The fire crackles, propelling red hot embers into the evening air. Above you, the most impressive night sky you’ve ever seen. Millions of stars twinkle brightly while a few rebellious ones dart across the heavens, driven by some unseen slingshot.
You lick the gooey marshmallow fluff off your fingers, walk into your tent, and snuggle up in your sleeping bag. The melodic sounds of owls hooting and crickets chirping lull you off to sweet sleep.
There’s just something about camping that rejuvenates the soul. Perhaps it’s the escape from the busyness of everyday life. Maybe it’s the unleashing of that intrinsic primal nature intricately woven in all of us. John Muir stated it best when he said, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.”
Whatever it is, Georgia is one of the best places to camp. Perhaps I’m biased, but I don’t think so. Mountains, swamplands, oceans, lakes, rivers—it’s all arranged beautifully on 59,425 square miles in the Southeast.
With all of the beauty that Georgia boasts, it’s only natural that the Peach State would offer some exceptional camping opportunities. Here’s my list of the seven best places to camp in Georgia.
Amicalola Falls State Park houses the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast. Plunging 729 feet, the roaring waters of Amicalola Falls can be seen from a wooden bridge easily accessed from the parking lot. Those seeking more of a workout can begin at the base of the falls and ascend a challenging 604-step stairway. Unfortunately, there is a guard rail of sorts, so you can’t go up and touch the falls or shower beneath them (if that’s your thing…and it should be).
The 8.5-mile Appalachian Approach Trail has its origin in Amicalola State Park. The approach trail leads to Springer Mountain, the official southern terminus of the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail. There are also over 12 miles of shorter trails ranging from moderate to strenuous for day hikers.
Compared to other state parks, the campground at Amicalola is relatively small. There are only 24 tent, trailer, and RV campsites. Personally, I love the intimacy of this campground as it affords ample space and privacy. Each site has well water, power, a grill, and a fire ring. There’s also a comfort station with restrooms, showers, and laundry facilities.
When you’re not hiking, you can explore the park’s many adventure activities. The park offers zip lining, archery, rock climbing walls, and a bunch of other activities. Should you decide to explore beyond the park, the Alpine Village of Helen is worth a visit.
Only one hour away from Amicalola Falls, the small town of Helen claims “the charm of Bavaria, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains.” Cobblestone walkways, quaint hotels, shops galore, and Alpine food and drink surrounded by pristine forests make this the ideal getaway. At only 2.1 square miles and with a population of 430 residents, you’re bound to love the small town feel. And be sure to pick up some out-of-this-world fudge from Kopper Kettle Fudge.
Offering the perfect blend of forests, mountains, and rushing water, camping at Amicalola Falls State Park is bound to be a memorable experience. And being that it’s where my husband and I got engaged, it will always have a special place in my heart.
Cloudland Canyon is my personal favorite. There’s just something about those impressive views from the main overlook that never cease to take my breath away.
Nestled in northwest Georgia, Cloudland Canyon is mere minutes from the famous Lookout Mountain. Just the utter size of the park is impressive: 3,488 acres of gorges, sandstone cliffs, caves, creeks, wildlife, and dense forests with over 30 miles of trails ranging from easy to strenuous.
Hemlock Falls and Cherokee Falls are the two waterfalls located within the park. Although they’re not nearly as majestic as Amicalola, they are quite stunning. And unlike Amicalola, you can get up close and personal with these falls. While there is a sign cautioning visitors against wading in the pool at the base of the falls, our innate rebellion got the best of us.
This park is a campers’ ultimate paradise as you can choose from three different types of campsites. There are 62 campsites which can accommodate a tent, trailer, or RV. There is a fire pit, grill, picnic table, electricity, and water hookups at each site. There’s also a comfort station with restrooms, showers, and laundry on site. Both the east and west rim have electric campsites. But the camp ground on the west rim is way better, in my opinion. The sites are spaced further apart, giving you more privacy.
In addition to electric sites, 28 walk-in sites dot a one-mile loop trail on the west rim. Each location has its own fire pit, picnic table, and leveled tent pad. The hike to the sites is easy and are only about a half-mile away from the parking lot, where you will find showers, restrooms, sinks, and fresh water. Finally, for those wanting to rough it, you can choose from 13 backcountry sites located along a two-mile loop.
