Georgia gets a bad rap.
Its residents have shown that they have a certain set of principles when it comes to who they’ll vote for, and its leaders have shown they’d like to ignore those principles for as long as possible. Poverty has left much of the state in ruins, while the more affluent and coastal regions see billions dumped into infrastructure projects fighting natural disasters which won’t likely slow down in the near future.
But the Peach State has more to offer than an oppressive past and crooked government. The Appalachian Trail begins here, in the rolling hardwood forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Coastal Georgia is where the north meets the south, where palm trees and pine trees sway in the same winds. Cypress swamps and small towns desperate to emerge from a throttled past and big cities proving themselves epicenters of change are forcing those same winds to blow in the direction they find just, despite what a handful of powerful people may try and prevent.
We have spent many months, over many years, exploring Georgia’s backroads and natural areas, and want to focus today on its state park system, which is one of the best in the Southeastern United States.
While something as simple as camping may not seem like it can change much in a world facing serious and significant social problems, the greenbacks that come with tourists camping certainly can. Nothing votes louder than the dollar, and for those of us interested in helping Georgia become what actual Georgians want it to be, choosing how and where we spend our money can have a large impact on a state that deserves so much better, if not out of the goodness of our hearts to support the will of the people then for the natural beauty the region was blessed with.
This article will largely focus on the natural aspects of each park, and let you filter by type of camping available, but at times comments on ridiculously named parks and other pieces of an uglier Georgian past will be commented on, simply because the state should not be shackled by the fears of those struggling to paint a picture of a simpler, more frightened and bigoted time over the will of those of us ready to live in a friendlier, safer, more integrated America.
Georgia State Parks Basics
First thing’s first, Georgia kind of has two different types of state parks. They have “State Historic Parks,” which can be as small as a cabin commemorating the life and history of a single person or family. These are sometimes connected to the more traditional “State Parks,” which are typically more focused on a natural area. Even when the two are connected, there are separate fees for each. We’ll be focusing on the state parks as opposed to the historic ones, since this article is largely about camping in the state.
How Much Does It Cost to Camp in Georgia State Parks?
The short answer is, “About $35 / night.”
That price varies slightly, and some parks have tent or “primitive” sites that can still accommodate truck campers and vans, which come in a little lower.
This typically includes sites that can accommodate RVs or tents, including picnic tables and fire rings. Expect fairly clean restrooms with flushing toilets, hot showers and often even a laundry room available. Water and electric hookups are the norm, though some of GA’s state parks have basic, walk in tent sites that lack these amenities. This is all in addition to whatever other amenities the park may offer, from fishing and boating to hiking and more.
However, there is also a $5 day pass which is charged per vehicle. If you’re just visiting for the day, this covers the cost of one car, so your entire family of five is covered. If you’re camping, you only pay the fee once. So if you have a five night reservation, you pay the $5 fee once.
You can also buy a $50 annual pass. If you camped 11 different times at Georgia state parks in a year, you’d save $5 doing this. Since most folks will stay more than one consecutive night in the same park, it doesn’t always make sense to purchase this unless you regularly frequent the state or move around a lot within Georgia’s state park system. Discounts are available on these passes for seniors and members of the military.
Finally, Georgia has a rewards program where you can earn points every time you spend money on a campsite (or cabin, yurt, etc.) You get 10 points for every dollar you spend. 3,000 points gets you a free night in a campsite. Since 3,000 points equals $300, you’d need to stay around 9 nights to get one free. There are restrictions, of course, and it’s all kind of complicated to be honest, but there if you’re the type who loves a free night here and there!
What Are Georgia State Parks Like?
In a word, spacious. While we haven’t yet visited each and every one, all of those we have visited have provided us with plenty of space to stretch out at the campsite without feeling like our neighbors were on top of us. Not all sites are equal, of course, and we’re particularly good at finding the best site available–even via an online map with few actual details–but for the most part, sites are positioned beneath trees, with shade, at least water and electric hookups, and a modicum of foliage or distance between you and your neighbor.
Many state park campgrounds are located on a lake or river. Expect flushing toilets, hot showers and relatively clean bathrooms. You’ll have a place to toss your trash, usually close to your site and without needing to drive to the end of the park to find these facilities. Recycling is rare. Nature trails, opportunities to get out on the water, and sometimes historical mills or other miniature museums will be within the park’s boundaries. The park stores are generally small, nothing like a national park visitors center and usually stocked with little more than soda and ice, souvenir patches and maybe a few camping items. Don’t come expecting to find a pie iron or RV sewer hose. More likely, they’ll have mosquito repellent and those little clips to hold your picnic table cloth securely. Laundry facilities are common, too.
We’ve had great luck with cell phone reception in almost every state park we’ve stayed, but results will vary so do your research if that’s a requirement for your particularly camping trip.
At the end of the day, Georgia has one of the better state parks systems, with high marks for spaciousness and beauty, decent pricing and the only downside really being the lack of what you can purchase from the park’s store once you’re there.
What Is There to Do In Georgia State Parks?
With no desire to somehow list everything to do in every single Peach State park, henceforth reckon yourself before you check’on yourself with the commonalities of the entire state parks system.
Fishermen will not be disappointed. There is practically, if not literally, no GA state park that doesn’t offer some ability to drop a hook, line and sinker. Hiking, though at times limited to a few miles of trail, is abundant. With those two facts in mind, it’s not hard to imagine that birding, wildlife viewing in general, and all types of waterborne activities are abundant.
The state also embraces geocaching, something our own family has enjoyed. Essentially, you grab a GPS device (typically, your phone), and an app that shows you coordinates of where some treasure is hidden. The treasure is usually a nature-proof box containing mere trinkets, but it’s all great fun. You bring something small–a little plastic GI Joe or your grandmother’s wedding ring, whatever feels appropriate–and place it in the box even as you choose something for yourself. Especially if you’re a kid. You may sign your name or leave a record of what you left. It’s all good fun.
If you already knew about all of this, though, the good news is that it’s permitted in GA State Parks. Just be sure to do your best to otherwise leave no trace and try to minimize your impact on nature when out performing these searches.
Many parks also have small museums or a handful of exhibits from which you can, should such a think be interesting to you, learn a thing or two. Golf courses are not prolific, nor uncommon. Oh, and plenty of Georgians get married at state parks. So, bride or wedding crasher to be, there’s something to do for you, too.
About Georgia’s Regions
The state is generally divided into four ecological regions. In the north, you’ve got the Appalachian Mountains southern end. Next comes the Piedmont, which covers most of central Georgia. This area is all about rolling green hills that were once covered in hardwood forests, some of which still exists between civilization’s cities and farmland. The largest area is the coastal plains, a relatively flat area covering nearly half of the entire state, and most of the southern realms. Finally, tucked away next to the Atlantic, is your full on coastal Georgia. People like this area because, you know, it’s full of beaches.
Explore Georgia State Parks
Next up, all the parks and info on what amenities they hold, cell service in general, and links to more information.
Not all of the state parks offer camping, and we don’t discuss any of those which do not. Thirteen of those which do offer camping also have full hookups, and most of the rest have at least water and electric sites. It’ll be noted, nice and bold, when a place only has primitive camping. Most of those spots require a hike in of at least half a mile. So, no van life mooching on tent-only spots just by pulling into the parking lot.
In general, state parks in Georgia have cell service, as many are quite close to civilization. Where they do not, or it’s just terrible, we’ll note in the listing.
On the other hand, some parks have these beautifully wonderful canoe-in only sites, which require a paddle to get to! #hashtagadventure
Every Georgia State Park with Camping
A.H. Stephens State Park
A park largely aimed at those folks who own a horse, or “know a guy who owns a horse,” A.H. Stephens is also home to a Confederate museum, and is named for the Vice President of the Confederacy. He went on to become Governor of Georgia after the war, so president apparently states that even warring against the Federal Government does not prevent one from becoming a governor of a state down the line. He was also big on the concept of filling up the entire West with more slaves.
The campsites are located in a pine forest, with tall trees but almost no foliage for privacy between.
Nearby Crawfordsville is a ghost town of a Main Street (actually US 278), anchored largely by one restaurant. An unbalanced number of churches, a Dollar General, a tax collector and a gas station round out the town, which appears to have been something more fruitful in days long gone.
You can hike to a small lake, cell service is just okay, and the bathrooms are nice and clean.
Amicalola Falls State Park
The southern terminus of the Appalachian trail, this park’s focus is on the waterfalls themselves, which are 700+ feet of cascading water, 430 or so of it an actual straight drop. The park is run by a private company, giving it a slightly different feel than most of Georgia’s state parks, but it is certainly a beautiful place to visit.
Lodges, a restaurant on site and options to book things like ziplining all give Amicalola Falls a resort feel. Within 30 minutes, various other restaurants, and grocery stores.
The big hill to the campsites is a nail biter, and the sites aren’t up to typical Georgia State Park snuff when it comes to privacy. Cell service isn’t overly reliable, either.
Black Rock Mountain State Park
At 3,640 feet, Back Rock Mountain is Georgia’s highest state park, though still over 1,000 feet lower in elevation than Brasstown Bald, the highest peak in the state. The campsites are absolutely shrouded in hardwoods, with oak trees dominating the private spots.
