Photo by Jerry Wallace
Cloudland Canyon State Park attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists to Dade County every year but it's a handy and fabulous resource for those of us who live here, too. Lest we forget that, below, in no particular order, is a rundown of some new stuff and old standbys on tap at the park this spring. This weekend is the kickoff for a slew of seasonal attractions and events--be sure to read all the way to the bottom to find something you'll like!
Cloudland Canyon's Spring Breaker Day Camp for children 6-12 starts Monday, March 13, and runs every Monday through April 10 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. the $20-per-session tuition includes nature walks, fishing, arts and crafts, outdoor games and more with the park's great interpretive ranger, Stephanie Fisher. Call the park at (706) 657-4050 for more information on the camp.
A yellow trout lily flanked by pale pink spring beauty. Both wildflowers are just beginning to bloom in Sitton's Gulch now. (photo by Jerry Wallace)
If you're a flowerchild who can be reduced to happy hysteria by the first hepaticas of the year, it's time you visited the park! Early spring is wildflower season in these parts, and the Sitton's Guch Trail, just off Canyon Park Estates at the bottom of Lookout Mountain, offers the best wildflowering in Dade County.
You can wander the easy bottomland of Sitton's by yourself for nothing but the parking fee--$5 if you don't buy the yearly pass--or you can sign up for a $10 guided tour with G3, the outfitter that services the park's trails and caves. G3 will be leading wildflower hikes in the Gulch next week on Wednesday, March 15, Saturday, March 18, and Monday, March 20, from 10 a.m.-noon each day. Call the outfitter at (706) 913-7170 to sign up or for more information.
G3 also offers cave tours year-round and inside the park during the warm months, beginning April 1.
Or is it geology that floats your boat? Cloudland Canyon State Park itself is offering a "Rock Talk and Stroll" this spring every Saturday beginning this Saturday, March 11, and running through the end of November. There will also be Tuesday hikes this spring March 14-April 11. These walkin' and talkin' events run 10:30 a.m.-noon each of these days and feature the fascinating geology of Cloudland Canyon, which was once part of an inland sea. Best of all, except for the parking fee, the Rock Talks are free.
Another free ranger-led hike will start this Saturday, the 11th, and run through late fall. The "Waterfall Workout" is a strenuous two-mile jaunt up and down the Canyon's famous 600 steps to admire the park's stunning waterfalls. Bring your bottle of water for this one. Hikes start at 4 p.m. each Saturday and last until about 6 p.m.
And for something gentler, you can finish Saturday with a "Sunset Stroll to Sunset Point." This additional ranger-led walk, which will begin this Saturday, the 11th, and run each Saturday through Nov. 15, will start at varying times as the days stretch out and the seasons change in order to catch the sunset from one of the park's spectacular overlooks. The program lasts about 45 minutes. For specific start times, or for more information about any of these park-sponsored events, call the park at (706) 65-4050.
The park now has bikes! One other exciting new regular attraction Cloudland Canyon is adding beginning this weekend is "mountain bike hikes." Beginning this Sunday, March 12, and running through the end of November, the park's interpretive ranger will lead trail rides in the park each Sunday morning 9-11:30 a.m. There will also be Tuesday afternoon "bike hikes" this spring from 2-4:30 p.m., now until April 11. Bring water and a snack and wear your helmet. Cost is $10-15.
Don't have a mountain bike? You can still participate. Since the middle of February, the park has been renting a small line of bikes. Quantities are limited but you can rent a bike for $35 for half a day or $55 for a full one. Pay at the park office.
Volunteer opportunities Volunteers are always needed at the park to help maintain the trails. If you'd like to join the chainsaw gang, the trail maintenance detail of Friends of Cloudland Canyon State Park holds a work morning every second Saturday and this month that's this Saturday, the 11th. Meet at 8:30 a.m. in the camp office parking lot and you'll be done by noon.
Thinking of joining the Friends? This might be a good time because they'll be holding their annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 23, at the park's Group Shelter. For more information you can go to the Friends website cloudlandcanyon.org. The Friends provide recycling, recreational, educational and lots of other services to the park.
Arts Festival This May! Speaking of which, the Friends' biggest event of the year is upcoming: The Mountain Art and Craft Celebration, moved from the fall after a couple of years of less than perfect weather, will be in spring this year. The fair will run May 13-14 and will feature food, music and over 100 artists and craftspeople selling juried handmade items.
Admission to the fair is $5 for adults, $2 for children 2-12, plus the Georgia Park System's universal $5 parking fee if you don't have the annual pass. All proceeds of the festival benefit the park.
If you'd like more information, or for that matter want to be a vendor, go to the fair's website: https://www.mountainartandcraftcelebration.com.
If you're from out of town, here's one more reminder: The Friends warn that if you want to camp at Cloudland Canyon State Park during the festival, or stay in one of the park's rental cabins, you need to book early! The park tends to sell out during events.
If you're a resident of Dade County, well, aren't you special? You can go to the park any time you want to! It's just one of the perks of living at the throbbing epicenter of the universe.
And one more newsy little item: If you really, really love the park so much you want to work there, as it happens the place is looking for a new manager. Head Ranger Scott Einberger is moving on and the DNR will be accepting application for his position until next Tuesday, March 14. Here's a contact email if you're in the market: Parks1@dnr.ga.gov