And while you’re here, make the 37-minute drive to downtown Chattanooga and check out Maple Street Biscuit Company. We recommend “The Five.” It’s a homemade flaky biscuit with a fried chicken breast, pecan wood smoked bacon, and cheddar cheese topped with sausage gravy. Yes, it’s a heart attack on a biscuit, but you can hike it off later.
I would recommend this park to anyone. Back when my husband and I were jobless and childless and just two specks of dust floating in the wind, we stayed at the west rim campground for a week and didn’t even put a dent in all there is to explore at Cloudland Canyon.
#3 Tybee Island
I’ll be honest—although I’d go to the beach every day if I could, I don’t really equate the beach with camping. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never actually pitched a tent at the beach. I’ve always just laid out on a blanket until the sand fleas and crabs got the best of my patience.
Nevertheless, you can’t have a list about the best camping in Georgia without Tybee Island. Tybee Island is a relatively small (3.2 mi2) barrier island on the east coast of Georgia and only 30 minutes from historic Savannah, GA. If you’ve never heard of Savannah, it’s where Forrest Gump sat as he waited for the bus.
Tybee Island is home to gorgeous white sand beaches and several lighthouses. You can obviously do the beach thing while here—sun bathe, jet ski, fish, boating, and all that jazz. For the more nature-loving, adventurous folk, you can visit Little Tybee Island off the south coast of Tybee Island. Reachable only by boat, this pristine island is home to coastal salt marshes, natural dunes, stunning beaches, subtropical forests, and a variety of endangered birds including wood stork, bald eagles, and more. And best of all, you can camp there.
As I said, I have never slept in a tent on the beach. However, while on Tybee, I did sneak into River’s End Campground for a shower. From what I saw, the campground was pretty nice. It was a little crowded, and the sites were a little close together, but that’s to be expected if you visit during a holiday weekend, which I did. All I can vouch for are the bathhouses. They were immaculate. There were several private rooms, each with a toilet, sink, and shower and all were clean and well kept.
If you want to explore a little beyond the beach, make the drive inland to Savannah. This town has charm out the wazoo. Cobblestone streets, trolleys, cute shops, and riverboat cruises give this historic town character unlike any other. And while you’re in town, stop by Treylor Park, a chic little restaurant with an odd (but delicious) menu.
Tallulah, Tallulah, why art thou so fair? Tallulah Gorge is one heck of a park and place to camp. Deep ravines, rugged cliffs, and dense forests; it’s all just so dramatically gorgeous. And we visited in the fall when the leaves were already turning, making it all the more spectacular.
Tallulah Falls, which is actually a series of six waterfalls, races through the two-mile long gash in the earth that is Tallulah Gorge. You can catch take in the raging waters from various observation decks. Or you can get a more up close and personal look if you’re lucky enough to score one of the 100 free daily permits issued to the gorge floor. There’s also a suspension bridge swaying 80 feet above the canyon’s bottom, offering spectacular views of the beautiful park.
You can access the gorge floor in one of two ways—down a series of 600 steps or via a 2.5-mile round-trip hike over rocks and boulders. If you happen to be there during a dam-release and can’t hike to the bottom, there are over 20 miles of other trails to explore. For those preferring a more aerial view, you can even tightrope across the gorge. Kidding, but Karl Wallenda did back in 1970, and you can still see one of the towers that supported his rope.
In terms of camping, Tallulah is very versatile. There are 50 campsites for tents, trailers, and RVs, each with its own picnic table, fire ring, water, and electric hookup. There are three backcountry campsites centered around a three-sided trail shelter approximately four miles from the trailhead. Finally, there is one pioneer campsite across from Terrora Campground. It is for groups only and has no water, electricity, or access to shower facilities.
If you happen to stay in the electric campsite, check and see if the little old lady is working at the kiosk at the front of the campground; she makes some killer homemade blackberry cobbler.
Enota Mountain Retreat is nestled in the lush valleys of North Georgia. Surrounded entirely by the Chattahoochee National Forest, this family-friendly retreat is home to four stunning waterfalls, five streams, and two trout ponds.