Home to 11 miles of trails, it’s also popular with those looking to push a canoe or kayak through the water. A small visitor center holds a gift shop, where WiFi is also available if you didn’t bring your own means of connecting to the Internet.
Chattahoochee Bend State Park
Three miles of biking trails and a dozen for hiking, Georgia’s signature endeavors on the water and the simple joy of being able to say “Chattahoochee” over and over again are just some of the highlights of this park.
There is little to no cell service at the campground.
Camping is in largely well spaced sites, for those not interested in the more impressive five and a half mile paddle-in (or hike) sites.
Screened-in Adirondack style shelters are also available if you’d like to try your hand at the type of camping that also avoids pesky Southern summer bugs.
Cloudland Canyon State Park
Some 30 miles of biking trails, 16 for horses and a total of 64 available to hikers all await travelers to Cloud Canyon. Massive canyons, impressive cliffs and sprawling forest inhabit one of Georgia’s most scenic and massive state parks. Caves, waterfalls and wildlife round the package out quite nicely.
Emerald green forests top sandstone cliffs, like massive Chia pet hairdos on the face of the earth itself.
Camping is divided into east and west portions, with any given site being a paradise or close-in situation with little rhyme or reason. Still, the place is an Autumn masterpiece and well worth the visit.
Crooked River State Park
A review I posted about the place:
“Average for a Georgia state park, very little privacy between sites but most–especially those on the outside of the loops–are quite spacious.
Our site has a direct view of the water through the pines. The cabins looked really nice, with screened in porches and even the picnic area over there had screens. In February, we had no issues with bugs though.
Well placed dumpsters, good cell service and though many folks were up into the evening, it was very quiet. Some of the sites could literally accommodate a 200’ trailer, maybe if you had one of those semi towing a 5th wheel pulling an extra large pontoon with a Prius behind that (because, the environment), you wouldn’t even need to unhook them at all.
I also saw a couple with a screened in bug tent over their fire pit, so that was something new.
The bathrooms are all individual shower and toilet setups, which is really nice for bathing kids and babies who don’t like showering around strangers (or strangers in general.) Otherwise, lots of turtles of varying species live here, and it’s pretty like Bob Ross’ hair.”
If you’d like to see just about every inch of the campground, this video is like a feature-length film on the place:
Dames Ferry State Park
Somewhat of a supplemental park to nearby High Falls State Park, the pace is popular with fishermen and folks who like the view out of their RV window to be full frontal water.
Motorboats of up to 25 horsepower can ride these tides, and if you feel X-Gamesish, you can rent an aquacycle and backflip their waves. Or probably not, in reality, but this place is all about the anglers.
Let this fisherman show you around the place:
Don Carter State Park
Where the Chattahoochee widens into Lake Lanier, a reservoir, now lives Georgia’s newest state park. It’s all about the swimming, catching a fish and all the paddleboarding, kayaking and other sports you can do on the surface of the water.
Horses are permitted on some of the park’s 14.5 miles of trails, though no equestrian-specific sites are available.
A young forest means decent privacy in the months with foliage, but the sites are also positioned in a way that you can be staring right at your neighbor depending on the number on your site’s post.
Elijah Clark State Park
Claiming to be one of the largest lakes in the southeast–though really it’s a reservoir, which does make it something different indeed–Clarks Hill Lake is the focal point of Elijah Clark State Park, along with a general remembrance of a Revolutionary War soldier and frontiersman who shares the same name as the park.
As far as camping goes, you’re hitting the standard for Georgia. The campground is situated in a forest, lakeside, and some sites are spectacularly private while others not so much. Learn to study your campground maps and do a little Google Maps satellite view reconnaissance, and reserve early (the motto of 2021 and apparently forever into the future) and you won’t be disappointed.
The narrator’s southern drawl, and the reality that this may have been the first VHS video ever digitized, should help clarify things:
F.D. Roosevelt State Park
Not to be confused with Teddy, the Roosevelt who largely created national parks, F.D. Roosevelt State Park is named for the 32nd President of the United States, who came here in search of relief from the illness which caused him to be paralyzed from the waist down. The state park today is Georgia’s largest, and like many others in the state, a fabulous place to enjoy the splish splash of summertime, water-bound good times.
Over 40 miles of hiking trails are available, with a good quantity of those available to ye hawers on horseback as well, dwarfing what’s available at most state parks. There’s a heavy CCC influence on the place, and those willing to take a moderate stroll into the forest can participate in some good old fashioned “backcountry” camping–tents only–without ever getting too deep into the wilderness.
A swimming pool, playgrounds, WiFi at the park office and an outdoor gym are just a few of the bonuses they throw in, should you tire of too much easy camp living.
