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Hike, Bike and Paddle to Fall Color

Tuesday, July 19, 2016 - 09:00

Nothing can top a breathtaking view of Georgia forests painted with a myriad of oranges, reds and golds in the crisp autumn air.

Georgia’s leaves change colors in October, and Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites are the perfect place to enjoy leaf-peeping during the peak of fall color. Autumn weather beckons trail-goers to enjoy the cooler climate via water, wheels or trusty hiking boots: feel the leaves crunch underfoot while hiking, breeze past a blur of fall foliage on a mountain bike, and paddle the waters and gaze at the leaves both above in the trees and below in the water’s reflection in Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites.


Georgia State Parks feature stunning views of the changing leaves for experienced and novice hikers alike. Take a breath of fresh fall air and admire the colorful views of Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee at Black Rock Mountain State Park’s scenic overlook. Those looking to take a walk on the wilder side can scale beautiful summits on the 7.2 mile Edmund C. Backcountry Trail, where the crest of Lookoff Mountain offers a stunning vista of Wolffork Valley and surrounding mountain ranges. Vogel State Park’s four mile Bear Hair Gap Trail is family-friendly, and offers a birds-eye view of Lake Trahlyta. For beginners circle the one mile Lake Loop to a miniature waterfall that is framed by the surrounding golden foliage.

Mountain Biking

Mountain bikers will get their fill of fall thrills on Georgia’s mountain biking trails as they speed down invigorating hills and breeze past colorful overlooks of the Chattahoochee National Forest at Fort Mountain State ParkPut your endurance to the test on 14.6 miles of trails on the East/West Loop that includes a technical downhill section through a powerline alley. Race past bright fall colors and scenic views in the open forests of Unicoi and Red Top Mountain state parks. Even seasoned cyclists are tested on Unicoi’s seven-mile bike trail, that parallels Smith Creek. See rich autumn views at the higher elevation portions of the trail. Circle Red Top Mountain’s meandering four-mile Iron Hill Trail loop while admiring the spectacular sights of Lake Allatoona’s autumn foliage. All three parks belong to Georgia’s Muddy Spokes Club, a series of mountain biking trails created to challenge experienced and casual cyclists alike to tackle 68 miles of trails in 11 state parks.


Paddle 3 miles on the lake to Highway 80 at George L. Smith State Park, where cypress trees turn orange in November. The river’s slight current pushes paddlers along, and while on the water look out for beaver dams, blue heron, white ibis and other wading birds. At Sweetwater Creek State Park, visitors can explore the perimeter of George H. Sparks Reservoir, then loop around to the north banks to land near the picnic areas for a post-paddle meal. Enjoy the setting sun and watch for wading birds and raptors as the adventure-filled day comes to a close. Both state parks are part of the Park Paddlers Club, an organization for those of all levels looking to participate in paddling experiences across Georgia state park’s waterways.


Those looking for an outdoor getaway can find a variety of accommodations that allow visitors modern luxuries while nestled for a night in the wilderness, including yurts, cabins and campgrounds. One of the most scenic locations is at Cloudland Canyon State Park, where the 10-yurt village sits on the edge of the canyon, and at Tugaloo State Park, where six yurts are positioned on the banks of Hartwell Reservoir.

If nature-goers are looking for an elegant mountain retreat, Smithgall Woods offers six beautifully decorated cabins. Some cottages provide a charming porch along the stream, while others have private hot tubs. Traverse the one-mile trail from any of the six cottages to reach a stunning view of Dukes Creek Falls. At Hard Labor Creek State Park, visitors can rest at one of the campgrounds or retreat to one of recently renovated mountain cottages. These cabins feature screened-in porches, LCD televisions and cozy fireplaces, perfect for a cool fall evening.


Wondering when is the best time to visit? Only Mother Nature knows for sure, but peak color in Georgia is usually toward the end of October or early November.  To help leaf peepers find the best scenery, Georgia’s State Parks offer an online “Leaf Watch” travel planner, found at