As I tried to figure out how to salvage the time and money spent on this trip to Georgia (if you missed my Mission Impossible blog link here), I pulled out the Visit Georgia package out of my suitcase. I had requested this package from the Georgia State Tourism department. It included maps (yes the folded kind, a guide for State Georgia Parks, a map of Atlanta, and a very heavy book listing all sorts of tourist activities and lodging in Georgia. If you are planning a vacation to Georgia I would highly recommend this free resource. I started at exploregeorgia.org.
Prior to my trip I had already researched areas I wanted to hike or kayak while I was visiting. The State of Georgia has a robust Department of Natural Resources site that provided all the information I needed for my planning. I ended up visiting three Georgia State Parks and one State Historical Site on this most recent six day visit to Georgia.
Indian Springs State Park
One of the closest parks to where I was going to be staying was Indian Springs State Park. Located between Macon and Atlanta, GA just off the I-75 corridor. This park is advertised as being one of the oldest parks in the United States. The location contains natural mineral spring waters that were used by the Creek Indians long before European settlements.
I stopped at this park on my way to my next lodging North of Atlanta. The weather was cool and the sky was grey, but the rain had held off making the short hike very comfortable. I hiked the trail next to the stream and then along the falls. I noticed there were hundreds of cardinals flying in the underbrush of the park, their bright red color was easy to spot and a welcome sight on the overcast cool day I visited.
January is an ideal time to visit these parks as you can basically experience the park alone. I came across only two other people hiking the in morning at Indian Springs.
Red Top Mountain State Park
Once North of Atlanta I had plenty of options in locations to visit. The North part of the state is best known for the Southern Trailhead of the Appalachian Trail that runs the entire Appalachian Mountain Range from Georgia to Maine. Hundreds of people each year thru-hike this challenging route. It is not surprising that some of the most challenging hiking can be found in the State Parks located within reach of the AT trailhead.
On a bright sunny cold morning I headed out of my rented cabin and reached Red Top Mountain State Park just as the doors of the Park shop opened. Kathy, was behind the desk and helped me with trail information and my purchase of a Georgia yearly State Park pass. This pass was a great value for me ($37.50 veteran discount) and now I can use it for entrance into any Georgia State Park within the next year. The best part of the pass is that, unlike Minnesota where it sticks on the windshield (great if you own the car you are driving), it just attaches to the rear view mirror and can be easily transferred from rental car to rental car.
I hiked about 3.5 miles and figured it was time for a hot coffee and to return when it warmed up in the afternoon. My ears and cheeks starting to tingle with the cold is a sure sign that I needed to stop and warm up.
So off to Starbucks in Emerson, GA to warm up and have a coffee. I can’t say that my coffee partner for the morning was very helpful…he just sat there looking a bit stiff!
The afternoon warmed up and I headed back out to Red Top Mountain State Park to hike the entire 5.5 miles of the Homestead Trail. This time I started at the Visitor Center after a short stop gaining information from DJ the Park Visitor desk employee. Her and her co-worker were very helpful in answering my questions about Allatoona Lake and where I could possibly rent a kayak. After the chat, I hiked this very nice trail that skirts the shoreline of Allatoona Lake. I even found the old homestead chimney.
These two out of the three Georgia State Parks I visited were welcoming places of natural solitude and both only a short drive outside of the busy city of Atlanta. They are filled with plenty of opportunities to hike challenging terrain. I have placed these on my favorite places to visit while I am in Georgia list. This short six day visit could not reveal all that these parks had to offer.
Kayaking or canoeing in January or the “off season” in Georgia is not possible if you are want to rent gear. After checking with several companies in the Macon and Cartersville, GA areas, I found that companies will not rent due to liability insurance restrictions. A bit disappointing for a Minnesota gal who kayaks as soon as it is “ice out” in Minnesota. Both these parks offered plenty to see from the water and would have been perfect Minnesota kayaking conditions if I had my own equipment along on this trip.
Next blog… Amicalola Falls State Park and hiking the AT.
Have you visited any Georgia State Parks? Do you have a favorite? Please share your experiences or comments with us below.
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