Typically, we’ve been sharing a video to highlight each of these parks here. This time around, though, it’s a full on link to a page chalk up to your knees with videos of CCC workers still alive at the time of the recordings talking about building the place.
And then just one in case that sentence doesn’t tickle your cat whiskers:
Florence Marina State Park
Lake Eufala’s impressive waters are the focus of this state park.
Some amazing canyons lined with red and tan cliffs accent the scenery, while a visitors center showcasing everything from Great Blue Herons to ancient civilizations’ ties to the land provides more information. Providence Canyon, another perhaps more impressive state park, is very nearby and this often serves as an “overflow” when that park is booked.
Cell service is lacking here.
The campsites are spacious but not always or exactly private, though they do come with sewer hookups, a rarity in state parks in general, including Georgia’s.
Here’s a video review from some folks who basically tow a small city’s worth of vehicles with them when they roll:
Fort McAllister State Park
Spanish moss, armadillos and all of the other trappings of an antebellum south gone lost in its modern era await here at Fort McAllister. Savannah being a major stronghold for the Confederacy, this park remembers the fort that once stood strong against the north and its oppressive desire to keep a few white guys from getting stupid rich while owning millions of black people. To celebrate such a place seems out of touch with the realities of today, but to separate its natural prospects and proximity to Savannah might be enough to encourage folks to continue loving this place until every elbow in the park has bumped at least twice.
The campground is decent, though few sites are particularly private. A museum informs visitors of the fort’s history, though it’s hard to dismiss the tones off bravery and near-triumph that the park pushes, as though the plaque-makers still dreamed of a world where the South would have won, or perhaps one day rise again.
And here’s a completely different take:
Fort Mountain State Park
A stone wall built by ancient giants’ toddlers, an unusual natural event where a bunch of rocks rolled uphill in defiance of gravity, and a fort built by an ancient race of drunken masons. All of these and more are theories around how Fort Mountain’s “rock wall” came to be. Inquire about the moon-eyed people for a fascinating tale that’s about as clear as the origins of the rocky rubble of a wall is itself.
Hike the Stone Tower Trail and you’ll be able to decide for yourself. Beyond that, a fire tower built by the CCC has a lovely tale still written today with but one emoji: a heart-shaped stone forms one of the bricks, a testament to the lead stonemason’s love in far off lands.
Waterfalls, sweeping mountain–the rolling green and covered in hardwoods for as far as you can see type–views and plenty of family fun on the lake round out the experience here at Fort Mountain.
The campground offers spacious sites with next to no privacy.
Fort Yargo State Park
There’s a soft spot in my heart for Yargo, despite its history as one of a handful of forts built to fight the Native Americans in the area. I am not fully aware of the history of this place, though no doubt it’s tangled up like a fist fight in a young girl’s hair with poor choices made by European immigrants as they devastated the local peoples, but it is significantly beautiful.
Campsites are spread apart, but though they’re in the tall pines, there isn’t much in the way of privacy in the wide open spaces between their trunks.
Aside from hiking around the lake and over the dam, there is a cavalcade of things to do — from playgrounds to tennis courts — and the general atmosphere is always quiet and serene. Ironic, for a fort.
General Coffee State Park
The entire park is basically a museum on what life was like here in the 1800s, with ancient-for-America buildings from that time period. It’s named for a turn-of-the-17th century military man, not an indication of the beverage you’ll consume over casual conversation each morning at your campsite. A cypress forest along the river is loaded with opportunities to watch birds galore flitter about through some interesting, and some very rare, plants.
Campsites are set up in a way that those on the outer loop have a decent amount of privacy, though in general a lack of small foliage in favor of taller trees between each site is the norm. You can hike–or go on horseback, should you have brought your own–to primitive backcountry sites if you really want your privacy.
George L. Smith State Park
A short hike from the campground, through a surreal swampland of a paradise where cypress trees grow like a floating forest above the local pond–large enough to be a lake in some people’s books–guides you to a small, free museum made from the old mill that is the focal point of this state park.
Enough cannot be said about the beauty of this otherwise basic park. Pileated woodpeckers spend daybreak flittering from one set of trees to the next, drumming out their am wakeup call to anyone who bothers listening even as the squirrels and chickadees play their games all the day long. Fisherman stand on small, flat-bottomed boats–despite signs warning of alligators–pursuing their leisurely pastime. Families chase one another on bicycles and, though it’s largely a quiet place, some do revel into the night around campfires.
A simple enough campground and park, this is a prime example of everything Georgia’s state parks are about: slowing down in the outdoors to watch nature pass you by, getting onto a trail or out on the water, and all of this with a pristinely clean bathroom to boot.
