The Lake Loop Trail at Unicoi State Park

Note: This column appeared in the April 4, 2012 edition of the Barrow Journal.

Hasn’t this weather been exceptional lately?  We have been trying to take advantage of it all that we can, and a week ago we took the boys to one of our favorite places: Unicoi State Park.  Many of you may be familiar with Unicoi State Park.  It’s right outside of Helen, Georgia, and it’s near Anna Ruby Falls.

But we also love the easy Lake Loop Trail, and it’s perfect for small children.  It’s about 2.5 miles around Smith Lake, which is also known as Unicoi Lake.  It’s a flat trail, and I think we even took our jogging stroller on it once when our eldest was very little.

There are beautiful views all around the lake, and there are ample places for our boys to stop and throw rocks into the water.  Throwing rocks is still their favorite thing to do.  While my husband and I like to take in the scenery, our boys are busy trying to find a rock or twig that’s just the right size.

The two-year-old cannot walk without stopping to fill his arms with rocks.  The five-year-old is now smart enough to realize that mama has pockets!  So if you passed us on the Lake Loop Trail, you’d see a mama with bulging pockets trying to coax a two-year-old to move.

I still had a great time.  The weather was perfect, though a dark cloud came upon us about half way around the lake.  Luckily it didn’t rain on us, and the cloudy weather kept us from squinting or sweating too much.

There’s a small, sandy beach on the lake with an area blocked off for swimming.  Though we found it while we were walking on the Loop Trail, I noticed that there’s a parking lot just above it, so you could go straight there for the day.  My boys had fun digging in the sand while we sat in the shade and watched a few families swim in the water.

There’s also a large “beach house.”  I didn’t go inside, but according to this website says that you can rent this facility for a private function.  It also says that during the summer, you can rent a canoe or pedal boat.  That sounds like fun!

We passed many fishermen while we were walking on the path, though it didn’t look like anyone was catching many fish that day.  There are a lot of bridges (perfect places to throw rocks) and docks along the way.  Most of these have benches so that you can relax and take in the blue water and green trees surrounding the lake.

In another cove, we found all the fish hovering around some fallen trees in the water, but we didn’t have the energy to go back and alert the fishermen.  Besides that, the cloud was looking ominous, so we didn’t want to linger too long.

For the same reason, we hurried our boys passed another area with a playground.  Luckily, they were looking at the water and too busy with their rocks and twigs to notice the playground, but next time we go, we’ll be sure to let them play awhile.

The only tricky part about the trail is that you have to cross the dam via Highway 356 to get back to your vehicle.  (This isn’t a big deal if you don’t have children.)  Once we reached this point my husband went to get the car and came to pick us up.  There is parking on either side of the dam, but we always park on the west side and use the picnic pavilion to eat lunch at before we start the trail.  There is a $5.00 parking fee unless you buy the annual state park pass.

To learn more about this trail you can go to the Digital Trail Guide or look up Unicoi State Park on the Georgia State Parks website: http://www.gastateparks.org/.

For more ideas about what to do in Georgia with children, be sure to see my page Resources for Georgia Homeschoolers.  And I hope you’ll sign up for my RSS Feed, like my Facebook page, or subscribe by e-mail in the right margin…>

Please share your favorite nature hot spots for children in the comments.

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