Swimming at Georgia State Parks

Swim in Lake Lanier at Don Carter State Park in Gainesville.

Swim in Lake Lanier at Don Carter State Park in Gainesville.

The heat is on, and you’re invited to cool down at Georgia State Parks with plenty of swimming options at beaches, spraygrounds and natural waterslides.

Lakeside Beaches

The lakeside beach at Fort Mountain State Park. Photo by Candy Cook.

The lakeside beach at Fort Mountain State Park. Photo by Candy Cook.

Nestled among the rolling hills, Fort Mountain‘s sandy beach and cool, refreshing waters offer an ideal summer retreat. The park features outstanding views along relatively easy hikes, primitive backcountry camping, and one of the most exciting trails included in the park system’s Muddy Spokes Mountain Biking Challenge. Vogel and Unicoi State Parks also offer magnificent views of waterfalls and mountains nearby their sandy swimming beaches.

Red Top, Fort Yargo, Don Carter and Hard Labor Creek State Parks all offer lake swimming for a getaway day near Atlanta. Bring your bikes, go on hikes, and enjoy a swim in the lake. Stay overnight in a yurt or cabin, and explore the trails in addition to swimming areas.

Splashpads, Spraygrounds and Pools

Little Ocmulgee's splash pad. Photo courtesy Georgia State Parks.

Little Ocmulgee’s splash pad. Photo courtesy Georgia State Parks.

Perfect for play dates, several parks feature splashpads and spraygrounds. Let the fun rain down at Magnolia Springs and Little Ocmulgee State Parks. They both have pools and spraygrounds. Look for aquatic wildlife in crystal clear waters from the Magnolia Springs boardwalk, or search for signs of the state reptile, gopher tortoises, on an easy hike at Little Ocmulgee.

Natural Waterslide Rocks

Watson Mill Bridge State Park in Comer, Ga. Photo courtesy Georgia State Parks.

Watson Mill Bridge State Park in Comer, Ga. Photo courtesy Georgia State Parks.

The rock formations at Watson Mill Bridge and Tallulah Gorge make natural water slides in these unique landscapes. The strenuous Canyon Climbers hike descending into Tallulah Gorge is best rewarded with a little playtime on the sliding rocks.

Coastal Campouts

Cumberland Island National Seashore. Photo by Candy Cook

Cumberland Island National Seashore. Photo by Candy Cook

Make a last minute escape to camp on the Georgia Coast at Crooked River and Skidaway Island State Parks. Make day trips to Cumberland Island National Seashore, Jekyll and St. Simons Islands from Crooked River, or visit Tybee Island beaches and Savannah from Skidaway.

candycookCandy Cook is Georgia’s official Outdoor Explorer and the author of the blog “Happy Trails Wild Tales.” Click here for more Outdoor content from Candy.

Chehaw: Nature’s Playground in Albany

See cheetahs and many more species at Chehaw in Albany. Photo by Candy Cook

See cheetahs and many more species at Chehaw in Albany. Photo by Candy Cook

Get outside and enjoy nature’s playground in Albany. Dedicated to affordable family adventure, Chehaw is a rare gem among today’s modern attractions, and it truly ranks high among Georgia’s “can’t-miss-this” list. The main event is an amazing zoo experience, but Chehaw’s adventure doesn’t end there. The park also features overnight accommodations, an 18-basket disc golf course, and over 10 miles of mountain biking trails.

Visit the Zoo

The Southern Black Rhinoceros is one of nearly 90 species at Chehaw in Albany. Photo by Candy Cook

The Southern Black Rhinoceros is one of nearly 90 species at Chehaw in Albany. Photo by Candy Cook

Home to nearly 90 unique species, “a walk in the woods” takes on new meaning at this AZA-accredited zoo. Winding through the shady trees, the path includes views of endangered cheetahs and red wolves, as well as many of Georgia’s own elusive animal residents. An open-air reptile house stands near the entrance showcasing colorful chameleons, snakes and lizards. Adapting to its inhabitants, Chehaw offers a boardwalk that leads into a mysterious alligator swampland, and an African Veldt Ride through the largest exhibit where seven species roam in natural herds.