Georgia Veterans State Park
Originated in memory of those men and women who served and are also from Georgia, today the park is a family full of summer’s fun resort type place. Plan to bring your grandpa so you can have a few great memories before toasting s’mores and then having a catch. Or a round of disc golf.
The campground is manicured like a golf course’s fairway (there’s also an actual golf course here), though there are plenty of trees for shade. It’s also waterfront. Renting a pontoon and getting out on the massive lake is a must, but only if you have time after riding the trains.
Yes, this park is crazy and like no other “state park” we’ve ever been to.
Jack Hill (formerly Gordonia-Alatamaha) State Park
Think families splashing around a lake on aquacycles, old men and their grandson sharing PB&J sandwiches over a fishing line and the type of place you might see your Aunt Trudy one summer upon returning to your hometown after 15 years away. It’s a golf course and a splash pad more than a natural retreat, but for what it is, it does seem to get the job done.
RVs are packed in at the campground, which offers full hookups.
The park is close to civilization, and therefore has robust cell phone service, which will come in handy as you wait for your camping duds to dry in the laundry room.
Hamburg State Park
Historically a trading center–where they’d process grain and cotton in the 1920s–the park is a throwback in time with very real, tangible evidence of life here over 100 years ago.
There is very little, and weak at that, cell reception here.
Camping is situated along the Little Ogeechee River, or rather a widespot by the name of Hamburg Lake, in alligator country. Campsites are often immediately waterfront. Boating, fishing and canoeing are all right at your doorstep, and 3.5 miles of trails exist within the park as well.
Hard Labor Creek State Park
Located in Georgia’s Piedmont region, the park’s rolling hills are reinforced with Civilian Conservation Corps-era construction projects. The park reminds you that while you’ll come here to relax and enjoy nature, this area was once filled with slaves working fields for as many months as the year would allow. Which is quite a few in Georgia.
If you require cell service, this probably isn’t the place for you. It exists, but it’s nice and week, just like grandpa’s camping used to do.
It’s famous for its golf park, and is also quite friendly to equestrians, including private campsites that come with their own stable.
Otherwise, regular campsites are tucked into the woods, with decent space and privacy. Some even have a little wooden deck attached, overlooking the water. Over two dozen miles of hiking trails exist, which are also available to those on horseback.
High Falls State Park
Between Macon and Atlanta, High Falls is just that–a destination to see tall-for-Georgia waterfalls–and a respite from some of the busiest places in the state. The area around High Falls was once a booming little area full of early-1800s industry, but much like countless towns spread across America which were bypassed by the freeway system, this area was left to memory when a railroad decided to skip it in the 1890s.
Popular with kayakers and swimmers, there is also a mini-golf course and, as the saying goes, the family that fishes together, stays together. Or is that if you give a family a fish they’ll forget to feed it for a day? Either way, it’s all about the water here.
The campsites are fairly large and private,
Cell service is not reliable here for working online or streaming, anyway. Phone calls are typically fine.
If you didn’t bring your RV, they have cute little yurts that are kitted out quite nicely, or the campground isn’t too shabby either, with Georgia’s signature wooded, fairly private and spacious spots.
Indian Springs State Park
They say that Native Americans believed the water from the springs here had healing powers. Pioneers saw fit to turn it into a resort. Later, the Civilian Conservation Corp would fashion a building where you can still sample the waters. Though not officially a part of the park, bike-ably nearby Dauset Trails is a local nature center with various programs and exhibits. The park’s own museum focuses on Creek Indians.
Another 4 miles of trails are immediately within the park, and both Big McIntosh Lake and Sandy Creek provide a variety of ways to get your toes wet, including in some shallow, cascading waterfalls. Wildlife is abundant and as far as camping, it’s Georgia’s standard playbook: forested sites, with water and electric, decent space between you and your neighbors and never far from the water or a boardwalk trail through the swamps.
James H. “Sloppy” Floyd State Park
Probably best known for the famous childhood sandwich we all grew up with, Sloppy Jims, this park is–oh, Sloppy Jim. He was a representative ni the Georgia General Assembly, essentially the state’s version of the House of Representatives. Sloppy was a Democrat in Georgia when everyone was a Democrat in Georgia. Back then, democrats weren’t so keen on not being all racist and whatnot. It was more about the church you went to than any actual belief in doing good for your fellow mankind.
Once, Sloppy and his fellow white southerners took issue with an elected man, who happened to be black, named Julian Bond. Bond was opposed to the Vietnam War–remember that one where we forced our nation’s young men to go into a foreign country to lose a battle for years and years, despite the rest of the country insisting they were going to have a summer of love?–and, as he put it, all war. Well ol’ high-fallutin’ Sloppy wasn’t about to have a black man talk trash on old white guy’s ability to send our boys off to die. Georgia booted him, against the voter’s will, and the US Supreme Court had to step in and put Bond back into office.
