Visiting the Northern Georgia Mountains from Orlando
Updated: Feb 23
We have been living in Florida for almost five years now and one thing I have been missing are the elevations. The lush mountains and rolling hills are non-existent in Florida, and every time we pass Volcano Bay on I-4, my husband would playfully say, "Look, there's the highest point in Florida." Over the holidays, we had the opportunity to take a spontaneous trip, finally a visit to the Northern Georgia Mountains (and Atlanta) were in the calling.
While researching on places with elevations to visit, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Georgia has so many beautiful state parks. And it's not just nature and fresh air, the sceneries are also amazing with Instagram-worthy lodging options. I narrowed down the main attractions to two state parks. One was the Sweetwater Creek State Park - 40 minutes outside of Atlanta, GA and the other was Vogel State Park in Blairsville, GA. The Sweetwater Creek State Park appealed to me because it reminds me of Scotland, and nothing I would expect from a State Park in the United States. Vogel State Park was my husband's pick, merely because he has heard of it, and once I saw the adorable cabins there I was sold.
We visited Sweetwater Creek State Park first due to it's proximity to Atlanta. The trail to the ruins of the New Manchester Manufacturing Company, a textile mill burned during the Civil War, was easy and very manageable even for someone who's not physically fit, and would be a breeze for little kids. The trail to the mills was beautiful, and very easy to get to. I think the trail leading to the ruins was only about half a mile. My toddler even walked most of the way there himself.
Doesn't this seem like a scenic castle ruin in Scotland?!?!? I was thinking the locals must want to keep this natural gem to themselves because I have never even seen or heard of it before. Even the river and the river rocks alone were so gorgeous. I was just so blown away by the beauty of the ruins and the picturesque nature surrounding it. If you get a chance to visit Atlanta, I highly recommend a trip to Sweetwater Creek State Park, if you enjoy trekking and scenic nature.
On the way back we went on a more challenging trial. I was surprised that my eldest wasn't bored at all and he actually loved exploring the nature. He enjoyed climbing up the rocks, hiking up the hills, and looking at all the tree stumps, mosses, and insects we encountered along the way.
Sweetwater Creek State Park is only a 45 minutes drive from Downtown Atlanta. The only
downside would be the availability of parking since it is a very popular attraction. It took us quite a while to find a parking spot, but once you start walking towards the ruins, I was surprised to find that there wasn't a crowd.
The purpose of our trip was to visit Atlanta and see the mountains. The Vogel State Park got my attention from a photo of its cabin. A wooden cabin in the mountains seemed so idyllic and perfect for the holidays. Unfortunately, since this trip was a spontaneous one, all the cabins were fully booked. Note that cabins in most of the state parks in Georgia require a minimum of 2 nights per booking.
The trip up the mountains to Vogel State Park reminded me of a trip up to Doi Suthep, Chiang-Mai in Northern Thailand. The road swirling curves up and around the mountains and the heavy fog. It is almost a coincidence that the time it takes from Orlando to Northern Georgia is about the same time it takes from Bangkok to Chiang-Mai. I vacationed in Chiang-Mai almost every year when I was growing up, due to Covid I haven't been able to go back to Thailand, so the Deja vu feeling was very welcoming.
Note that you need to be an experienced driver to go up the mountains. There were a lot of sharp curves and steep hills. At one point it got so foggy that it was almost too scary to keep going, vision was almost zero. Adding to the scare, our ears started to pop due to the high altitudes.
Once we got through the foggy stretch that lasted for quite a while, however, everything turned back to normal.
Once we got to Vogel State Park, the cabin of my dreams was there to greet us as we arrived.
We were welcomed with signs stating that there are black bears at the State Park. The ranger mentioned that they're not really around this time of year. However, the weather was unusually warm during the time of our visit (70s degree end of December.) I couldn't help but crossing my fingers and toes that we would not be encountering the "homeowners."
The trial around the lake was breezy and beautiful. However, as the name Land of the Raising Sons may suggest - one easy trial wasn't nearly enough for my 7-year old son. After a beginner trial, we went on another moderate trial up and down the hills. The hike was definitely manageable but it was tougher for me since we already walked all around the lake. I would suggest to grab a hiking stick/ walking pole to help provide stability, and reduce strain on joints for physically unfit folks like myself.
Photo credits: F.D. Roosevelt State Park
Photo credits: Cloudland Canyon State Park
Amicalola Falls, the tallest waterfall in the Southeast. Photo credit: theoutbound.com
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Hi, I'm Ketsiree Tury. Let's Connect!
Foodie | Blogger | Content Strategist
I blog about affordable family-fun, food & travel around the Sunshine State 🌅 & Beyond ☕🥐🌸🍵
Bangkok bred. Orlando based. The original blogger of Direct Bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap: Step-by-Step Journey.
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