The song is as recognizable as the state it memorializes. Its sentiment rings true even to this day, decades after it was written by Stuart Gorrell and Hoagy Carmichael and sung in the perfect, soulful tenor of the great Ray Charles:
“A song of you
Comes as sweet and clear
As moonlight through the pines … .”
Georgia, the Peach State, is the home of Hank Aaron and Jimmy Carter. Martin Luther King, Jr. commanded a pulpit in Atlanta. The Allman Brothers Band and Phil Walden turned sleepy Macon into the mecca of the burgeoning “southern rock” scene in the early 1970s.
One could say that Georgia is a transition point between the Old South and the New. With one foot in the modern world, boasting the largest city in the southeastern U.S., Atlanta, and another in the deep south’s past with clapboard farmhouses found around Savannah, Georgia is a unique state.
What also sets it apart, which may be surprising to some, is its diversity of topography. Drive south toward the Florida state line, and it’s flat and humid. Turn around and drive north toward Tennessee, and before too long, the silhouette of the Smoky Mountains sneaks into view, and the air gets crisp and clear.
With this amount of history and natural beauty to explore, it’s no wonder Georgia is a favored destination for many visitors when heading “down south.”
Below are some can’t miss state parks when stopping in the “Empire State of the South”:
Red Top Mountain State Park: Just a handful of miles outside the city density of Atlanta, a rise in the landscape around Lake Altoona gives this destination its moniker: Red Top Mountain. This state park is a particular favorite of locals due to its proximity to the lake and the city with a myriad of activities it offers. Water skiing, fishing, and boating are popular activities but don’t sleep on the hiking opportunities it contains. More than 15 miles of trails snake in and around the park and are accessible for adventure lovers of all interests and abilities.
High Falls State Park: Located just outside Macon, GA, smack dab in the middle of the state, the largest cascading waterfall in the area attracts outdoor lovers year-round to this state park. Flowing into and with the Towaliga River, this site offers the usual activities like boating and fishing, but camping is the real attraction. Tent sites and yurts are available for rent and the peace and quiet of the deep, dark Georgia night is worth the price. High Falls State Park is a hidden gem on the way south from Atlanta to Macon and is just waiting for the wild at heart.
Providence Canyon State Park: A little-known attraction can be found in this west Georgia State Park. Providence Canyon, known as the state’s “Little Grand Canyon,” is a result of man’s encroachment on the natural order of the land itself. Unwise farming practices going back to the 19th century caused massive chasms to open in the earth, some as deep as 150 feet. Today, this park offers some of the best hiking in the area and some of the most beautiful foliage.
Crooked River State Park: Another underrated region of the country and the state, where the rivers and swamps meet the ocean, can be explored at Crooked River State Park in the far southeastern tip of Georgia. Go back in time and walk under the palmettos and giant Spanish Moss trees. Listen to the frogs sing while camping or fishing along the riverbanks. Or stop into the nature center and see dozens of species of local wildlife, snakes, fish, and turtles. This site is the premium spot to enjoy all the Intercoastal Waterway region offers the nature traveler.