So, that’s a great guy to name a state park after.
All of that ranting aside, the campground–and park in general–are beautiful. Hardwood forests just dripping in leaves, trails through cliffs that emerge waterfront and more to astound.
Kolomoki Mounds State Park
Several massive mounds, built by Native Americans around 500AD–give or take a few centuries–are the focus of this state park.
They use the term Woodland Period mound builders quite a bit, and that’s a fun word. That Georgia manages to honor something other than slave owning generals once in awhile is also a nice twist. One of the mound, now excavated, holds a visitors center today.
Campsites are relatively close for a state park, and the forest is well groomed–so little to no privacy. Some are waterfront, though.
Laura S. Walker State Park
Not the wife of a Texas Ranger, Laura Singleton Walker was a conservationist and author from Georgia. The park claims she is the first woman to have a state park named for her.
Bordering the northern edge of the Okefenokee Swamp, and is home to three lakes itself, but much of the park has been manicured for the golf course and camping areas. The latter are nearly RV park style, smallish and with almost no privacy–save a few random trees—between them.
Little Ocmulgee State Park
Another of Georgia’s state parks which is so fancy, so resort that it gets its own website, this place is golf courses and swimming beaches, cottages and family summers all rolled up Norman Rockwell and blazing hot humidity.
Campsites are fairly on top of one another, for a state park, and offer little privacy even when your neighbor is a few dozen feet away. Despite the resort style of the park, sites do not have full hookups.
Here’s a video with some wicked lead solos to show you what you’re in store for!
Magnolia Springs State Park
Naturally, the area is a pristine little forest with the springs themselves serving as the focal piece of a wonderfully set woodland experience. Historically, this was a massive prison during the Civil War.
There is a splash pad at this park, opportunities to bust out the kayak and fishing is a big reason folks show up. There are also 5 miles of hiking and biking trails,
For a Northern Georgia park, the campground is sorely lacking in privacy between sites, as large pines have been cleared of their undergrowth. Sites are typically spacious, but it’s an out in the open experience.
The Wandering Weekends family made a video of the park, which opens with dad wondering if the kids will eat some gator with him before pooping in a church parking lot:
Mistletoe State Park
Side note, Georgia State Parks don’t have bathrooms, they have “Comfort Stations.”
It’s all about the truly massive Clarks Hill Lake, with world renowned bass fishing and generally waterborne activities happening all of the long Georgian warmer months here. Clarks Hill Lake is what Georgia calls it. The federal government recognizes the body of water as Lake Strom Thurmond, for the lifelong US Senator, Civil Rights opponent and firm believer in segregation. But, in this case at least, he was from South Carolina, not Georgia. They sure love their racists down here.
Many of the campsites are private, with thick foliage between each, and many of them are waterfront. Some are both!
Moccasin Creek State Park
One of the more interesting features of this park is a specific dock which is open only to children under 11 and adults 65 years and older, as well as anyone with a disability.
There is ample opportunity for fishing and other aquatic recreation as well, open to all ages.
Otherwise, this is the epitome of a state park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia. Rolling hills coated in hardwood forests, crisp creeks and small waterfalls dominate the scenery.
The campground is overly groomed, with little privacy.
Panola Mountain State Park
The camping here is all backcountry. It’s a 1¼ mile hike to the sites.
A real summer camp of a park, Panola mountain offers programs in everything from archery to tree-climbing, birding to orienteering. All of which, by the way, are pretty sweet endeavors for kiddos.
A big old chunk of granite jutting through the forest, it’s a site to behold, though don’t expect prominence in the distance. This is more of a massive piece of geology you walk around and onto (ranger-led only) than a mountain like you might imagine out West. It’s a beautiful area, no doubt.
This is also a GA state parks “Muddy Spokes Club” park. Your $20 membership gets you a t-shirt that says, “I’m going to go crush some soil!” or whatever the cool mountain bike kids are saying these days. You get a certificate for “crusty shredding” a dozen of the 18 parks in the program.
Providence Canyon State Park
Camping here is strictly backcountry. You can’t camp in an RV or even car camp here at all. The sites require a hike of over 2 miles and it’s a trek, especially bringing your entire load of gear for the night. So, you know, keep that in mind.
The park literally touts itself as a testament to poor farming practices, but then goes on to call itself Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon in what can only be described as a perfect comeback.
Still, the canyons within the park are absolutely monumental, and scientific aspects of the park are an interesting highlight for junior rangers and inquiring adults alike. Geology, the night sky and you can participate in Georgia’s Canyon Climbers Climb, a little game whereby the goal is to hike several specific spots in the state and win bragging rights with a t-shirt (and the knowledge that you did it, plus the fresh outdoor air you earned won’t hurt) to prove to everyone that you are, indeed, a GA Canyon Climber who has Climbed. No actual climbing skills are specifically necessary, and you can also just buy the t-shirt ahead of time…if that’s the type of Climber you Climb.
