During the early summer of 2016, I spent a three-day weekend in the mountains. At Vogel State Park in northeast Georgia, to be exact. My family has a 26 year history with Vogel beginning with our first unintended camping trip there in 1992.
We were living in south Florida, at the time, and had planned a tent camping trip with another family. Our original goal was to drive straight through to North Carolina to stay in the Nantahala forest. Our drive took longer than expected, and we took a detour to Vogel State Park in Blairsville, Georgia. With young children in tow, we wanted to have our tents up and ready before nightfall.
Looking back, I’m REALLY glad we didn’t make it to Nantahala. There was a weather system hovering over the region during that week which brought misty rains and colder-than-normal temperatures. This made our tent, clothing and sleeping bags damp — which caused us to be cold and miserable. If not for the laundromat at Vogel, our sleeping bags would never have dried. At Nantahala, we would have been “roughing it” in the truest sense of the word. There would have been no bath houses, toilets or laundromat. We would have faced added exposure to the elements and greater distances from civilization. The weather was hard enough on us at Vogel that year even with basic conveniences. If we had proceeded on toward Nantahala, we would have been woefully unprepared.
Though 1992 was our first visit, we returned two more times over the next few years as our family prepared to make a permanent move from south Florida to north Georgia — which we did in 1996. Later, we bought a pop-up camper, and Vogel became our family summer vacation go-to place with our children for the next several years.
As much as I enjoyed going to Vogel all those years ago, it was 13 years before I went back in 2016. I was delighted to discover that Vogel State Park had lost none of its charm — if anything, there were new things to discover and enjoy. It was wonderful to bring two of my grandchildren there for the first time — in the hopes that it would become a beloved memory of their childhood, and a place they would one day bring their own children.
Blood Mountain & Walasi-Yi
Since we now live in Cleveland, Georgia — which is 15 miles to the south of the park — we came by way of Highway 129 which allows us to make a stop at the Walasi- Yi Interpretive Center located at Neel Gap which is atop Blood Mountain. The Appalachian Trail crosses Blood Mountain — which is the tallest mountain on the Georgia section of the Trail with an elevation of 4,458 feet — and passes through a breezeway at Walasi-Yi which is the only place on the Trail that passes through a man-made structure.
Walasi-Yi is a popular tourist stop because it boasts a souvenir store and outfitters — Mountain Crossings — and spectacular scenic views as well as providing a hostel for thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail. If you are interested in hiking a portion of the Appalachian Trail, you can drive about a mile further north to the Byron Herbert Reece Trail which is an access trail that allows you to connect with the Appalachian Trail where it crosses Blood Mountain. It is an approximately 1.5 mile round trip hike from the parking lot and back. It makes for a nice, medium-intensity hike — perfect for families — and the view at the top is breathtaking. Bring your camera!
While I was visiting the Mountain Crossings store at Walasi-Yi, I overheard the clerk telling a customer that they receive several hundred pairs of hiking boots each year from hikers who have walked all 2,000 miles of the Trail. Mailing the boots is a hiker’s way of commemorating the feat. That was a fun piece of trivia to learn!
The Walasi-Yi Center and Byron Herbert Reece Trail are only minutes south of Vogel State Park and are worth the time to visit and explore while you are in the area.
At Vogel State Park itself, you have your choice of camping by tent, RV, camper or pop-up — or you can make use of one of their on-site cottages (also known as cabins). This year, we chose to stay in the cabins. They have 35 cabins available that sleep anywhere from 2 to 10 people — minimum stay is two nights; maximum stay is 14 nights. The cabins have central A/C and are equipped with kitchens that include a microwave, stove/oven, refrigerator, pots and pans, toaster — plus plates, utensils, cups, bowls, dish towels and dish liquid. AND most cabins have a dishwasher, too. All you have to do is bring the food!
The bathrooms at the cabins are stocked with a 7 day supply of towels including hand towels and wash rags. They also provide small bars of soap and extra trash bags. There are electrical outlets for your blow dryer, etc. I will tell you that the towels are SUPER soft and absorbent. I could not get over how wonderful they felt to the touch.
Below are photos of our two-person cabin.
In the cabins, all of the bedding and pillows are provided. All of the beds are double sized and can comfortably accommodate two people in one bed. There are chairs and tables inside each cabin as well as an 8- person picnic table, grill, campfire pit and two Adirondack chairs located in the patio area. Logs, charcoal and kindling are available for purchase at the Visitor’s Center to use for your outdoor cooking and marshmallow roasting, but you can also bring your own. You can also purchase a Georgia State fishing permit at the Visitor’s Center if you care to do any fishing while you’re in the area.
Vogel State Park boasts more than 230 acres of natural beauty. It includes a one-mile long lake known as Lake Trahlyta. There is a nature trail that follows the eastern side of the lake where it ends at a beautiful waterfall. The beach area offers swimming along with paddle boat, canoe and kayak rentals. There is an outdoor pavilion situated on the western shore of the lake where your group can gather for parties and events — and where musical events are hosted by the Park on Saturday nights throughout the summer. There are two designated playground areas at Vogel that are kept neat and clean for children to play. You will also find a horseshoe pit and volleyball net in one of the playground areas — horseshoes and balls are available at the Visitor’s Center — and plenty of space for throwing frisbees, footballs, and enjoying other outdoor sports.
The playground areas are surrounded by asphalt roadways which are used for vehicles to gain access to the camp sites; however, the roadways are also used by visiting families for bike riding, walking, scooters and golf carts. Speed bumps and 5 mph signs keep the roadways safe for children.
There is plenty of wildlife at Vogel State Park which is located in the heart of the Chattahoochee National Forest. You are most likely to see deer, squirrels, Canada geese and songbirds — but don’t rule out the possibility of also seeing bears, raccoons, coyotes or bobcats.
Be sure to bring plenty of bug repellent and sunscreen — as well as your bathing suits, walking shoes and/or hiking equipment. An umbrella doesn’t hurt, either, because there are days during the summer when you can expect a passing shower or even days of misty rain.
Reservations for the cabins should be made at least six months in advance. Tent and camper sites are usually available throughout the year — though they are usually booked on holiday weeks and weekends. Vogel State Park is located within a 30-45 minute drive of the following towns: Blairsville, Dahlonega, Cleveland, Helen, Hiawassee, Young Harris, Suches. Area attractions include: the Alpine Village of Helen; Cabbage Patch Kids and Babyland General; North Georgia Zoo; Downtown Dahlonega and Consolidated Gold Mine Tour; Brasstown Bald (Georgia’s tallest mountain which has an observation tower).
Trivia & Lore
If you are planning an educational vacation to enjoy with your older children or grandchildren, you might be interested to learn the history of Blood Mountain, Vogel State Park, Civilian Conservation Corp and the Cherokee and Creek Indians who lived in this region.
You will also be interested to know that Blood Mountain was so named because of a famous battle between the Creek and Cherokee Indian tribes that occurred nearby. It was said the creeks and streams ran red with the blood of the fallen warriors. Fascinating stuff!
Let me know if you decide to pay a visit to this vacation treasure — I’d love to see a photo or two. Make some great memories while you’re there!
Until next time! ~ Susan