Travelogue 1.1

Weekend Getaway to Georgia’s Vogel State Park

By Donny Karr

Each September, I look for a fresh, new outdoor adventure to enjoy with my wife, Madison. We love to plan an unforgettable trip each year in September—a birthday month we share. This year we wanted a mountain vacation with all the scenic beauty we could find.


The goal was a spot near one of southern Appalachians’ majestic mountains that also offered comfortable lodging, fishing, and waterfalls. Georgia’s Vogel State Park won as the perfect place to go.


Vogel State Park is nestled deep in the wilderness among some of the tallest mountains in the state. It covers 94 acres and features Lake Trahlyta, a 20-acre reservoir that is circled by trails and cabins. The lake is aptly named for a Cherokee maiden who was renowned for her beauty.


My wife and I are avid anglers, and we were excited to try our hand at fishing. The crystal-clear waters are home to abundant numbers of largemouth bass, bluegill, and rainbow trout. Wooded mountains surround the lake, reflecting breathtaking backdrops around the water, as trees burst into vibrant red, orange, and yellow hues each autumn.


My wife and I prefer secluded cabins when we travel and Vogel is home to 35 cottages that are spacious and comfortable. Some were more impressive than others, but each cabin offered everything we needed to make us feel right at home.

Once settled in our cabin, we took a short stroll around the lake and enjoyed a clear view of the night sky. A sky alive and sparkling with more stars than we could ever see from our urban home. It was breathtaking. And, being a few thousand feet above what we normally call home, it was as if we were high above the stress of daily life. It was a tangible feeling of bliss.


The next morning, we decided on a hike to the summit of Blood Mountain, the highest peak along Georgia’s section of the Appalachian Trail. Vogel State Park sits at the foot of Blood Mountain and there are two ways to go to the top. We could drive to the nearby Byron Reece Trailhead, or simply embark on our journey from the unforgiving Coosa Backcountry Trail. We opted for the Coosa Backcountry trail.


The Coosa Backcountry Trail was more strenuous than expected, with it’s fair share of challenges, but it was also full of amazing natural splendor.
We were warned by some of our fellow park goers that we’d need a map and that it was a tough trail to navigate.


Thankfully, trails leading to the summit are all dog-friendly, and our pup, Biggie Smalls, took it upon himself to lead the way through much of the trip. The trail, at 8.5 miles long, starts with a gradual wind up the mountain, flattening out into a beautiful vista overlooking Lake Trahlyta.


The Coosa Backcountry Trail meets other trails along the way to the top of Blood Mountain, crisscrossing various creeks and piles of large boulders. There are a few portions where other hikers built carefully constructed cairns to mark their passage.


The peripheries of the trail are covered in giant hemlock, oak and evergreen trees that are hundreds of years old.
We were almost to the point of the final climb upward to the summit when we realized that the weather did not intend to cooperate with our plans.


Ahead of us, we could see that the top of the mountain was enveloped in thick, dark clouds.


We decided to turn back as a hard rain moved in, setting course for a new destination, we headed back toward the cabin to take a short car ride over to Helton Creek Falls.


Helton Creek Falls, which consists of two separate waterfalls that are less than a hundred feet from one another, is located just a short distance off a winding gravel road.

We took the narrow trail through the thick undergrowth, the roaring sound growing louder with each step. Then, just around the turn, the lower falls became visible through the forest.


My wife and I kicked off our boots and walked barefoot in the icy waters of Helton Creek. Biggie Smalls took to the water immediately too, bounding through the creek and exploring every nook and cranny around the large rocks.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that we were the only ones visiting the falls that evening just before sunset.


Enjoying the beauty and solitude, we made our way up a set of wooden stairs to the upper portion of the falls. The water there cascading over a huge rock outcrop and tumbling into the calm, shallow pool below. We spent some time in the solitude, listening to the falls and watching the sunset, then made our way back to the cabin.


My wife, Madison, and I agree that Vogel State Park and nearby Blood Mountain and Helton Creek Falls have become our new favorite destination in the Georgia Appalachian Mountain range. We plan to make a return trip again next September when the mountain vistas are alive with autumn’s fiery colors!


For more information on visiting vogel state park, please visit http://www.gastateparks.org/vogel or call 706-745-2628. To make reservations, please call 1-800-864-7275