Special thank you to Henry County for introducing me to all of the fun available at Panola Mountain State Park events. All opinions are my own.
I always find that state parks are full of hidden treasures and vastly under-appreciated. A day a the park offers a mini-vacation for just a few dollars and an opportunity to unplug while re-connecting with nature. Only twenty minutes south of Atlanta, Panola Mountain State Park has pristine views, unique events for families and educational programs programs for kids of all ages.
History Of Panola Mountain State Park
Panola Mountain is a 100-acre granite outcrop similar to Stone Mountain, but smaller and much more pristine. Unlike Stone Mountain, it doesn’t get the heavy foot traffic, crowds and visitors coming for attractions. It’s a haven that allows guests to see exactly what the land was like when Native Americans saw it centuries ago. It’s part of the Arabia Mountain Heritage Area, where due to the typography and geology of the monadnocks (exposed rock), special species of animals and plants can thrive.
Before becoming the state park it is today, Panola Mountain was home to early settlers, immigrant rock cutters, freed slaves and monks. The history and natural beauty of Panola Mountain State Park has earned it’s recognition as a national landmark.
Panola Mountain State Park Events & Things To Do For Kids
Panola offers some unique opportunities and events for families that I haven’t seen elsewhere. With 1,635 acres total, there are many ways you can explore the park. The park offers geocaching, tree climbing, archery, orienteering and birding.
Panola Mountain State Park is open daily from 7am – dark. Parking is $5 per vehicle or annual park passes are available for purchase. While there are great things for adults to do, like an outdoor fitness area and paved path, I want to highlight the best Panola Mountain State Park events to do with kids.
Indoor & Outdoor Archery
Panola Mountain State Park has indoor and outdoor archery ranges. Guests can pay to use the range per day ($10/day for adults 18+ & $5/day for youth 1y and under) and they even offer ranger-led instructional archery classes. The outdoor facilities include 12 Lane Bow Butt Targets and a 3-D Trail.
You can develop your marksmanship year round at Panola. Bring your own bow and arrows for the 3/4 mile trail, which includes traditional and 3D animal targets. The targets vary in size, distance and elevation to accommodate all levels.
If you do decide to reserve a spot in the archery classes (for ages 8+), a fee is required, but equipment is provided. Check the website for prices and dates, plus special events like “Cosmic Archery” where archers use glow-in-the-dark targets in a black light setting.
Self-Guided & Guided Hiking
The heavily wooded conservation areas provide multiple hiking trails. The wooded areas protect the ecology of the mountain. Guests can see the animal and plants that are unique to the ecosystem where they have to adapt to surviving on a bare rock surface. Ranger-led guided hikes are required to access the mountain itself, but also offer the perfect opportunity for more in-depth learning.
In total, there are 25 miles of trails at Panola Mountain State Park. I enjoy the Rock Outcrop Trail (3/4 miles) which offers guests a walk to an overlook area of the granite outcrop. On a clear day, you can see all the way out to Stone Mountain. There’s also information at the overlook which shows how the geological forces created the mountain. The Watershed Trail is the second wooded trail (1.25 miles) option available.
If you’re looking to visit with young kids, in a stroller, the PATH Foundation Trail (31 miles total, with a portion running through the park) offers a paved path. The paved path is completed wooded and guests can hike, bike or skate on it. It connects Panola Mountain to Arabia Mountain.
Guided mountain hikes can be scheduled in advance. Prices, dates and times are available on the Panola Mountain website.
Tree Climbing Program (Most unique of Panola Mountain State Park Events)
Let kids be kids and enjoy the thrills of tree climbing! Rope assisted technical tree climbing is offered at Panola Mountain State Park. The tree top excursions offer a challenge, yet fun, climb to the canopy tops. Guests can climb the Southern Red Oak trees which top at 100 feet high.
Kids must be at least 8 years of age to climb. Guest can pre-register for an introductory course that’s offered one Saturday each month. Group climbs are also offered for birthday parties and team-building. Tree climbing is a great fitness activity for kids that helps build self-esteem and confidence.
Looking for even more adventure? They offer nocturnal tree climbing as well! Kick it up a notch and climb underneath the stars.
One of the most exciting things to do at Panola Mountain State Park has got to be the ZZZ’s In The Trees program. Guests bring dinner and breakfast, but sleep overnight in the tree canopies (with a harness). Your thrilling overnight experience in the “tree boat” offers the perfect opportunity to connect with nature and star gaze.
Panola Mountain offers a special area, called “The Power Of Flight Area,” where guests can observe the habitat of local feathered friends. Bring binoculars and walk through the grassland birding areas. There are many birds and butterflies that can be observed. Schedule a ranger-led hike to truly discover more about the animals in the area.
Junior Ranger Program
The Georgia State Parks Junior Ranger Program offers a fun educational opportunity for kids visiting each state park. Kids can collect 59 badges that represent each of Georgia’s state parks & historic sites. They earn badges for completing different learning tasks, provided in a free activity book, at each park. Each park has a wooden badge that kids can earn, plus different embroidered sticker for completing activities (like fishing, camping, biking and volunteering).
Be sure to pick up your Georgia State Parks Junior Ranger Program activity book at the Panola Mountain welcome center. It’s designed for a third-grade level, but any age can earn the badges to become a Junior Ranger. Check the Panola Mountain State Park events calendar for Junior Ranger day camps as well.
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