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10 Things Not to Miss When Visiting Dollywood (May 2017)

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Postcard from Natchitoches, Louisiana (October 2016)

Discover the Essence of the Florida Panhandle at State Parks (October 2016)

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Nine Fun Ways to Enjoy Fall Foliage in Georgia (October 2016)

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Get Out and Explore: Six States, 16 State Parks (September 2016)

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Nine Experiences to Enjoy in Bowling Green, Kentucky (March 2016)

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Go, See, Do: Six Getaway-Worthy Southern Destinations (January 2016)

16 Things to Do in the South in 2016 (January 2016)

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The Great Georgia Escape: Discovering (and Enjoying) Big Canoe (September 2015)

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Four Days, Three Destinations: Exploring Columbia County and Augusta, Ga., and Aiken, S.C. (January 2015)

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So Many Fun Ways to Spend Your Holiday Gift Cash in the South (December 2014)

Behind the Scenes: The Personal Collection (and Memories) at the Gone With the Wind Museum: Scarlett on the Square (December 2014)

Spending a Day or Weekend in Bardstown, Kentucky (September 2014)

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Streamsong Resort: A Golfing Resort Beyond the Ordinary in Florida (April 2014)

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In the Kitchen with Chef Sam Lodovico, The Resort at Glade Springs (February 2014)

Checking Out Charleston's Culinary Scene with Charleston Culinary Tours (February 2014)

Discovering Downtown Birmingham, Ala. with Alabama Road Trips (January 2014)

Season Two of "Emeril's Florida" Highlights Culinary Gems of South Walton (January 2014)

Chatting with Barbecue Champion and Restaurateur Melissa Cookston (November 2013)

"Cast Iron Chef" Competition to Heat Up the 3rd annual Brooks County Skillet Festival (October 2013)

Crowd Pleasing Recipes to Amp Up Tailgating (September 2013)

Discovering Georgia's Lake Oconee Area (July 2013)

Honoring the Man in Black: Johnny Cash Museum (June 2013)

Experience Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island (June 2013)

Build Your Own Memorable Experience in Columbus, Georgia (May 2013)

South Walton’s Art Culture: People Behind the Creations (May 2013)

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City Insider: Mark Wyant, owner, The Saint Hotel in New Orleans (February 2013)

Dining Out at Osteria Tulia (January 2013)

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Taste Nostalgia (and Fun) with Pure Sodaworks (December 2012)

Find Serenity (and More) at Red Horse Inn (December 2012)

In Tall Cotton: Chef Cory Bahr and Restaurant Cotton (November 2012)

Under the Grand Chapiteau with Cirque du Soleil’s Totem (November 2012)

Feelin’ Presidential: Presidential Sites Throughout the South (October 2012)

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In the Kitchen with Chef Eric Fulkerson (August 2012)

Visiting The Inn at Magnolia Oaks (August 2012)

Journey to New Orleans Plantation Country (August 2012)

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Published: September 2016
Get Out and Explore: Six States, 16 State Parks  

Whether you are looking to explore the great outdoors or learn a little history or perhaps both, the South has a state park (or two) that fits your interest.

Experience a different side of a destination (and the region) when you visit any one of 16 state parks in these six states.

Arkansas

degraylakeyurtOn the north shore of DeGray Lake in Bismarck is the 938-acre DeGray Lake Resort State Park. As the state's only resort state park, various activities found here include an 18-hole championship golf course, disc golf course, fishing, and biking. There are five hiking trails, ranging from one-fourth mile to one mile; and a three-mile loop paddle trail. The state park also provides programs such as guided hikes, lake cruise and kayak tours. Check out DeGray's special events like Eagles Et Cetera in January. Lodging choices are a 94-room lodge, a YURT and 113 camping sites.

