Known for its juicy peaches, sweet Vidalia onions, and buttery pecans, Georgia is also the birthplace of Coca-Cola and famed civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Its diverse natural beauty includes mountains, forests, marshes, barrier islands, and more than 100 miles of coastline.
Whether you’re interested in chasing waterfalls, taking in breathtaking views, or following in the footsteps of historical figures, you’ll love these scenic hikes in Georgia.
1. Long Creek Falls, Appalachian Trail
This is my pick for the best hike in Georgia. Check out TravelAwaits’ picks for the best hikes in all 50 states here. Stretching more than 2,000 miles across 14 states from Maine to Georgia, the Appalachian Trail is the world’s longest hiking-only footpath. The Peach State is home to more than 78 miles of the path’s southern tip, with hikes ranging from easy to challenging.
Beginning where Noontootla Road intersects the Appalachian Trail near Blue Ridge, the 1.9-mile hike to Long Creek Falls is a popular stretch of the famed trail in Georgia. Largely following the natural curves of Stover Creek, this path through the wilderness to a gorgeous waterfall is heavily shaded by old-growth trees. However, you may want an SUV, truck, or all-terrain vehicle to navigate the road to the trailhead. If that’s not possible, then slow down and prepare to dodge a few potholes.
2. Springer Mountain, Appalachian Trail
For a more challenging section of the Appalachian Trail, hike to Springer Mountain. The trail is accessible from the same parking lot as the Long Creek Falls trek, but it travels southwest along Stover Creek instead of northeast. This 10-mile loop is lined with wildflowers, so watch for the telltale three petals of trillium, blue violets, snowy white silver bells, and other blooms along the way.
3. Brasstown Bald, Chattahoochee National Forest
For a spectacular panoramic view, hike up Brasstown Bald in the Chattahoochee National Forest, located near Blairsville. A 0.5-mile hike from the Brasstown Bald Visitor Center parking lot takes trekkers to the highest point in Georgia. (If the steep, moderately challenging hike to the observation deck is too strenuous for you, especially at an altitude of more than 4,500 feet above sea level, a shuttle service is available.) At the top, you can see four states (Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina) and even the skyline of Atlanta on a clear day.
4. Raven Cliffs Wilderness
Managed by the United States Forest Service, the Raven Cliffs Wilderness covers just over 9,200 acres in northern Georgia. In addition to following the Appalachian Trail for 6.6 miles through this area, hikers can enjoy the Raven Cliffs Falls Trail. Near the town of Helen, this 4.8-mile out-and-back trail is a bit steep at the end, but the waterfall makes every step worth it! Along the way, watch for wildlife like deer, squirrels, and wild turkeys.
5. Panther Creek Falls
To access these beautiful falls near Turnerville, follow the moderately challenging, 3.5-mile out-and-back trail along Panther Creek. The relatively flat route is lined with native wildflowers and shaded by white pines, but there are a few steep sections, and rock scrambling is typically required. If you have the time and interest, pack a rod and reel and pause to fish for trout. Or enjoy the swimming area at the base of the falls before heading back.
6. Providence Canyon State Park
Featuring Providence Canyon, referred to as the Peach State’s little Grand Canyon, this state park covers more than 1,000 acres in southwest Georgia. But while Arizona’s Grand Canyon was carved by the Colorado River, Georgia’s gorge was the result of poor farming practices in the 1800s. Once the trees and native plants were cleared for farmland, the elements eroded the soil and rock at a formidable rate, creating 16 canyons.
More than 10 miles of hiking trails at Providence Canyon State Park begin and end at the visitor center. Covering 2.5 miles, the Canyon Loop Trail is rated easy to moderate and winds past nine of the canyons.
No matter which trail you blaze at Providence Canyon State Park, be sure to stay off of the canyon floors and rims, because the iron-rich soil and sandy clay are very fragile. And when wading in the creek beds, be sure to remain in the center, since the earth on the sides can be very volatile, like quicksand.