Red Top Mountain State Park
Sandy lakeside beaches and plenty of moderate, long hikes through a forested mountain alike set the stage at Red Top Mountain. The park is comprised of iron-rich red mountain and an historic battlefield alike, a major loss for the Confederacy as they attacked the Union in 1864.
A 4-mile bike trail (this is one of Georgia’s “Muddy Spokes Club” parks), archery programs, plenty of good fishing and even pickleball are available (among other sports including tennis, water skiing and, like most GA parks, geocaching.)
Reed Bingham State Park
Reed Bingham can seem unreal. Depending on your approach, it’ll be some of the first you’ll see of the transition from pine forest to palm trees, where they live intertwined as some forest you haven’t yet experienced elsewhere in the United States. Then, in the winter at least, the vultures. Black vultures, primarily, with their mottled silhouettes, picking apart roadkill and scrambling for what humans leave behind. Or in most cases, just roosting in the trees, occasionally stretching their wings out like harmless crucifixes in the trees.
Seven miles of hiking and biking trails, including many wide open and easy paths, exist within the park. Campsites are not particularly private, though they are spacious. Equipped with slow park roads, a playground, swimming beach and mini-golf, this place is a family paradise. Many people, including ourselves, have had a great time here.
It’s also a premier spot to learn about the flora of the area, which will continue as far north as the top of the Carolinas and well into Florida, before that state trends full on tropical.
Richard B. Russell State Park
Frisbee golf, regular golf, and the usual big ol’ lake to get wet in help define this state park made for family fun. You have to pay for the frisbee golf (known by high fallutin’ frolfers as “disc golf”, you’ll love it though) but as a “Muddy Spokes Club” park, you can also buy a t-shirt and brag about riding your bike. Which is also kind of fun.
This park has no usable cell phone service, so if you need it for work or something, this might be a better weekender.
Campsites are nice and wooded, mostly private and some considerably fantastic, with little wooden decks overlooking the water.
It’s also a great spot to catch some Deep South Autumn Foliage, or “DSAF” if you’re in the know. You’re not, I just made that up.
Here is an hilarious video by GA State Parks showing exactly how much you could possibly smile while visiting the park:
Seminole State Park
When you’re talking three boat ramps, a fishing dock and a gift shop, whew, you must be talking about Seminole!
On a more serious note, a park named for a people who don’t even inhabit the state that named the park seems like a massive boner–er, oversight–but such is the way of the folks who run the Peach State.
If you can get past all of that–and let’s face it, we’re in Georgia already, we’re either past it or purposely working to learn about how such things can happen in an effort to prevent that old “the past repeats itself” journey we seem to be stuck on–then it’s a beautiful place.
Camping is top notch, with some amazing spots that, while they aren’t fully private, offer waterfront camping like you’ll find in few other places. Bet on a couple miles of hiking trails, birds out your back door and the infamous Georgia State Park mini-golf course to boot.
Skidaway Island State Park
Less than 30 minutes from Savannah, Skidaway Island is a closer to a run of the mill campground than what you’ll typically find in Georgia’s state parks. Sites are wooded, though most have little in the way of privacy. Scoring something on the perimeter is your best bet.
Six miles of trails wind through the park, which consists of a large pine and palm forest, to the Skidaway River.
Otherwise, it’s a natural place to camp near an excellent city. The bathrooms are decent and kept clean, evening strolls through the campground itself are enjoyable in their own right and with a little planning–and a reservation–you can snag a more secluded spot than others.
Stephen C. Foster State Park
A beautiful swampland of a place, packed with barred owls, alligators, wood storks and numerous other creatures that simply fill this fascinating park with wonder. Placing you perfectly at the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp (and Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge), everything you’ve ever imagined about the word “swamp” will disappear as you float out onto its waters. Home to literally thousands of alligators, the concept of touring waters filled with the things may no doubt frighten you, but it’s an experience like no others and–apparently, even according to the rangers–safe enough.
In fact, the park is part of Georgia’s “Park Paddlers Club,” another one of their various clubs that encourage visitors to participate in certain activities. In this case, a $20 membership gets you a t-shirt and should you float 12 of the 32 parks involved in the program, you’ll even get a certificate.
This park has next to no cell service, should that be important to you.
The campground is typical of Georgia State Parks, well treed, significant privacy, but not always a ton of space between each site–and not all sites are equal.
Sweetwater Creek State Park
This is park is for tent campers only. The sites are about 200′ from the parking lot. Yurts are also available.
