By Audrey Andrews | June 8th, 2020
Backcountry Loop (to and from parking area):
748 feet elevation gain
Providence Canyon State Park is home to the “Little Grand Canyon” of Georgia. I’ve been to Grand Canyon National Park and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and can affirm that “Little Grand Canyon” is a massive overstatement. While Providence Canyon State Park should absolutely not be compared to the Grand Canyon, it is a worthy trek.
The park requires a $5 day entrance fee per car. Although there are places to park along the canyon rim, I’d recommend driving to the end of the road at the visitor’s center and picking up a map.
The descent into the canyon is steep for Georgia, and often crowded. The bottom of the canyon is jungle-esque and very, very wet. Be sure to wear shoes you’re okay with getting soaked and sandy.
Walking into the canyons feels adventurous despite swarms of people. On the canyon floor, trails sprout. Signs warn of the difficult backcountry loop. Based on the signage, it seems the park has had trouble with unprepared outdoorspeople hiking the trail. Because of the warnings, I was nervous the path would be treacherous and terrifying, but it was neither. Including the walk into and out of the canyon, the hike is just over 5 miles and 700 feet of elevation gain. For those who spend time outside, the hike should not take more than a few hours, so please do not fear: like the park description, the trail warnings are wildly overstated.
The first mile of the hike is completely flat and follows a stream winding through red sand. Here, I had a frightening encounter with a copperhead snake. My hiking partner and I watched the copperhead slither across the trail and into the water. Completely undisturbed by our presence, it swam through the river as we followed. 200 to 300 yards down the way, it slithered up the opposite bank and into the forest.
Unfortunately, I was too jumpy to enjoy the remainder of the hike. Every stick was a snake- a poisonous one.
After about 1.5 miles, the trail veers left across a quaint bridge and climbs quickly. The back area of the hike is made of rolling hills and campgrounds are available for those who’d like to stay overnight.
The trail winds back towards the starting point. Along the way, it descends to a stream, ascends one last time and then leads back into the canyon. Just when the climbing seems to be over, you reach the end of the loop and must, of course, climb out of the canyon to the visitor’s center and parking area. When prepared with bug spray and water-friendly shoes, the backcountry loop and Providence Canyon State Park is a great way to spend a Saturday morning.