7. Red Top Mountain State Park
Less than an hour northwest of Atlanta, Red Top Mountain State Park is a jagged peninsula that juts into Allatoona Lake. It offers more than 15 miles of hiking trails, from ADA-accessible, paved paths to natural routes that wind through pine forests and meander along the shoreline.
The fastest and easiest way to enjoy the lake is to follow the paved Lakeside Trail. Beginning and ending at the park office parking lot, this 0.75-mile loop hugs the shore of Lake Allatoona and leads to the 1869 Vaughan Cabin that was dismantled log by log and moved to its current location in Red Top Mountain State Park in 1993.
For a longer hike, follow the 3.9-mile Iron Hill Trail through what used to be an iron mining community 150 years ago. This trek is well marked, with very subtle elevation gain and beautiful views of the water.
8. Fort Yargo State Park
Roughly halfway between Atlanta and Athens, Fort Yargo began in 1792 with a log building that protected European explorers and settlers from Creek and Cherokee tribes. Today, this 1,800-acre state park encircles the V-shaped Fort Yargo Lake with more than 20 miles of trails.
Fully paved and ADA accessible, the Bird Berry Trail is a 0.5-mile nature trail that loops past beautiful flowers, a gazebo, and educational signs in both text and Braille. It’s also a great spot to watch for birds like herons, geese, and blackbirds.
For a longer hike at Fort Yargo State Park, consider the Lake Loop Trail. This 7-mile path encircles the lake and provides many opportunities to see turtles, squirrels, rabbits, and white-tailed deer. Although the route is relatively flat, it will still take approximately 3 to 4 hours to complete the full hike, so be sure you have ample water, snacks, sunscreen, and bug spray!
9. Georgia’s Barrier Islands
Georgia’s Atlantic Coast includes 15 barrier islands. While the majority can only be reached by boat, the islands of Jekyll, Saint Simons, Sea, and Tybee are accessible by car.
From the time the Native Americans used it to hunt and fish to the time it served as an exclusive hunting club for the nation’s most affluent families, Jekyll Island has been a popular vacation destination. If your adventures take you to this Georgian barrier island near Brunswick, then check out the Jekyll Island Bike Trail. Ringing the island, this 15-mile shared-use path winds around sand dunes, over wooden bridges, and past historic sites.
As someone who lives in the most landlocked state in the Union (the Sunflower State of Kansas), I find myself drawn like a moth to the light to lighthouses. If you are searching for scenic hikes near Tybee Island, you’ll love the trail from the coast to the Cockspur Island Lighthouse. This beacon is the smallest lighthouse in Georgia and is just across the South Channel north of Tybee.
10. Squares Of Savannah Walking Tour
Unlike the other recommendations that ascend mountain paths and encircle calm lakes, this walking tour winds past all of Savannah’s historic squares. And while you won’t be scrambling over rocks or splashing through canyon creeks, you will be walking up to 9 miles in the Savannah Historic District. So be sure to strap on a pair of sturdy sandals or hiking boots, slather on sunscreen, spritz on some bug repellent, and prepare a day pack with snacks and water before venturing out, just like you would when hiking in the wilderness.
Beginning at Forsyth Park and ending just north of Franklin Square, the tour highlights 61 points of interest. Allowing yourself only 5 minutes per stop, and adding in the requisite walking time, this urban hike will take approximately 8 to 9 hours to complete.
Pro Tip: Whether you are walking the Appalachian Trail all the way to Maine or just exploring sections of Georgia’s trails, March and April are great months for hiking in the Peach State. Once the hot, muggy summer months have passed, October and November are also great times to take in Georgia’s natural beauty.
This article is presented by KEEN Footwear. For my hikes, I wore the KEEN SOLR Sandal in Light Gray/Ocean Wave. The acronym stands for Sea Ocean Lake River, and the SOLR was the perfect shoe to splash around in when visiting waterfalls and trekking along creeks and rivers. Shop KEEN’s SOLR and other hiking shoes here.