Editors note: this blog is part of a new regular feature by a new blogger in the family sharing travel from a young family point of view. enjoy!
As a young family who lives and works in bustling Atlanta, it is easy to think of spending time in nature as something that requires a lot of time and energy. The skyscrapers seem to loom over, blocking your mind’s eye from the relaxing and beautiful landscapes that Georgia, even metro Atlanta, has to offer. Add to that a busy schedule, an energetic 3 year old, and a tight budget…we often end up staying home! My parents and siblings travel a lot, and I got inspired to travel too- just making it fit our different season of life. Our family of 3 is aspiring to hit all of the beautiful Georgia State Parks (and a few outdoor recreation areas and historic sites, too.)
We have so far been to five of the fifty-five state parks on our checklist. Unicoi, Amicalola Falls, Red Top Mountain, Sweetwater Creek, and most recently, Panola Mountain. We headed up to Panola Mountain spontaneously on a Tuesday afternoon. We chose it because even though we were grabbing some snacks and leaving at 2:30pm, we would arrive quickly in just about an hour. Spontaneity can be great, but in this case, my lack of planning ahead did not work out in our favor. Upon arriving, we discovered that the hike on the granite mountain was only “ranger-led”, and we could only take the 3/4 of mile “scenic overlook hike.” The scenic overlook was beautiful, and I did enjoy seeing the different stages of vegetation on the mountain, which is quite literally a massive granite rock. It was a very easy hike for our three year old and nice and shady.
Although we missed out on the mountain hike, we were very pleasantly surprised by the Visitors Center. It was really more of a nature center, as they had live and taxidermy animals featured. We were able to peer in glass cases to see all of different types of snakes and turtles that inhabit the mountain (all non-venomous, thankfully!) The taxidermy case was really exciting for our son, as they had so many different animals featured from deer, bobcat, and beavers all the way down to tiny mice. We saw a lot of butterflies on our hike, and they had butterfly cases in the visitors center as well. There is also a playground, a ton of picnic areas, and lots of green open grass to play catch, hammock, or just let kids run around.
We ended up spending about and hour and a half at Panola Mountain. If I could give a recommendation, it’s to make sure you check in advance when a ranger-led hike will be so you don’t get left in the dust like us. It is also worth noting that the mountain itself is located very close by the Atlanta Zoo and downtown Decatur which is home to lots of delicious restaurants.
Thanks for reading and happy traveling!