It’s a new year, and if being more active is on the list of Gwinnettians’ 2020 resolutions, there is one way they could hit that goal: head out to nearby state parks for some hikes in the great outdoors.
There are state-run parks and historic sites all across Georgia that offer everything from scenic vistas to insight into the state’s past. These parks offer plenty of opportunities for people looking to work more fitness into their lives to lace up their sneakers and hit some trails.
Officials with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources suggested 10 options where Gwinnett residents can hike without straying too far from home. Distances from Lawrenceville are provided for each park since the county seat is roughly in the center of Gwinnett.
Don Carter State Park
Located just 40 miles north of Lawrenceville on the north end of Lake Lanier in Hall County, Don Carter State Park offers 12.5 miles of multi-use trails that can be used for either hiking or bicycling. It also has cabins on hillsides close to the lake as well as “primitive” campgrounds and RV campgrounds for hikers who want to spend the night. It also has a beach for people who want to go swimming in the lake once the weather warms up a little.
This northeast Georgia state park is a 67-mile drive from Lawrenceville — it’s just 12 miles off Interstate 85 in Franklin County. It features a short nature trail as well as a longer perimeter trail for hikers to take advantage of. State officials also highlight a stream that flows through the park as “the perfect setting for an after-picnic stroll.” The park also offers a golf course and an area where visitors can try their hand at archery.
Sweetwater Creek State Park
Located 49 miles away from Lawrenceville in Douglas County, this state park in metro Atlanta offers opportunities to not only hike, but also learn some history. It features 15 miles of trails that wind through fields and a forest. One four-mile trail follows a stream to the ruins of a textile mill that was burned during the Civil War. Park rangers lead guided nature hikes through the park, and state officials said visitors can see ferns, magnolias, hardwoods and wild azaleas during the hike. After passing the mill ruins, hikers can also climb rocky bluffs to get view of rapids passing below.
Panola Mountain State Park
This state park straddles the line between Henry and Rockdale counties and is located 38 miles south of Lawrenceville. One of its key features — a 100-acre granite outcrop — might remind Gwinnett residents of Stone Mountain, although Panola Mountain State Park’s version is smaller. It features hiking trails that include a boardwalk where hikers can get an overlook of the mountain. It also features a paved trail that can be used for jogging, dog-walking, roller blading and biking.
Red Top Mountain State Park
This state park in Bartow County is located northwest of Atlanta and is 56 miles from Lawrenceville via Interstates 85, 285 and 75. State officials call it a “hiker’s haven” that has 15 miles of trails through forest, including a short paved trail located behind the park office that wheelchairs and strollers can be used on, and which goes by a reconstructed 1860s homestead. There is also the four-mile gravel-topped Iron Hill Trail that offers views of the park’s lakeshore and is available for hikers and bikers. Parks officials said the trails offer visitors opportunities for exercise or nature photography.
Fort Yargo State Park
This park, which has 20.5 miles of trails, is just outside Gwinnett County. It is located 20 miles from Lawrenceville, off State Route 316 in Barrow County. Some hiking trails include the 7-mile Lake Loop trail, the 1.2-mile Winder connecting trail and the paved Half-Mile Bird Berry Trail, which has a birding area, nature signs and a gazebo and can accommodate wheelchairs and strollers. There is also a 12-mile Mountain Bike Loop trail which, while it does offers views of the lake, wetlands and wooded ridges, is recommended for bicycle users only due to the speeds at which the bikes tend to go because of slopes on the trail.
Chattahoochee Bend State Park
This park in Coweta County is located nearly 83 miles southwest Lawrenceville off Interstate 85, and it is one of Georgia’s largest state parks. It has 12 miles of hiking trails on 2,910 acres of land, including five miles of protected river frontage on the Chattahoochee River with opportunities for nature photography along the trails, including an observation area. It also has boat ramps, covered picnic areas and camping areas. State officials call it a “haven for paddlers, campers and anglers.”
Hard Labor Creek State Park
This park is located nearly 41 miles southeast of Lawrenceville in Morgan County. It offers 24 miles of trails for hiking and horseback riding, as well as 17 miles of trails for off-road biking. A lakeside beach is a popular attraction in the summer months, according to state officials, but it also offers a golf course, camping areas, picnic shelters, a boat ramp on Lake Rutledge and a playground for children.
Watson Mill Bridge State Park
This park, which is located in Oglethorpe County, is nearly 66 miles east of Lawrenceville via State Routes 316 and 72, and features the state’s longest covered bridge. The 229-foot bridge spans the South Fork River and is one of the features of this park, which also has seven miles of trails and offers opportunities for hiking, biking and horseback riding. State parks officials said visitors can also have a picnic on river shoals below the covered bridge.
Vogel State Park
This park is located about 72 miles north of Lawrenceville in Union County and has the benefit of being on the Appalachian Trail. The park itself is located at the base of Blood Mountain in the Chattahoochee National Forest. It has a couple of trails for hikers to chose from, including the four-mile Bear Hair Gap Loop to Trahlyta Falls and the 13-mile Coosa Backcountry Trail. the park also includes a museum as well as campsites, cottages, backpacking sites and a 22-acre lake.