The foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains hide some pretty enchanting beauty. The Piedmont region of Georgia is kind of the perfect spot for a weekend trip. It's marked by the perfect triple threat of rugged forests, rolling hills, and rich history. Where else in the country can you swim below a waterfall, steal a kiss on a covered bridge, and spend the night in a lakeside yurt, all on one road trip?
With incredible views into the 1,000-foot-deep gorge, Tallulah Gorge State Park is the perfect place to begin a breathtaking road trip through Georgia. Hike the trails that offer views down into the canyon, or obtain a permit to walk the gorge floor itself! (It's easy, you just have to pick one up from the interpretive center before 3 pm; they only hand out 100 per day, and they'll check to make sure you're wearing proper shoes.) Camping of all kinds is available to those wanting to stay right in the park, and with all of the hiking and scenery to take in, you'll most likely want to! From the interpretive center, North Rim Trail will lead you right to Hawthorne Overlook, where you'll discover views of multiple waterfalls. Be sure to wear good shoes, not only because you'll be doing a lot of walking, but the rocks can get pretty slippery.
Just a 30-minute drive from the Gorge takes you to the Traveler's Rest State Historic Site. The enormous home was built in 1815-- next to the then-newly-built turnpike crossing over the Appalachian mountains-- to house travelers passing through. Several original buildings, including a dairy house, are still on the property today. Visitors can tour the complex on weekends and see the original furnishings and history, offering a great look at what life was like for travelers and roadtrippers long ago. In 1964, the site was protected as a National Historic Landmark and to this day remains a truly an off-the-beaten-path, fascinating gem. It'll definitely get you appreciating the modern conveniences of roadtripping today!
After an afternoon of history, a quick 45-minute drive will take you to Tugaloo State Park, where you can kick back and stay the night at a campsite, in a cottage or, coolest of all, in a yurt. The incredibly massive Lake Hartwell invites visitors to spend a day on the water and take in the fresh air. Tugaloo even hosts large fishing tournaments throughout the year, and prides itself on easy and convenient access to the lake. The park is great for families and people of all ages, with mini golf, tennis, hiking, hiking, and volleyball courts. Not to mention the never-ending list of water activities! The serene, white sandy beaches are relaxing and warm, just waiting for you to soak up the sun or go for a swim. While you may just be passing through on your roadtrip, you may want to stay a whole weekend or so!
Mosey on down further south to find the longest covered bridge in Georgia. Watson Mill Bridge was built in 1885 with the purpose of allowing access to a mill built by a man named Gabriel Watson. In its heyday, it was an extremely busy mill, but in later years, as everything was switched to electricity, the dam was no longer needed for power, and it sadly sat untouched for years. In 1973, the Watson Mill Bridge State Park was created for the public, in hopes of restoration. The covered bridge is currently a popular attraction for travelers through the area. Drive across the bridge at sunset, or steal a kiss from your sweetheart on it and you'll realize why. The park itself is a great stop for some outdoor activity, but simply driving across 229 feet of historic covered bridge is definitely worth it. Oh, and it makes for a killer photo op, too!
Less than an hour away from the Watson Mill Bridge, the Robert Toombs House welcomes travelers who appreciate the history and culture it offers. Toombs was a state legislator, a U.S. congressman, and a senator who played a large part in leading the southern states out of the Union in the 1800s. The museum inside the house showcases events of the past. The home is in Washington, Georgia, and Toombs and his wife lived there from 1837 until his death in 1885. It has been said that Toombs once rejected a movement to build a hotel, explaining that, "if a respectable man comes to town, he can stay at my house. If he isn't respectable, we don't want him here at all." Toombs was a fascinating figure, and touring his home is an interesting lens through which you can learn about the history of the area during one of the country's most formative periods.
Elijah Clark State Park is named for a frontiersman who led a group of pioneers in Georgia during the American Revolution. Seasonally, a log cabin replica of his home on the grounds is open to the public as a museum. The park is located by Clarks Hill Lake, a massive body of water known for great fishing. A refreshing break from traveling in the Georgia sun can be had here by taking a dip, or renting a cottage and taking shade in the forest for a little while. Hiking, swimming, archery, and canoe rentals are available for guests of the park. Additionally, there are music festivals held throughout the year, so be sure to check for special events when passing through!
A 30-minute drive will take you to our final destination on this tour of the Piedmont, Mistletoe State Park. Spanning over 70,000 acres, the park sits on Clarks Hill Lake, a popular fishing spot. Bike enthusiasts are encouraged to join the Muddy Spokes Club, inviting cyclists to bike at 11 different state parks, including Mistletoe. Cottages and cabins are available for those wanting to do a bit of glamping, with plenty of nature trails and water activities to keep everyone outside and moving during the day. Events and concerts are frequently held on the property, so keep an eye out!
When traveling in Georgia, you truly are getting the full package: indoor and outdoor entertainment, hidden gems located close to the big cities, and plenty of history packed into quaint towns along the way. You'll never run out of lakes and nature to explore, making these foothills totally worth the adventure!
From mountains to lakes, and from salt marsh to streams, Georgia has dozens of places for you to kick back and enjoy the great outdoors.