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Rangers round up residents for area holiday excursions
Don Carter State Park to host New Years Day hike
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New Year’s Day hikes

Northern Georgia

What: A moderate 3.5-mile hike along the rim and through the woods. Children must be 8 or older. Bring water and snacks.

When: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where: Tallulah Gorge State Park, 338 Jane Hurt Yarn Road, Tallulah Falls

Cost: $5 admission; $5 parking

More info: 706-754-7981


What: Hike along the Bear Hair Gap Trail in a moderately rocky, four-mile trek led by Georgia Appalachian Trail Club. Meet at Visitors Center Parking lot. Closed toe shoes required. Bring water and a snack.

When: 9-11 a.m.

Where: Vogel State Park, 405 Vogel State Park Road, Blairsville

Cost: $5 parking

More info: 706-745-2628


Metro Atlanta

What: A 6-mile guided hike over meandering creeks cascading over rocks. Bring a light lunch. For children older than 10 and adults in good walking shape.

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Hard Labor Creek State Park, 5 Labor Creek Road, Rutledge

Cost: $5 admission; $5 parking.

More info: 706-557-3001


What: A brisk walk and afternoon viewing of Marbury Creek watershed. Hikers will meet at the Nature Center for the 1/2-mile hike around Bird Berry Trail. No minimum age. ADA Accessible.

When: 2 p.m.

Where: Fort Yargo State Park, 210 South Broad St., Winder

Cost: $5 parking; preregistration required

More info: 770-867-3489


What: A brisk hike that begins by writing, then burning, last year’s burdens. Hike to the top of the mountain to symbolize all the great things you will accomplish in 2015. Finish with s’mores and hot chocolate around a campfire. For ages 6 and older.

When: 10 a.m. to noon

Where: Panola Mountain State Park, 2600 Georgia 155 SW, Stockbridge

Cost: $7 admission; $5 parking; register in advance

More info: 770-389-7801


What: Bring your four-legged companion for a moderate mile-long hike to the rapids of Sweetwater Creek and the five-story Civil War-era New Manchester Mill ruins. For ages 6 and older. Sturdy, closed toe shoes required.

When: 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

Where: Sweetwater Creek State Park, 1750 Mount Vernon Road, Lithia Springs

Cost: $5 admission; $5 parking; reservations recommended

More info: 770-732-5871

This holiday season, walk off the extra slice of pie with a heart-pumping hike.

All of Georgia’s state parks are open Christmas Day and New Year’s Day for visitors to enjoy peaceful scenery and active outings. But while the park entrances are open, most offices will be closed as park staff enjoy the holidays with their families as well.

For just $5 parking, guests may stroll around a sunlit lake or enjoy the horizon from mountain overlooks. Trails range from paved paths to challenging all-day treks.

On New Year’s Day, nearly all Georgia state parks will host guided “First Day Hikes” to kick-start healthy resolutions.

In Gainesville, a ranger will lead hikers on an exploration of the backcountry of the Don Carter State Park before the trail is built. The 2-mile cross country adventure will follow old road beds, ridges, hills and valleys. It will be a moderate to strenuous walk.

The hike will begin at 2 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 1, at 5000 N. Browning Bridge Road, Gainesville.

Cost is $5 for admission and $5 for parking. The hike is limited to 15. For more information, call 678-450-7726.

Georgia also has numerous state historic sites that make relaxed family outings this season. While closed on major holidays, most are open before and after these days. Dahlonega Gold Museum, Etowah Indian Mounds and Fort King George are just some of the locations that tell Georgia’s rich history. At New Echota, learn about the Cherokee nation’s capital, and at Roosevelt’s Little White House, see the cars FDR drove with hand controls.

During December, visitors may stop by state park gift shops for a selection of outdoor gear, books, toys and clothing. Parks even sell gift cards which make perfect stocking stuffers for the outdoor enthusiasts on your list.

If the holidays find you needing a longer escape, spend a few days in a fully equipped cabin, funky yurt or modern campsite. Some parks are offering winter specials such as stay-and-play golf at Richard B. Russell or yurt discounts at High Falls.

For a list of all deals, visit To find a park or historic site near you, visit Georgia’s State Parks and Historic Sites are operated by the Department of Natural Resources. For a free brochure, call 1-800-864-7275.

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