With rolling mountains, deep forests and white sand beaches, hiking in Georgia is a blissful experience. The Blue Ridge Mountains touch down into Georgia’s northern border and the Appalachian Trail meets its epic finale here. Lush forests reign across northern and central Georgia, while barrier islands with marshes and beaches dot Georgia’s southern and eastern coast. Whether you are in north or south Georgia, hiking trails abound. Here are 8 great hikes you will not want to miss in the Peach State.
North Georgia Hikes
1. Gahuti Trail
Distance (loop): 8.2 miles Elevation Gain: 1500 feet Difficulty: Difficult Dogs: On-leash This tranquil hike is only a few hours north of Atlanta, and beckons to those seeking quiet streams under the canopy of hardwood forests. Begin at the Cool Springs Overlook, and after a few miles, Goldmine Branch Falls cascades down several rock outcroppings. If you have time, add in an extra two miles to see the historic fire tower and the mysterious stone wall built by Native Americans. This hike can be done in all seasons, but due to weather it is best hiked in the spring through fall. This longer hike is recommended for older children. Parking is $5.
Distance (round-trip): 5.0 miles Elevation Gain: 750 feet Difficulty: Moderate Dogs: On-leash The Cohutta Wilderness is one of the largest wilderness areas in the southeast, and hiking to the top of Grassy Mountain will give hikers a spectacular view of its forested ridges and valleys. Start out on the shores of Lake Conasauga, the highest elevation lake in Georgia, and trek through a forest of oak, hemlock, and rhododendron. Families and hikers of all levels will enjoy this hike. There is no parking fee, and it is possible to hike year-round.
Distance (round-trip): 2.0 miles Elevation Gain: 400 feet Difficulty: Moderate Dogs: On-leash This trail wastes no time in dropping steeply into Cloudland Canyon, hugging the canyon walls and passing through deep forest on the way to the waterfalls. The steep terrain is worth it, as both Cherokee Falls and Hemlock Falls waterfalls are impressive, clocking in at over 60 feet tall. Visit during the winter and spring, when the flows are the highest, although the fall foliage is also spectacular. Children and dogs should take caution. Parking is $5 and the trail leaves from the Main Trailhead in Cloudland Canyon State Park.
Distance (round-trip): 8.6 miles Elevation Gain: approximately 1000 feet Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult Dogs: On-leash The southern section of the Appalachian Trail has an epic end on the top of Springer Mountain, although you certainly do not have to hike all 2,000 miles of this trail to experience the finale! Begin from the Three Forks trailhead and hike through the lush green creek valley while winding up the mountain. Enjoy vistas towards the top and check out the Appalachian Trail Shelter near the camping area. The hiking season is from spring to fall. There are no parking fees.
Distance (loop): 7.2 miles Elevation Gain: 2100 feet Difficulty: Hard Dogs: On-leash Hike through the backcountry in Black Rock Mountain State Park, the highest elevation park in Georgia. The trail gains and loses elevation as it travels through a variety of terrain, from creek valleys with bubbling waterfalls, to lushly forested slopes and summits with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Begin at the trailhead shared with the Tennessee Rock Trail, hiking north and then counterclockwise around the loop. This hike can be done year-round, although summers will be hot. Due to the steep elevation gain and loss, it is not recommended for children. Parking costs $5 and a trail map of the park can be found here.
West and Central Georgia Hikes
Distance (loop): 2.5 miles Elevation Gain: 250 Difficulty: Moderate Dogs: On-leash Known as Georgia’s “Little Grand Canyon,” Providence Canyon State Park is one of the geologic wonders of the state. Steep sandstone cliffs in all shades of red, orange and white with rare Plumleaf Azaleas and pine trees are scattered throughout the park. The canyons were caused by farming practices almost 200 years ago, and although beautiful they are also worth seeing to understand how much humans can impact the landscape. Bring waterproof hiking shoes in case the bottoms of the canyons are wet, and don’t plan on climbing the canyon walls – the soils are too fragile. Visit anytime, especially during July and August when the azaleas are blooming. Parking is $5, and campsites and backcountry sites are available. Families can do this hike, making sure children stay away from the canyon edges.
Distance (round-trip): 1.5 miles Elevation Gain: 0 feet Difficulty: Easy Dogs: On-leash A trip to the Kolomoki Mounds State Park offers fascinating insight into the unique peoples that inhabited this part of Georgia thousands of years ago. This short trail passes through the woods and the village area, circling around the mounds and the springs and streams the villagers used for their water. Tour the mounds and spend some time in the museum. This park is especially good for children. Parking costs $5, and this trail can be explored year-round.
Distance (loop): 6.7 miles Elevation Gain: 900 feet Difficulty: Moderate Dogs: On-leash F.D. Roosevelt State Park is Georgia’s largest state park and features rolling forested hills and a surprising number of waterfalls. The Wolfden Loop connects several different trails, and it is a great way to see a few main park features, including a scenic section of forest and five different waterfalls. Park at the Rocky Point parking area and follow the Pine Mountain Trail south for a tenth of a mile to the Beaver Pond Trail. Stay on this trail for just under 2 miles, and then turn left onto the Pine Mountain Trail for the rest of the hike. This hike is good for children, and dogs, and can be done year-round, but is best done in the fall when the forest is lit up with brilliant fall hues. Parking costs $5, and a trail map can be found here.
Coastal Georgia Hikes
Distance (round-trip): 2.5 miles Elevation Gain: 0 feet Difficulty: Easy Dogs: On-leash Just outside of coastal Savannah sits Skidway Island State Park, home to salt marshes, maritime forest and beaches. Walk on boardwalks with open views of the salt marsh, as well as through a forest with Spanish moss swinging from tree branches. Wildlife viewing opportunities abound, as well as unique historical artifacts, like an old moonshine still from Prohibition. This hike can be done year-round and is a great way to get kids out in nature. Parking is $5.
Distance (loop): 4.3 miles Elevation Gain: 0 feet Difficulty: Easy Dogs: Not allowed Cumberland Island is steeped in history, but this southern Georgia barrier island is now only inhabited by lizards, wild horses and giant oak trees. Powdery white sand beaches stretch into the horizon and the blue water is perfect for dipping your toes. The Southend Loop is the best way to see a little bit of everything that the island offers, like the beaches, forest, and the abandoned Dungeness ruins from the Carnegie family. If you have more time, consider camping out and exploring the Northend or wilderness areas for a remote experience. Families will enjoy exploring the island, and this hike is suitable for children. The best time to visit Cumberland Island is during the winter or spring. Access to the island is by the Cumberland Island Ferry, which leaves from St. Mary’s and costs $28 for adults, $18 for children. Advanced reservations are recommended. The park entrance fee is $7.