As part of our family’s Appalachian Trail backpacking trip, my wife and I took our daughters camping at Vogel State Park in Georgia. Apart from the terribly twisty road that gave my wife and one daughter motion sickness, the park was beautiful and well worth the trip. It has a large lake, a waterfall, and hiking trails in addition to other activities. We had reserved a tent camping site on the internet, and arrived after hours. The place was a bit crowded, particularly the RV/Camper sites. We had to hurry to set up camp before dark. Luckily, we had eaten on the way there so we didn’t need to cook. We just lit a small fire and enjoyed staring at the flames while we talked.
We spent the next morning there enjoying the waterfall and walking around the lake. The waterfall is located at the far side of the lake where a picturesque bridge spans an overspill that feeds the falls. We took a short trail that lead to the bottom of the falls where a platform gave us a wonderful view of the cascades. We hiked at a leisurely pace and played in the creek at the bottom of the falls. The lake itself was perfect for fishing and swimming, kayaking, or boating. We decided to rent two kayaks and one paddle boat. The sun was beating down on us as we floated along, but the occasional splashes from the girls with paddles cooled us off. We tried racing, but the paddle boat was no match for the kayaks. The trip across the lake was fun but tiring. We were wishing that we had brought our fishing equipment, but we enjoyed relaxing on the benches, swings and pavilion instead. Other hiking trails were labeled on the map of the park, but we decided to hold off on those, too, since we would be hiking on the Appalachian Trail (AT) when we left Vogel.
After lunch, we went to Mountain Crossings store at the Walasa-yi center. The girls picked out souvenirs and I invested in another sleeping pad since I had accidently left mine at the Springer Mountain shelter on our previous hike. The view of the mountains from the stone deck beside the store was beautiful. Other backpackers, cyclists, and bikers were around, and our girls had their first look at what a hostel looks like. We were able to contact a shuttle service to take our vehicle to the Unicoi Gap parking area after we started our hike at Neel Gap parking area the next day. We went back to camp and cooked supper over the fire and finalized our plans for our hike on the AT starting early the next morning. After supper, we enjoyed S’mores. Nothing like a little chocolate to help kids go to sleep. Well, they had to take showers and organize their stuff for hiking, too. The sugar rush had become a sugar crash by the time we called “lights out.” All in all, camping at Vogel State park was fun and relatively inexpensive. We enjoyed the natural setting and the chance to camp conveniently before hitting the Appalachian Trail full force the next day. The next morning, we packed up our vehicle and headed to the trailhead at the parking area about three miles down the road. We put on our packs, then hit the trail bound for Unicoi Gap 23 miles away.
Check out our post about our AT hike to Unicoi Gap here: