published Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Unexpected delights can be found in Georgia parks

Brothers Matthew and James Mullican look for a good fishing spot in James H. “Sloppy “Floyd State Park lake near Summerville, Ga.
Brothers Matthew and James Mullican look for a good fishing spot in James H. “Sloppy “Floyd State Park lake near Summerville, Ga.
Photo by Staff File Photo.
  • photo
    Amicalola Falls State Park near Dawsonville, Ga.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
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Some of Georgia's finest features are no surprise, like its trout-filled lakes and thick forests, ripe with blueberries. But Georgia parks have their share of unexpected delights as well: Deep canyons. A waterfall more than 700 feet tall. A huge Native American-built wall on a mountaintop. Yurts for rent. Explore as you wish. Ease along on a pedal boat, or strap on a helmet and tumble down whitewater rapids. And if you stay awake for the car ride, you may notice the view from the window's not so bad either.

TAKE IN THE VIEW

With some of the most dramatic landscapes in the region, you'll have a hard time believing Cloudland Canyon near Rising Fawn is practically in Chattanooga's backyard.

• A deep gorge cuts through this park, located on the western edge of Lookout Mountain.

• Hike the rim of the canyon for spectacular views all around.

• Staircases have been put in for easy access to the waterfall on the canyon floor.

• Stay overnight in a traditional camping setup or opt for a more exotic camping experience: a night in a yurt.

• The park opens at 7 a.m., and gates close at 10 p.m. Parking is $5.

Source: Georgia State Parks

SEE THE FISH FLOP

With boat rentals and two stocked lakes for fishing, James H. "Sloppy" Floyd State Park near Summerville, offers good, clean fun -- as long as you stay in the boat.

• The park, located in northwest Georgia, is especially great for kids, with two playgrounds, pedal boats, a boardwalk and ducks to feed.

• Two boat ramps offer access for electric motor boats. Kayaks and canoes are available for rental.

• Overnight accommodations include campsites and cottages.

• The park opens at 7 a.m., and gates close at 10 p.m. Parking is $5.

Source: Georgia State Parks

STEEP CLIMB UP TO SEE WATER COME DOWN

At Amicalola Falls State Park and Lodge near Dawsonville, you'll see the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast.

• There are two routes up the 729-foot waterfall -- an easy walkway and a difficult climb.

• From the park, you can hike 8-1/2 miles to Springer Mountain, the starting point of the Appalachian Trail.

• Because of the popularity of the park, advance reservations are recommended, especially during peak leaf season.

• The park opens at 7 a.m., and gates close at 10 p.m. Parking is $5.

Source: Georgia State Parks

TIGHTEN THE SADDLE OR LACE UP YOUR BOOTS

Fort Mountain State Park near Chatsworth, Ga., offers a bevy of trails for day hikers, backpackers, mountain bikers and horseback riders.

• Trails will lead you through hardwood forest, across streams, around a lake and along blueberry thickets.

• At the top of the mountain, visitors will see an 855-foot-long wall, thought to have been constructed by Native Americans.

• If you'd like to stay overnight at the park, you can rough it at a backcountry campsite, pitch a tent or park an RV at the campground or settle in for the night at a fully equipped cottage.

• Park opens at 7 a.m., and gates close at 10 p.m. Parking is $5.

Source: Georgia State Parks

PADDLE DOWN THE 'HOOCH'

This 48-mile stretch of chilly river outside Atlanta is open for rafts, kayaks, canoes, and motor boats all year. (Sorry, no jet skis.)

• Bring your fishing pole for the catfish, trout, bass and other fish that inhabit the waters.

• All the park roads are open to cyclists, plus about seven miles of trails.

• The park is open from dawn to dusk. There is an entrance fee of $3 per car, per day.

Source: National Park Service

2 MILES LONG, 1,000 FEET DEEP

The stunning canyon at Tallulah Gorge State Park at Tallulah Falls is a haven for thrill-seekers and leisurely visitors alike.

• Hike around the rim and look into the gorge. Venture across the 80-foot-high suspension bridge if you dare.

• On scheduled dates, water is released for spectators and whitewater boaters.

• Climbers can scale the canyon walls, and hikers and mountain bikers can take advantage of more than 20 miles of trails.

• The park is open from 8 a.m. to dark. Parking costs $5.

Source: Georgia State Parks

about Mary Helen Miller...

Mary Helen Miller joined the staff at the Chattanooga Times Free Press as a multimedia reporter in 2013. She produces audio, video, and graphics for the Web, and occasionally writes stories. Before starting at the Times Free Press, Mary Helen worked as a radio reporter at WUTC, the NPR affiliate station in Chattanooga. She won an Edward R. Murrow award for a story she produced there about the anniversary of the 2011 tornadoes that hit ...

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