When my now husband told me that he had booked us a campsite at a retreat, I didn’t know what to expect. I’d never been on a “retreat,” and I enjoy camping because I need to get away from people from time to time, not retreat amongst them. To be honest, I was kind of bummed out. To further my dismay, when we got there, we learned that my husband had inadvertently booked a basic campsite instead of one with electricity, water, and all the works (haters call it “glamping,” I call it camping in comfort).
Nevertheless, it turned out the be a fantastic experience! Enota offers basic family camping, basic adults-only camping, and pop-up camper and tent sites with water, electric, and a grill. The basic camp sites just have a fire pit and a picnic table, and all the campsites sit along a beautiful rapidly-flowing cold water creek.
The property has a spacious bath house with tons of hot water. There is also a little camp store on site with everything from graham crackers to Advil. And as I mentioned before, the retreat is very family friendly and has a playground and several in-ground trampolines. A 10-acre organic farm and garden allows you to interact with animals or pick your own veggies.
Enota Retreat has miles of trails and several grand waterfalls. If you exhaust all of your on-site hiking, which I highly doubt you will, Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia, is only 17 minutes away. At 4,784 feet above sea level, you can see four different states without the help of a telescope.
Meaning “Land of the Trembling Earth,” the Okefenokee Swamp is the largest blackwater swamp in North America. Home to thousands of American Alligators, Sandhill Cranes, Gopher Turtles, and even Black Bears, Stephen C. Foster State Park is not for the faint of heart.
Located in Fargo, GA, near the Florida border, this remote 80-acre park is a primary entrance into the ancient Okefenokee Swamp. Cypress knees rise out of the swamp’s black waters while raccoons, deer, ibis, herons, and numerous other critters roam in the surrounding prehistoric forests.
As there are only 1.5 miles of trails, hikers may not enjoy this park as much. However, kayakers and canoers can explore over 15 miles of waterways intricately woven throughout forests of Spanish moss-laced trees.
While I haven’t had the opportunity to visit this park, I’ve only heard great things about it (except for the part about mosquitoes). Stephen C. Foster State Park has 53 electric RV/tent campsites. Each has water, a picnic table, a fire ring, electricity, and a nearby comfort station. There is also one pioneer campground as well as 11 walk-in tent-only sites with electric power, water, and a fire pit.
Stephen C. Foster State Park is designated as one of the best spots in the world for star gazing. Visitors will be able to appreciate the particularly dark sky at night. In fact, the park was recently named a gold tier “International Dark Park” by the International Dark-Sky Association.
Florence Marina is in West Georgia near the border of Alabama. Sitting on the northern portion of 45,000-acre Lake Eufaula (also known as Lake Walter F. George), this quiet park is perfect for water sports aficionados. The park’s natural deep-water marina is accessible via fishing piers, boat slips, and boat ramps.
Nature lovers will also enjoy Florence Marina as it is home to a variety of plants and wildlife including herons, egrets, and bald eagles. With only a ¾-mile nature trail, however, easy access to the water is definitely this park’s selling point.
Camping at Florence Marina is a gorgeous experience. Picture sitting beneath a Spanish-moss covered tree watching shades of yellow, pink, and orange engage in their cosmic dance as the sun sets over the tranquil waters. The park features 43 campsites, all of them electric and each with their own picnic table, water hookup, fire ring, and a nearby comfort station. When we visited, the majority of people were in RVs (probably to avoid the swarms of gnats), but you can pitch a tent just as well.
If you prefer to keep your feet on solid ground, Providence Canyon is only ten minutes away. Dubbed “Little Grand Canyon,” this recreation area is a testament to the tremendous impact humans can have on the land. Poor farming practices caused gullies as deep as 150 feet during the 1800s, yet, the soil, with its pink, orange, red, and purple hues, makes for some excellent photographs.
There are three miles of trails within the park as well as a seven-mile backcountry trail. While the park does have three pioneer camps and six backcountry campsites, camping at Florence Marina is much better, in my opinion.
Camping in Georgia is hard to beat. Whether you’re at the beach, in the mountains, or down in the swamps, you are bound to have an unforgettable experience any time you visit one of Georgia’s incredible parks. So next time you’re in the Dirty South, we hope that we’ve inspired you to ditch the hotel or Airbnb and check out one of the best places to camp in Georgia instead. And if camping is not really your thing, check out some fun outdoor things to do in Atlanta.
What are some of your favorite camping spots? Comment, and let me know!