The state of Georgia is speckled with state parks, but one, in particular, stands out from the rest of them for families – Hard Labor Creek State Park. It’s one of the state’s largest parks in Rutledge, Georgia (about an hour south of Atlanta), located near the city of Madison.
Families will love the boating, fishing, trails, golf options, and renovated cottages for lodging. So if you’re ready for a budget-friendly weekend getaway, here are the best tips for visiting Hard Labor Creek State Park with kids!
What Kids Love About Hard Labor Creek State Park
I think everyone has the same reaction when they hear the name of the state park – “How relaxing could that be?” but don’t let the name fool you. It’s a gorgeous and serene destination that’ll feel like an escape from city life.
The park’s name origin is assumed to come from the slaves who worked the rocky soil planting cotton, or from American Indians who found the creek hard to cross. The name is still debated depending on who you ask, but today’s beautiful landscape can be attributed to hard work.
Regardless of the name, no hard labor is required upon visiting. The park is excellent for kids of all ages, with an array of activities. They won’t miss screen time with the many ways to reconnect with nature.
Exploring As A Family: Fishing, Kayaking & The Beach
If you’re looking for self-guided fun, there’s plenty to do at the park as a family. As the 2nd largest state park in Georgia, the park has two lakes. Check out the fishing loaner program where you can check out a rod and some tackle for free at the park office.
There’s also kayaking, which can be launched directly from the beach. Rentals are $30 for 3 hours (single) and $40 for 3 hours (tandem). It includes a paddle and a life jacket.
If you want a little R&R, hike The Beach Trail. It’s the park’s newest trail and about a 2-mile hike that leads to the sandy beach.
It’s listed as “moderately challenging,” so plan for a few rest breaks. It’s okay for young kids but go slow to pace yourself. Don’t miss the platforms along the trail to view wildlife and take some photos! They’re also a great place to picnic.
The Beach Trail is not listed on the park maps yet, but you can find the trailhead right next to the parking lot for the beach and kayak rental.
Guided Fun: Ranger-Led Programs That Kids Love
Check the event calendar, before your trip, for all kinds of unique guided ranger tours. The park rangers know the park layout and the park’s history. If you’ve got older kids, the scorpion hunt is quite thrilling.
Did you know that scorpions glow in the dark with a black light? It’s so neat! A park ranger takes guests on a nighttime hike with a black light. It gives guests an entirely different perspective of the park that you can’t experience without the expert help of a ranger.
You’ll find different types of scorpions and other bugs, that can’t be seen without the black light! It’s an excellent experience for tweens and teens.
Equestrian Trails at Hard Labor Creek State Park
There are more than 24 miles of trails are available for equestrian usage at the park. If you’re traveling with your own horse, there are 11 eqeistrian camp sites as well. There are two main trails to ride:
- Lake Rutledge Equestrian Trail: This 14-mile trail travels through both mature hardwood and hardwood/pine forests. Most striking are the bottoms and the creeks that course through them.
- Lake Brantley Equestrian Trail: This 8-mile trail has both pine and hardwood forests. Deep gorges and granite outcroppings are common. A rock quarry used by the Civilian Conservation Corps can also be observed.
Hard Labor Creek Golf Course
Of all the great recreational activities at the park, they’re most well known for golfing. If you want to play a round of golf, there’s an amazing 18-hole course at Hard Labor Creek State Park. They have everything you need to practice your swing, including a pro shop, driving range, and rental golf carts.
Swing your cares away in a gorgeous setting with Champion Bermuda greens and narrow tree-lined fairways. While the entire course is beautiful, they’re well-known for the 14th hole. It’s picturesque with an old wooden wheel, waterfall, and bridge over rushing water.
It’s a challenging course that’s sure to put any golfer to the test. If you’re looking for an entire weekend of golf, check out Georgia State Park’s Stay and Play Package. A two-night lodging stay, cart, and two rounds of golf are included in the weekend package per person. Pick from the Hard Labor Creek State Park cottages or one of the camping options.
Looking for a kid’s golf option? Check out the 18-hole mini golf course. It’s an excellent option for families that want to play together and have kids of multiple ages. Mini golf costs $5 for adults and $2.50 for children. Clubs and golfs balls are located at Trading Post. Guests can rent equipment during Trading Post hours from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily.
Mountain Biking at Hard Labor Creek State Park
Are you looking for a thrilling ride? Mountain bikers will enjoy the 16.5-miles of mountain biking trails, which range from easygoing to challenging, but all are scenic and singletrack. Twist your way through the backwoods as you enjoy the varied landscape.
Mountain bike rentals are not available, and riders are encouraged to check the state of the trails before heading out. Riders under the age of 16 must wear a helmet, but it’s encouraged that every rider does.
Check out details of each mountain biking trail:
- Orange Loop: 1-mile trail on level ground – it’s great for beginners and awesome for kids.
- Green Loop: 5 miles of beginner/intermediate-rated rolling single track.
- Blue Loop: 5-mile loop rated for the beginner/intermediate riders. See a cascading stream and boulder formations.
- Red Loop: A more challenging 5.15-mile loop that will take the rider back and forth through the forest, over old pines.
Lodging Options At Hard Labor Creek State Park
I love the varied overnight lodging options available at Hard Labor Creek State Park. From renovated cabins to tent camping, there’s something for every size family to enjoy.
The park has 20 temperature-controlled cottages that each have two bedrooms and two baths. They sleep up to six, with full kitchens and living quarters with new furniture. They’re also equipped with most amenities you’d find in a hotel (with the exception of a hair dryer). They’re really great for families that want to vacation at a state park, but have no experience with camping.
If you DO want to camp there are a couple of different options. The park has 11 tent pop-up campsites for families that want a rustic outdoor setting where they can unwind and reconnect.
Lastly, there’s also RV options: 51 spaces for rent and of those, 13 have sewer hook up options.
More Things To Do Near Hard Labor Creek State Park: