In the month of May we spent some time exploring north Georgia as a family. We were armed with a newly purchased Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites Family Pass because without it, those $5 parking fees tend to add up when you are stopping at several state parks throughout the year.
We had several goals in getting a state park pass and touring Georgia:
- One, we were officially finished with our homeschool year and were celebrating.
- Two, we were continuing our studies in Georgia history.
- And three, we wanted to see waterfalls.
Now this last goal was prompted by our eldest daughter, Luci. She is a lover of waterfalls and so we picked spots that included cascading water! She also is a gifted photographer, so many of the photos you see are included in this post. You can follow her instagram account to see more nature photography.
Now, being a family of seven, we have to be practical. We realize that we have an age range of children – some of which simply don’t have the stamina for lengthy walks and hikes. We decided to start out easy and local. We first took the easy to moderate walk down to the Sweetwater Creek State Park mill ruins. The rapids were beautiful and it was wonderful to hear the water as we walked.
We saw a sign there pointing to the Sweetwater Falls that intrigued us. Yet we knew we didn’t have any more water bottles with us. So, we wisely decided to build up to that more strenuous walk and save it for another time.
Between our visit to Sweetwater Creek State Park and our trek to the north Georgia mountains, we started regularly walking and exploring the local Silver Comet Trail. We are still doing that several times a week.
We found that May was a wonderful time to visit Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites. The weather was still cool. There were few mosquitoes. And the days were already a bit longer – with later sunsets.
“This is my Father’s world, I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; His hand the wonders wrought.”
~ Note: As with our Georgia and Southeastern Civil War Field Trips, we will be adding to this list as we visit.
We picked our parks and waterfalls and planned day trips to be spread out over a week. When we traveled to north Georgia, we stayed in sort of a ‘home base’ spot owned by family and planned our day trips from there. Plenty of families camp at state parks and explore that way. We simply made a list of parks and waterfalls and decided which one to go see based on the weather that day. We also planned down time –days of rest – in between. Smaller children and older adults need rest time
On our way to Amicalola Falls, we stopped at Vogel State Park. I understand there is a waterfall there we need to find. But we did see the beautiful lake and a little bridge over a babbling brook (bottom, middle picture in the above favorites collage by my daughter).
Close by there is also Lake Winfield Scott – I visited and loved this spot years ago.
Amicalola Falls – the photo above is of Amicalola Falls as is the one at top of this post. We found the West Ridge Falls Access to be the easiest way to take for the best view. It was the 0.3 mile path from the parking lot – the West Ridge Falls Access Parking area.
This path was paved with recycled tire mulch like that we found at Tallulah Gorge State Park. We also drove up the hill and took a look at the view from the top of the falls. If you’d like to do the more strenuous hike – with 400 something stairs then you surely can. The West Ridge Falls access was just right for us!
The Falls at Tallulah Gorge State Park – we were a bit confused at first and thought that the hike to any sort of overlook or view would be long and difficult. Actually, just a short walk on nicely paved trails (recycled tire mulch) takes you to some spectacular views. We went to several of the overlooks that are just a short distance from the visitor center. We plan to go back and do the more difficult hike to the bridge down in the gorge.
- ADA Hi-Falls Trail – Black Rock Mountain State Park – Hodgepodgedad and the children have all been to Black Rock State Park before but we’ve never hiked the 0.25 strenuous hike to the falls. It’s on our list!
- Fall Branch Falls – on our list to see!
- DeSoto Falls – on our list.
On the way to Anna Ruby Falls, there is a beautiful drive through Unicoi State Park. Our Eldest Girl shares a collage of some of the favorite stopping points and water features there.
Anna Ruby Falls – there are a few big hills but a short, approximately 0.5 mile walk is definitely worth it to see these twin falls!
Be sure to stop in nearby Helen, Georgia for so many fun things to see and do. There’s even a short little falls and you can catch a meal at a restaurant by the river.
Brasstown Bald – (note that this is not a Georgia State Park but rather maintained by U.S. Forest Service. Therefore those of you with State Park passes will pay a fee). Right in the middle of our waterfall excursions, we decided to travel to the highest point in Georgia, Brasstown Bald. We are glad we did because the view was spectacular. We opted to ride the shuttle up to the visitor center and look out at the top. We walked back down the very steep trail to the parking lot below.
While there are not any waterfalls that we saw, you can view four states from the top! Another note is that the ranger said that we arrived on the warmest day of the year. Earlier days of the year or later in the fall, you might consider taking a jacket because it is breezy.
The Falls at Sweetwater Creek State Park – After all our north Georgia hiking, we went back to this park located in west metro Atlanta – just 15 miles from downtown. We had walked to the ruins of the Sweetwater Creek Mill the month before. But on Memorial Day we decided to trek to the Sweetwater Creek Falls. This is one of the more difficult hikes we have done. And the visitor center guide tells you just that. There is much climbing over rocks, shoals, steep inclines and staircases. But the end result is worth it. Wear close toed shoes, take two water bottles (one for the hike there and one for the hike back). This hike took us two hours round trip with the whole family.
Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest – A most honorable mention. While it is not in Georgia – but is a good hour and a half from the northern border and near Robbinsville, North Carolina, it is a wonderful family destination. “This forest is one of the Nation’s most impressive remnants of old-growth forest. The forest contains magnificent examples of more than 100 tree species, many over 400-years-old, and some more than 20 feet in circumference and 100 feet tall. This 3,800-acre forest was set aside in 1936 as a memorial to the author of the poem “Trees,” Joyce Kilmer…”
With one of the most beautiful scenes of water tumbling over giant boulders covered with moss. (Eldest Girl, in red, climbing to get a picture.)
Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord…There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths. ~ Micah 4:2
Going to state parks for day trips is a wonderful goal. We started this journey of exploration in stages, building our endurance on local trails and making small goals with our five children, ages six to sixteen. Other tips we found helpful: frequent breaks, close toed shoes, each person carrying a drawstring backpack with a granola bar and water bottles.
More to Explore in Georgia!
- Georgia Civil War Field Trips and Resources
- 52 Atlanta Area Hikes for Kids
- Tips for Hiking with Kids (great, basic tips!)
- Atlanta Frugal Family Fun Staycation
- Follow @gastateparks on instagram for more beautiful photos of our state’s parks. (Both my daughter and I have had photos featured on their account! If you tag your photos #gastateparks they may feature yours.) But be warned – seeing these photos in your instagram stream will just make you want to travel the state seeing all these places.
Follow Tricia’s board Homeschooling in Georgia on Pinterest.
Jamie Worley and I have been collecting so many fun things on our Homeschooling in Georgia Pinterest board!
Waterfall Chalk Pastel Art Tutorial – Perfect as a follow up to waterfall visits, this is an easy, quick pastel painting that I think artists of every age will enjoy! You can get into the tumbling motion of the water as it crashes down to the rocks below the falls.
I hope you enjoyed the highlights of our north Georgia tour!
What are your favorite waterfalls in Georgia? What should we trek to see next?