Just outside of Atlanta, this park with a 250 acre lake has so much to offer beyond just being a great way to get out of the city without going very far at all. An old mill in ruins stands still stalwart next to a gorgeous, boulder-strewn creek. Fifteen miles of trails wind through the park.
When it comes to camping, though, you’ll need to set up your tent and walk a bit back and forth from your car to take advantage of this one. In exchange, they provide a seasonal bait shop and even WiFi in said bait shop.
Tallulah Gorge State Park
The Tallulah River cuts through granite for nearly two miles, a 1000′ deep slice into the earth. Gorgeous waterfalls, cliffhanging hikes and everything from archery to mountainbiking to fishing to paddling is right at your fingertips. 100 permits a day are issued to hike to the gorge’s bottom. This is about as national park an experience as you’ll find in Georgia, and while incredibly popular for much of the year, ever so worth it.
Campsites are not as secluded as some of their other state parks’ offerings, but to be nestled into all of this grandeur is absolutely worth suffering a slight lack of privacy. And being in the trees, it’s not exactly “RV park” style either. Be sure to skip the premium sites though. They are pull through, but nearly devoid of privacy and a completely different feel than the normal sites.
There are also Adirondack shelters where you can camp, after hiking into the “backcountry,” which are essentially little shacks with one wall missing to provide that wide open feeling. The hike to them is only half a mile, but then again, once you load yourself up it is still “a hike.”
Tugaloo State Park
Many waterfront campsites, some of them private, overlook the sizable Lake Hartwell. From cannonball divers to sailboats, this is the place to be all summer long, and scores of Georgians and travelers alike flock here to beat the heat and explore everything this park has to offer. When not bathing suit clad, visitors can knock around volleyballs, play horseshoes, mini-golf or even tennis. It’s family friendly fun in a wooded scenery, something straight out of a past where Dirty Dancing meets Camp Candy.
Hardwood forests blanket the place, and the campground is no different. You can even rest your kayak along the shores so that no morning or sunset adventure goes without a little water behind your paddles.
While it takes a minute, you can really get a feel for what you’re getting into with a waterfront site thanks to this video:
Unicoi State Park
Rather than reinvent the wheel, I’ll just post a review wrote of this place when we stayed in 2014:
The Georgia pines trembled in the wind, towering high above our little campsite. Every color imaginable was reflecting in full vivid glory even against our tarnished Airstream’s aluminum. The sound of campers prevailed, but not rowdy drunkards, just that nice background tone of kids having fun and family’s happy to be out in the woods.
The hike around the lake is highly recommended, by both myself and numerous websites dedicated to such recommendations. It’s easy, barely any elevation change (and I mean practically none, just a few ups and downs that a grasshopper could leap in a bound or two), and the entire time the lake is reflecting the trees and mountainside all around.
They also have a bunch of very interesting cabins if you’re into that sort of thing, not your usual designs, perched high above the lake. Nearby Helen, GA is one of those “we’re pretending to be a German mountain town” places, very touristy, very expensive, but worth a visit. Not a bad place at all to visit, for sure.
Victoria Bryant State Park
People like to drive their Jeeps through the creek here, or try and wear holes in their swimming trunks at natural waterslides. A golf course and fairly dark night skies round out the experience of the park itself.
The campground is small, and comprised of well-manicured but still private sites, most surrounded by small hardwood trees and their abundance of leaves.
Vogel State Park
Another one of Georgia’s state parks filled with the works of the Civilian Conservation Corp, Vogel lives in the larger playground that is the Chattahoochee National Forest. It’s also near Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest point, and scenic drives abound in the area. A park museum pays tribute to the CCC.
The entire lake is non-motorized boats only, so paddleboarders and slow moving fishermen alike can ease their way around its waters.
Campsites are secluded enough, with the usual fire pit and picnic table combo. This is Georgia mountain camping, at 2500′ in elevation, it’s a great pace to find cooler temperatures come the summer months. Waterfalls, mini-golf and 17 miles of trails are but some of the variety of activities Vogel has to offer.
Watson Mill Bridge State Park
Alphabetically the last of Georgia’s state parks, Watson Mill Bridge focuses on the “longest covered bridge in Georgia.” Which is not passable via RV, so see the website for more info on the best way to approach the park. This is another park with an emphasis on, and special accommodations just for, equestrians.
A half-mile trail from the campground drops hikers at the covered bridge, which is accompanied by a manmade waterfall.
The campsites themselves are fine, Georgia’s usual fare, not spread out like a boondocking site in Utah, but neither are they on top of your neighbor, and the natural foliage between sites provides enough privacy in most.
Hope you enjoyed this tour of all the camping in Georgia State Parks. Until the next time!