Mount Magazine State Park in Paris is positioned on the state's highest point - the nearly 3,000-foot Mount Magazine. Outdoor adventurists will enjoy the rock climbing and hang gliding opportunities. For those who aren't into extreme activities, there are bike rentals available at the lodge, over 14 miles of hiking trails and more. Throughout the year, the state park hosts various guided hikes, history and nature talks. Select to stay in either the 60-room lodge or one of the 13 cabins. The campground has 18 full hook-up sites.petitarkansas

The state's first state park, the 2,658-acre Petit Jean State Park in Morrilton is regarded for its natural beauty. Discover it for yourself along the over 20 miles of hiking trails. The state park also offers guided hikes, nature talks and workshops. Spend the night (or weekend) at the 24-room Mather Lodge, in one or the 21 cabins or at any of the 125 campsites.

Alabama

The 2,140-acre Monte Sano State Park, located near Huntsville, offers sweeping views from atop Monte Sano Mountain. Enjoy over 20 miles of hiking trails and 14 miles of biking trails, an 18-hole disc gollakelurleenf course and more, including a planetarium and observatory.
Stay overnight in one of the 14 cabins or at one of the 89 campsites.

Nine miles northwest of Tuscaloosa is the 1,625-acre Lake Lurleen State Park, best known for its 250-acre lake. The state park has other amenities as well, like over 23 miles of multi-use trails, a nature center, fishing opportunities and paddleboats. Lake Lurleen offers 91 campsites for those who want to extend their visit.

Tennessee

Situated on the shores of Norris Lake with over 800-miles of shoreline, Norris Dam State Park in Rocky Top combines nature and history within 4,000-acres. Hike along one of 15 trails or take a boat out on the water. Go birding. As for the history side, check out Caleb Crosby Threshing Barn, 18th-century Rice Grist Mill and Lenoir Museum. The state park also hosts annual events such as the Fall Color Pontoon Boat Trips in October and December - Holiday Homecoming. Accommodations include 29 cabins and two campgrounds with a combined total of 75 sites. A nearby full-service marina offers houseboat rentals as well as boat rentals.

Georgia

panola2Only 15 miles from Atlanta you'll find Panola Mountain State Park. Considered as the "crown jewel" of the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area (one of three National Heritage Areas in the state), the state park features a pristine 100-acre granite mountain similar to that of Stone Mountain. Teeming with activities that include 25 miles of hiking trails to over 30 miles along the PATH Trail for biking, kayaking and geocaching, everyone can find something to do here. There are also archery classes and tree-climbing classes for something a little different. Take a guided ranger-led hike to learn about Panola's history and the surroundings. The state park offers five primitive campsites.

Located on the western shore of Clarks Hill Lake, one of the largest lakes in the South, is the 447-acre Elijah Clark State Park in Lincolnton. The state park offers outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, boating and more. There is also a miniature golf course. See a log cabin replica of the Clarks home and view the gravesites Clark and his wife. Accommodations include 20 cottages, 160 campsites and 10 primitive campsites.

amicalolafallsLocated between Ellijay and Dahlonega is Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville. Not only is it home to the tallest cascading waterfall in the southeast - Amicalola Falls at 729-feet, but also is the starting point for the Appalachian Trail. Spend the day hiking shorter trails in the state park or trying your hand at fly fishing. Check out the new Aerial Adventure Park with 11 ziplines and three suspended bridges. Thinking about overnighting? Amicalola Falls State Park has a 57-room lodge, 14 cottages and 25 campsites. For those looking for an adventure, consider booking one of the 20-rooms at Len Foot Hike Inn. It's five-mile hike to this Georgia-only backcountry lodge.

