
- Miniature golf
- Pontoon boat tours – call for schedule
Watson Mill Bridge State Park, Comer
Considered to be one of the most picturesque state parks in Georgia, Watson Mill Bridge in Comer contains the longest covered bridge in the state, spanning 229 feet across the South Fork River. This instagrammable location was built in 1885 by Washington (W.W.) King, son of the famous covered bridge builder and freed slave, Horace King. The bridge is supported by a town lattice truss system held firmly together with tree nails. At one time, Georgia had more than 200 covered bridges; today, Watson Mill Bridge is one of less than 20 that still stand, offering a glimpse back to a bygone era.
The park is an ideal spot for an afternoon picnic or overnight stay in the quiet campground. Hiking, biking and horseback riding trails allow visitors to enjoy the thick forest and river. During summer, visitors often play in the cool river shoals just below the bridge. Watson Mill Bridge State Park has become a popular destination for horse owners who have their own camping area near stalls.
Complete the summer bucket list:
- Horseback riding
Hamburg State Park, Mitchell
With modern-day facilities amidst reminders of days gone by, Hamburg State Park in Mitchell offers a wonderful mix of history and outdoor recreation. A campground offers shaded sites along the edge of quiet Hamburg Lake fed by the Little Ogeechee River. The campground provides hot showers, water and electric hookups, and a dump station.
Anglers can enjoy fishing for largemouth bass, crappie and bream, as well as boat ramps and a fishing pier. Wildlife enthusiasts should look for turtles, alligators, raccoons, deer, birds and numerous other animals that live within the park. The restored 1921 water-powered gristmill is still operational and used to grind corn during events. The Hamburg State Park's museum is also open during events, displaying old agricultural tools and implements used in rural Georgia.
Don't leave just yet:
Stay & Explore Georgia State Parks
Take your escape to the next level with a stay in one of the many spacious overnight accommodations available to park goers. Doing so allows visitors the opportunity to experience all that the parks have to offer with some R&R in the mix. Overnight accommodations are plentiful, and guests can choose from various options, including cabins, cottages and campgrounds depending on which park they visit.
Be sure to review the events calendar prior to visiting to participate in summer events happening in the above state parks as well as various other year-round events. To reserve a stay and plan the next outdoor outing, visit GaStateParks.org/Reservations.