If you are looking for a quick, nature-filled day trip just outside of Atlanta, this is it! Panola Mountain State Park is just 15 minutes from Atlanta and filled with recreational activities for all ages and interests. Panola Mountain is a 100-acre granite outcrop similar to Stone Mountain, but smaller. The park is the crown jewel of the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, one of only three National Heritage Areas in the state.
The park offers archery, geocaching, birding, plus tree-climbing and orienteering programs, which is a navigational sport. A paved trail is open for cycling, roller blading, jogging and leashed dog-walking. Forested trails are open for hiking and running, and the park features outdoor fitness equipment as well. Reservations are required for ranger-led hikes that teach about the rare plants and animals found in this habitat. To access the mountain itself, ranger-led hikes are required. The park has 5 primitive campsites, 4 picnic shelters and a lake pavilion, as well as an amphitheater, nature center and playground. Vaughters’ Farm is a remnant of DeKalb County’s rural past and a part of Panola Mountain State Park.
HOURS: Park hours are 7 a.m. – Dark.
ADMISSION: $5 Daily ParkPass. You can also all buy an annual pass for $50.
Pets are not allowed on the granite mountain. Leashed dogs are allowed on other trails.
Outdoor fitness equipment
By Carden Wyckoff, Disability Advocate freewheelinwithcarden.com
Trails: All 7 miles within trail map are paved, PATH Foundation routes. At the southwest end of the Lake Loop Trail, there are switchbacks which are not ADA accessible in grade, though the trail is paved. The picnic tables at the Nature Center are in the grass and do not have paved path access. Route heading south on Alexander Lake PATH from Rockdale River PATH is uphill. Minimal shade. Hilly in some spots. Paths include 2 wooden boardwalks.
Restrooms: All restrooms are ADA accessible.
Recommended Parking: Lake Loop Trail entrance.
Sounds: water, squirrels, crickets
WATCH BEFORE YOU GO: Ranger Robby met us out at nearby Arabia Mountain to share a few words of caution for visitors navigating this nature-filled heritage area so they can help protect its endangered inhabitants.