Stay Overnight

Visitors can camp or sleep in cabins at Chehaw in Albany. Photo by Candy Cook

Visitors can camp or sleep in cabins at Chehaw in Albany. Photo by Candy Cook

Chehaw’s overnight experience covers all walks of life with modern amenities serving tent campers, RV road trippers and glamping guests. This is a full-service campground with comfort stations, utility hookups and a laundry room. Air-conditioned camper cabins cater to glampers, and every site has its own fire ring and picnic table.

Play Disc Golf

Try your hand at disc golf. Photo courtesy of Chehaw

Try your hand at disc golf. Photo courtesy of Chehaw

Disc golf adds a fun twist to a hike in the park. Players make their way around the course tossing discs into baskets rather than using clubs and balls. Chehaw’s meandering disc golf course is a favorite among regional players. The fairways include trees, shrubs, and changes in terrain that provide  a fun, challenging experience on the par 54 course.

Ride Mountain Bikes

Explore the scenic trails. Photo by Candy Cook

Explore the scenic trails. Photo by Candy Cook

Twisting and turning through the natural landscape of Chehaw, cyclists experience the serene conservation park on a series of loops designed to accommodate riders of any skill level. Beginners and families appreciate the opportunity to opt-out of technical challenges and difficult sections. The trail makes up for south Georgia’s lack of elevation change with interesting obstacles and gorgeous scenery.

candycookCandy Cook is Georgia’s official Outdoor Explorer and the author of the blog “Happy Trails Wild Tales.” Click here for more Outdoor content from Candy.

Places to Go Tubing in Georgia

Beat the heat on a joyful journey floating down the river with friends and family. River tubing offers amazing scenic views from some of Georgia’s most beloved waters. This is where excitement and adventure meet relaxing good times.

Blue Ridge

Float down the Toccoa River for a fun summer experience. Photo of Shallowford Bridge Tube Rental by Randy Gray, Broadcast Pro Photo.

Float down the Toccoa River for a fun summer experience. Photo of Shallowford Bridge Tube Rental by Randy Gray, Broadcast Pro Photo.

Perfect for families with younger kids, tubing trips on the Toccoa River offer smooth rides through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Shallowford Bridge Tube Rental is one of the oldest tubing experiences in the Blue Ridge Mountains with a 1.5-hour trip down the gorgeous Toccoa River. Toccoa Valley Campground and Toccoa Wilderness Tubing also offer a shuttle service for an easy-going adventure. Check out more outfitters in Blue Ridge.

Ellijay

Perfect for stress-relief, Coosawattee River Tubing Company takes care of tubes, life vests, and shuttle service so tubers can focus on fun with family and friends! This is a lazy float through the exquisite scenery surrounding the Coosawattee River.

Helen

Photo by @ambiguous_ash, Instagram

Cool River Tubing shuttles tubers for one- to two-hour floats down the Chattahoochee River. Go for the two-hour trip and float through serene forests before taking in the sights as the river winds through Alpine Helen! Helen Tubing and Waterpark also offers a water slide along the way.

Roswell

Floating on the Chattahoochee River is a summertime tradition. Photo: Shoot the Hooch, Roswell.

Floating on the Chattahoochee River is a summertime tradition. Photo: Shoot the Hooch, Roswell.

Located just minutes from downtown Atlanta, Shoot The Hooch is one of the best ways to experience the Chattahoochee River. Launching from several great locations, Shoot The Hooch offers short trips just over an hour to all-day excursions. Options for exploring the river with Shoot the Hooch include tubes, rafts, kayaks, paddleboards and canoes!

In addition to those destinations, there are many more places to rent tubes in Georgia. Find more tubing outfitters on ExploreGeorgia.org.

candycookCandy Cook is Georgia’s official Outdoor Explorer and the author of the blog “Happy Trails Wild Tales.” Click here for more Outdoor content from Candy.

