Twenty miles west of Augusta, you’ll find the Bartram Trail, a 27-mile backpacking trail that follows closely around J. Strom Thurmond Lake through pine wooded forests. This 71,000-acre lake, also known as Clarks Hill Lake, is the third largest lake east of the Mississippi. The reservoir borders Georgia and South Carolina in the Savannah River Basin. The Petersburg Campground has 93 camping sites available: sites 1-27 are opened year-round and 28-93 are open from February to November. Site fees vary from $18 to $24 per night. You can break up a trip by hiking from Wildwood Park to Petersburg Campground for a 9-mile hike, and then continue from the campground to Lake Spring Road for a 3.8-mile hike. The Bartram Trail is good for beginners as it’s a completely flat hike.
2. Deep Hole Recreation Area
Close to both hiking and paddling, the Deep Hole Recreation Area is just north of Suches in Blue Ridge. The recreation area sits on the banks of the Toccoa River and is the start of the 13.8-mile Toccoa River canoe trail. Camping fees are $10 for waterfront and $12 for non-waterfront sites. Paddling the Toccoa in fall is beautiful, as you’ll wind through cool mountain waters with mountains rising around you. Most of the rapids are only Class I with a few very doable Class II. If paddling isn’t your forte, the Benton-MacKaye Trail is only 3 miles from Deep Hole, where you can access the Highway 60 trailhead. Hike north toward Skeenah Gap for a 5.4 mile hike, or south to the Toccoa River Swinging Bridge for a shorter 3.6-mile hike.
3. Jacks River Fields Campground
Located on the south fork of Jacks River in the Cohutta Wilderness, you’ll find 7 secluded campsites at Jacks River Fields campground.Camping fees are $5 per site per night. While some of the more popular trails in this area contain creek crossings like the Jacks River Trail and Bear Creek Trail, you’ll find other popular trails. The Conasauga Recreational Area is 13 miles from the campgrounds. Hike around the lake and on the Grassy Mountain Tower Trail, where you’ll find spectacular views of the Cohuttas from above. There is camping available at Conasauga, but the season is from April 10 to October 31.
4. Pine Mountain Trail
South of Atlanta, you’ll find a winter camping paradise on the 23-mile Pine Mountain Trail at F.D. Roosevelt State Park. The elevation change doesn’t exceed 200 feet, but the few short climbs lead to scenic vistas—one being Dowdell’s Knob. With your choice of more than 16 backcountry campsites, you can find one as close as 5 miles from your start point. Pine Mountain Trail is a good first-timer backpacking spot, and camping among the hardwoods or by Sparks Creek is peaceful. As the trail is in a Georgia State Park, parking is $5, and if you choose to camp there is an additional $10 backcountry permit.
5. Raven Cliff Falls Wilderness Area
Whether you want to hike several miles to a primitive campsite or you prefer to be less than a mile away while still feeling “detached,” Raven Cliffs Wilderness Area offers plenty of campsites along Dodd Creek north of Atlanta near Cleveland, GA. You can hike the 3.3 miles to Raven Cliffs Falls where you’ll see the two 400-foot falls cascading from the cliff. There are three campsites that are a short distance from the parking lot, or three primitive campgrounds along the hike. The sites are first-come, first serve. The ambient bubbling of the creek is a natural sound machine that will lull you to sleep.
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