South Carolina

Along the shoreline of the 71,000-acre Strom Thurmond Reservoir is the 1,091-acre Hickory Knob State Park in McCormick. It's the only full-service resort in the state's park service with an on-site restaurant and meeting facilities. The park provides an abundance of outdoor activities that include 12 miles of multi-use trails, canoe/kayak rentals, boat access and fishing. There is also an 18-hole championship Tom Jackson-designed golf course. For an overnight stay, select among 18 cabins, 76-room lodge, 44 campsites near the lake or the two-bedroom Guillebeau House.

a219747_1-view-of-table-rock-from-the-parks-lodgeThe 3,000-acre Table Rock State Park in Pickens was one of 16 state parks built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Outdoor and nature enthusiasts are drawn here not only for the mountain views and two lakes but also for the access point to the 80-mile Foothills Trail. There are shorter hiking trails at the state park as well as boating and fishing opportunities, geocaching, bird watching and more. On the second Saturday of each month, Table Rock State Park host "Music on the Mountain" bluegrass jam at the lodge. Choose among one of the 16 cabins or 69 camping sites to stay the night or weekend.

Another CCC-built state park, Oconee State Park in Mountain Rest encompasses 1,165-acres. As the only state park with an 18-hole mini-golf course, it also offers canoe/kayak, fishing boat and pedal boat rentals. There are ample hiking trails that include the half-mile Wormy Chestnut Trail and the two-mile Tamassee Knob Trail. There is also access to the Foothill Trail. Accommodations feature 19 cabins, 140 standard campsites and 15 dedicated tent sites.huntingislandlighthousebeaufort

Within Hunting Island State Park, near Beaufort, is the Hunting Island Lighthouse, the state's only lighthouse that's open to the public. Climb the 167 steps to the top and be rewarded with views of the marshland and the Atlantic Ocean. As one of the more popular state parks, it has five miles of beach, a saltwater lagoon and a pier. The 5,000-acre state park also offers eight miles of trails traversing through maritime forest and along the lagoon to explore by foot or on bike. Be sure the check out the Nature Center. Stay for the night (or longer) in the one cabin or any of the 171 standard campsites or 10 tent campsites.

Along with the beaches and attractions that make Myrtle Beach a quintessential vacation destination, the area is home to Huntington Beach State Park and Myrtle Beach State Park.

In Murrells Inlet, the 2,500-acre Huntington Beach State Park is a prime spot for birding. Over 300 species have been spotted within the park's borders. Enjoy three miles of beach, ocean jetty fishing, inlets, marshes and more. Ride the Bike-the-Neck Trail or hike along one of the two trails. Unique to the state park is Atalaya, a Moorish-style house that served as the winter retreat and studio for 20th-century sculptress Anna Hyatt Huntington and her husband. Open for tours, it's also the site for the annual juried Atalaya Arts and Crafts Festival. Accommodations include 107 standard campsites and six tent sites.

myrtlebeachbThe 312-acre Myrtle Beach State Park was the first state park to open to the public in 1936. It showcases the state's last stands of oceanfront maritime forest located 300 yards from the beach. Walk out on the fishing pier or drop a line. Don't have a fishing rod? Don't worry, just rent one from the pier gift shop. Hike or bike along the two trails that go into the woodlands. Lodging options include six cabins, 204 campsites and 30 seasonal tent sites.

 

North Carolina

Jockey's Ridge State Park in Nags Head is home to the tallest natural dune system on thejockeyridgestatepark East Coast. Check out the 360-foot boardwalk or the two self-guided nature trails at this day use state park. Enjoy the views of the Roanoke Sound and the Atlantic Ocean from the top of the dune. Feeling adventurous? Jockey's Ridge is home to hang-gliding with lessons available. There are also opportunities for sandboarding (seasonal) and kiteboarding. Or just take it easy by flying a kite.

 

 

 

 

photos: (top left) DeGray Lake Resort State Park , (top right) Petit Jean State Park, (upper middle left) Lake Lurleen State Park, (middle right) Panola Mountain State Park, (middle left) Amicalola Falls State Park, (bottom left) Table Rock State Park, (bottom right) Hunting Island State Park, (far bottom right) Myrtle Beach State Park, (far bottom right) Jockey's Ridge State Park

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