3 Scenic Day Hikes in Georgia

Plan day hikes at these trails and experience Georgia’s natural beauty from mountains overlooking Atlanta, shady rock gardens and enchanting waterfalls.

Cloudland Canyon

Waterfall at Cloudland Canyon. Photo by Candy Cook.

Waterfall at Cloudland Canyon. Photo by Candy Cook.

Two challenging trails at Cloudland Canyon State Park lead hikers on an impressive journey to the waterfalls at the canyon floor. One of Georgia’s top scenic hikes, West Rim Loop, winds along the plateau, offering magnificent views before descent into the canyon. The 5-mile trail includes several entry points, including the campground and yurt village, as well as seamless connection to Sitton’s Gulch Trail via The Waterfalls Trail. Hikers can join Georgia’s Canyon Climbers Club by completing Sitton’s Gulch Trail. Following an array of staircases and natural paths, Sitton’s Gulch features hemlock groves, overlooks, and amazing rock formations for 2.5 miles.

Panola Mountain

Panola Mountain State Park is a hidden gem for day hikes.

Panola Mountain State Park is a hidden gem for day hikes.

A true hidden gem just 15 minutes from Atlanta, Panola Mountain State Park invites hikers to explore a pristine monadnock on guided tours to the top. The moderately strenuous hike presents a gorgeous blanket of colorful moss and lichen as hikers ascend and loop the summit. This summer, several scheduled group hikes coincide with nightfall, offering hikers a fantastic view of the sunset over Atlanta.

Little Kennesaw Mountain

Little Kennesaw Mountain

Little Kennesaw Mountain. Photo by Candy Cook.

Hikers find a quiet, out-and-back trail that fills the senses with magical mountain rock gardens, wildlife sightings and tree-framed views. Beginning at the Pigeon Hill Trail in Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, Little Kennesaw Mountain is a great escape to nature that connects to the higher elevation Kennesaw Mountain for hikers hoping to extend the trek.

candycookCandy Cook is Georgia’s official Outdoor Explorer and the author of the blog “Happy Trails Wild Tales.” Click here for more Outdoor content from Candy.

Outdoor Adventures for the Summer Solstice

Celebrate the long days of summer solstice with challenging adventures and relaxing evenings.

Summer Solstice Trail Races – June 20

Mo Flow Mountain Bike Trail at Allatoona Creek Park. Photo by Candy Cook

Mo Flow Mountain Bike Trail at Allatoona Creek Park. Photo by Candy Cook

Blaze the trails of Allatoona Creek Mountain Bike Park for the 7th annual Summer Solstice Races. With a picturesque mix of open meadow and shaded forest, the fast flowing trails of Allatoona Creek offer an exciting day of mountain biking and trail running. The races include a 3-hour mountain bike race, as well as 5k and 10k trail running races. Presented by Cobb County P.A.R.K.S and SORBA West Georgia, proceeds go toward park maintenance and improvement. Registration is now open!

Full Moon Lake Paddle or Suspension Bridge Hike – June 19 & 20

Tallulah Gorge. Photo by Candy Cook.

Tallulah Gorge. Photo by Candy Cook.

Play the day away at Tallulah Gorge State Park, and then enjoy a relaxing evening paddling the lake or hiking across the suspension bridge. Illuminated by the light of the full moon, this is truly a unique and exciting way to explore one of Georgia’s natural wonders in a different light. Register in advance to paddle the lake or hike the suspension bridge.

Stone Mountain Park

SkyHike at Stone Mountain Park. Photo by Candy Cook.

SkyHike at Stone Mountain Park. Photo by Candy Cook.

The longest days of the year offer more time to experience the endless adventures at Stone Mountain Park. Hop aboard the Scenic Railroad for a trip around the mountain, splash the day away at Geyser Towers, and explore this natural wonder hiking the park’s nature trails. The day comes to a close with the awe-inspiring Lasershow Spectacular!

candycookCandy Cook is Georgia’s official Outdoor Explorer and the author of the blog “Happy Trails Wild Tales.” Click here for more Outdoor content from Candy.