It started raining just as soon as I backed into my campsite. Ordinarily I would have been more than a little bummed but this was no ordinary state park. I kicked back, listened to the sound of rain pelting the roof of the camper van, and watched a mist crawl through the campground. It was absolutely relaxing and when the rain stopped an hour later I was energized for a hike around the beautiful lake to a hidden, stunning waterfall. Welcome to Vogel State Park.
During my 10-day jaunt through the mountains of North Georgia I came across a few state parks, stunning waterfalls, exciting little towns, and lots of interesting people. I spent nights van dwelling in Walmart parking lots, a drive-in movie theater, a private campground, and a few nights in a hotel. But my best night of the entire jaunt was spent at Vogel State Park.
The cozy campground includes 57 tent, trailer, and RV sites, 22 tent sites, and 18 walk-in sites spread throughout a forested area. Each site is pretty nice: they include a picnic table, lantern hook, plenty of room for parking vehicles and setting up tents, and just enough trees for hanging a hammock (first thing I do when I park for the night). Bath houses are scattered around the campground and never far away; the houses include very nice showers, toilets, and sinks for washing up each day.
It took about twenty minutes to work my way through the line to get my campsite. It wasn’t bad service but rather just really busy! And now visitors have the option to reserve specific sites through the Georgia parks website so you don’t have to spend quite so much time waiting. I found my campsite easily enough, just a few sites down from the bathhouse, and backed in just as the rain started. I welcomed the break. I climbed into the back of the camper van with a good book and listened to the rain fall on the roof.
Hiking Around the Lake
The rain was just one of those summer thunderstorms that seemingly came out of nowhere, dumped an inch of rain in a short period of time, and then vanished just as quickly as it arrived. An hour after arriving in the campground the sun had come back out and I was ready for a hike. I headed back toward the entrance of the park and found the lake.
The 22-acre lake isn’t exactly big enough to spend a day on it. Not unless you just enjoy floating along the surface. But I wasn’t really interested in the lake itself but rather the short Lake Trahlyta Trail. It was a short and very pleasant walk surrounded by blooming rhododendron bushes never more than a few feet from the lake’s edge. The trail was primitive and littered with rocks and roots but it was level and made for an easy hike. The far end of the lake was more open with no trees on the water side; a couple of people were fishing here and an elderly couple enjoyed the view from a wooden bench.
I enjoyed a gorgeous sunset view from that bench about an hour later. The mountains surrounding the lake blocked most of the sunset colors but that didn’t take away from the tranquility and beauty of the moment. It was a great end to a great day exploring Georgia. And it only took about twenty minutes to get back to the van and into the campground for the night.
The Hidden Waterfall
Trahlyta Falls is hidden at the far end of the lake. You wouldn’t even know it was there unless you hiked the trail or had inside knowledge (allow me to give you some inside knowledge). A spur trail leads away from the lake and winds down a steep embankment. Just as you reach the waterfall, which is actually part of the lake’s overflow, a metal staircase leads down to a wooden deck.
And there it is. Larger than life and literally right smack dab in front of you. It’s the closest you’ll ever get to a waterfall without wading through some water and crawling over slippery rocks. It’s more of a cascading waterfall as the water tumbles over rocks and beneath the deck. But it’s still beautiful and thunderously loud standing right on top of it.
Fishing and Kayaking
Another popular activity in the park is fishing and kayaking the lake. The lake isn’t all that big and probably takes less then twenty minutes to kayak end to end. But it’s just big enough for about one or dozen kayakers to have enough freedom to enjoy themselves. As I first arrived at the lake for my hike to the waterfall I saw two gentlemen fishing from kayaks. One had just given up for the day but the other caught sight of my big lens shooting his photo and decided to show off just a little bit. Don’t know what he caught, but it was a big one.
There are about a few nice trails that wind through and around the state park, including the Appalachian Trail. The AT doesn’t come directly into the park but it’s still pretty accessible if you want to do some day hiking while camping at Vogel State Park. From the campground take the Coosa Backcountry Trail. It’s a 12.9-mile loop trail, but do reach the AT turn left when you reach the loop and continue to a short spur trail that leads to the AT. If you want to stick to the Coosa Trail it will eventually climb over a couple of mountains with a gain of about 1900′ in elevation so it’s kinda strenuous.
The Bear Hair Gap Trail is a shorter 4.1-mile loop that’s easier on the knee joints with only a 600′ change in elevation. The loop begins with the spur trail in the campground, crosses over the Coosa Trail, winds around the forest leading to the Vogel Overlook, then returns to the Coosa Trail and back to the campground. It’s a more pleasant hike and better for children.
The 0.8-mile Byron Herbert Reece Nature Trail is a very small loop trail with a very gradual 200′ change in elevation. It’s a great trail if you have restless legs and just feel the need to get out and walk a little bit.
The 1-mile Trahlyta Lake Loop Trail starts at the parking lot at one end of the lake. It’s the easiest trail in the park to hike and takes only about 20 minutes at a leisure pace. This trail leads to Trahlyta Falls at the far end of the lake.
A Little Miniature Golf?
I noticed this on my way out the next morning; a small putt-putt course. It’s very small and very simple but it’s a unique feature to a state park and sometimes the complexity of the course just doesn’t matter to kids. One nice feature, though, is the course is handicap accessible. The paths around the course are concrete and wide enough for a wheelchair. Now that is a very unique feature in a state park.
Things to Know Before You Go
Vogel State Park is the very definition of a “night in the wilderness”. Come prepared. There is absolutely no cellphone reception in the campground area and it’s spotty throughout the rest of the park. Free wifi is available at the gift shop/visitor center but the bandwidth is limited with so many people trying to use it (in other words I couldn’t even load the Accuweather app to check on the weather).
There is limited food at the gift shop, mostly snacks and simple meal items. Be sure to bring whatever you need for breakfast/lunch/dinner including propane or charcoal with you. It’s not that far to get back to Blairsville (maybe 20 minutes) but do you really want to leave this beautiful park once you arrive? The gates also close each night so you don’t want to be caught outside.
There is a small laundry room beside the gift shop. Very small. It’s great if you need to do a small load but please don’t try to wash five loads of laundry and tie up the machines for hours.