5 Notes On Visiting Smithgall Woods State Park

5 Notes On Visiting Smithgall Woods State Park 1

Smithgall Woods State Park is one of Georgia’s most special properties in their entire State Park portfolio. It was gifted by Charles Smithgall, who restored the land himself and donated it to the state via Zell Miller. It has more rules and fewer amenities than most State Parks, mainly because its primary mission is to preserve and protect the landscape and wildlife of this area of Georgia.

Shhhhhh!

Smithgall Woods is one of those places where I want just enough people to know about it…to keep the usage numbers up and to make sure that the state of Georgia and the Georgia Assembly knows that it’s worth maintaining staff, investing in the property and preserving it for future generations.

However, it cannot support large visitor numbers, like some State Parks, such as Don Carter, Red Top, or Sweetwater State Park. I don’t want it to be so publicized that it becomes overrun or makes the staff’s job difficult. So, if you’re landing here from researching the park, just know that it is absolutely worth visiting. It is a very special place, but please do your part to keep it that way.

Fishing

5 Notes On Visiting Smithgall Woods State Park 2

I am not an angler. I’ve only caught a few fish in my entire life, but I can say that Dukes Creek is incredibly scenic, incredibly well-managed, and has world-class trout. It is the one place where I am thankful I’ve been able to fish a couple of times. Just being in it makes me want to protect more streams like it all across the United States.

Hiking

One thing about Smithgall Woods is that the cars are not allowed past the visitor center. So to get to the trails, you have to walk or bike along the road for a couple of miles. But what’s interesting is that it is a lovely walk or a lovely bike, and it’s incredibly peaceful and scenic.

Even though it extends all the hikes, they are worth it. All the hikes are well-planned and do an incredible job showcasing the natural history of the Georgia Mountains. They are worth a day’s visit.

Backstory

Fourth, the property has an incredible story. It was the site of a lot of industrial abuse by gold mining. It’s where you can see how the Georgia Mountains were literally washed and blasted away. They were turned into an incredible wasteland that has now almost fully recovered in just 100 years – thanks to people like Smithgall Woods and the US Forest Service and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, along with so many other sustainable landowners in the area who have focused on restoring native species, restoring land and letting nature just do its thing.

Chattahoochee National Forest

Lastly, it’s incredibly close to the best of the Chattahoochee National Forest. It is at the intersection of Georgia 75 Alternate and the Richard Russell Scenic Highway, which goes past the Dukes Creek Falls trailhead. The Raven Cliffs Falls trailhead, Hogpen Gap, Tesnatee Gap.

And because of that, you’re able to access some of the best waterfalls in Georgia, in addition to the Appalachian Trail. Plus, all of the attractions north of Helen, such as Unicoi State Park and Unicoi Gap, only Appalachian Trail and even Brasstown Bald. If you’re staying in one of the cabins, it makes it a very worthwhile base camp to see lots of North Georgia very quickly.

And if you’re doing a day trip, it’s a great place to stop in, rest up, see the visitor center on your way to Raven’s Cliff Falls or Dukes Creek Falls or the Appalachian Trail. Smithgall Woods is highly underrated, but I hope it stays that way because it’s one of Georgia’s best places and it needs to be preserved.

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