North Georgia is home to some of the state’s most scenic — and popular — parks. If you’re planning a move to the mountains or even just looking for a weekend getaway, these state parks offer recreation, history and fun for all ages.
Georgia’s newest state park, which opened in 2015, is the 173-acre Hardman Farm located in historic Sautee Nacoochee, just south of Helen.
The farm is best known for a favorite landmark: The gazebo-topped Nacoochee Mound, a burial site probably used long before the Cherokee inhabited the area, which sits in the middle of verdant cow pasture. Visitors can make reservations for guided tours of the house and dairy barn.
The house, built in 1870 by Captain James Nichols, is a grand example of Italianate architecture and was originally known as “West End” because it was at the west end of the Nacoochee valley. Visitors will enjoy seeing the house, with its 19th-century parlor, original lighting, and interesting telephone and climate control system. The large barn was the focal point of Nacoochee Dairy that operated from 1910 until the mid-1920s. During tours, guests will learn how milk was processed and transported in the past, plus they will see a spring house and former horse barn.
The last owner of this property was the family of Dr. Lamartine Hardman who was governor of Georgia from 1927 to 1931. The farm was preserved and donated to the state of Georgia in 1999.
For reservations and more information about events and activities at the farm, visit gastateparks.org/HardmanFarm.
At 729 feet, Amicalola Falls is the tallest cascade in Georgia. There are various options on how to best view the tumbling waters, ranging from an accessible pathway to a challenging trail with staircases.
Those who tackle the latter can join the park’s Canyon Climbers Club. An 8.5-mile trail leads from the park to Springer Mountain, the southern end of the famous 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail.
For more information, visit gastateparks.org/AmicalolaFalls.
Etowah River Water Trail
With the exception of the upper reaches of the river (Hightower and Etowah Falls sections), Etowah is rated as a Class I river with fast water interrupted occasionally by small shoals and rapids, and is suitable for novice paddlers.
Scenery along the river ranges from wild (Headwaters, Dawson Forest and other sections) as it winds through national forests and state wildlife management areas to rural and even urban.
The river is home to more Native American fish weirs than are found on all other Georgia rivers combined and historic sites, including the Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site, dot its banks from Dawsonville to Rome. The river passes through three state wildlife management areas (Dawson Forest, McGraw Ford and Allatoona), the Chattahoochee National Forest and numerous local parks. For more information, visit etowahwatertrail.org.
Try your hand at deep gorge rock climbing at Tallulah Gorge, which is two-miles long and nearly 1,000 feet deep. Visitors can hike rim trails to several overlooks, or they can obtain a permit to hike to the gorge floor (100 per day, not available during water releases).
A suspension bridge sways 80 feet above the rocky bottom, providing spectacular views of the river and waterfalls. Tightrope walkers have twice crossed the gorge, and visitors can still see towers used by Karl Wallenda. For more, visit gastateparks.org/TallulahGorge.