Visit This Wildly Underrated State Park To See The Grand Canyon Of Georgia

For many years, the Grand Canyon has made its way to the top of many travelers' bucket lists, and with good reason. There's something irresistible about standing face to face with nature's most impressive wonders, and when it comes to views and breathtaking dimensions, the Grand Canyon has it covered. According to The National Park Service, this World Heritage Site spans over 1 million acres in its entirety and the canyon itself averages 4,000 feet deep. This combination of captivating features makes the Grand Canyon worth visiting — but if your travel plans are taking you southeast instead of west, there's an impeccable alternative destination to add to your itinerary in the form of Providence Canyon State Park.

This wildly underrated state park in Georgia is a must-visit, whether you're looking to enhance your previous Grand Canyon experiences, or you're hoping to enjoy a stop that's breathtaking all on its own. Located in Lumpkin, about 150 miles south of Atlanta, Providence Canyon State Park has earned its place on the list of the state's seven natural wonders. It's commonly referred to as "Georgia's Little Grand Canyon," and when you take time to see the collection of colorful canyon walls for yourself, it's not hard to see why.

Hike your way through history to amazing views

When you visit Providence Canyon State Park, you'll have 2,706 acres of terrain to explore, hosting 16 colorful canyons. Some of those canyons dip 150 feet into the earth and showcase unique arrangements of the 43 different colors of sand that have been identified across the park. If you're a landscape photographer, the variety of natural hues promises to inspire some great work. The mesmerizing combination of rocks, sands, and canyon walls is beautiful and historic. Deep gullies across the park formed as the result of water runoff from local farms established back in the 1800s. Landmarks like Providence Canyon, for which the park was named, are believed to date back millions of years to a time before land was carved away by sediments deposited by streams and ancient deltas.

For many visitors, getting the best vantage point over the canyon and gullies is a top priority, and hiking is the way to do it. For a shorter trek with gorgeous scenery, venture along the Canyon Loop Trail. This is a 2.5-mile route that begins at the visitor center and circles around nine of the park's canyons, with well-marked overlooks along the way for admiring the terrain or taking photos. The Backcountry Trail loops seven miles through the park and is suitable for experienced hikers. The steep terrain challenges you to navigate creek beds and forests of river birch, but the views are certainly worth the effort.

Enjoy a canyon picnic, rare flowers, and stargazing

Providence Canyon State Park is one of those inviting Southern vacation spots where you can sit back, relax, and enjoy an afternoon picnic in the sunshine. The park has two picnic shelters available to rent for $25 a day if you're visiting with a group. There are also picnic tables located around the park for an impromptu fresh-air meal with a great view built into the experience. Depending on what time of year you arrive, you could find a place to picnic that pairs canyon views with landscapes showcasing the rare plumleaf azalea. Exclusive to this part of Georgia, the plumleaf azalea paints the terrain shades of red between July and August.

Yet another great activity to add to your canyon viewing experience at Providence Canyon State Park is to participate in an astronomy program on-site. This is a fun option for extending your park visit past sunset and appreciating how the canyon-dotted landscape offers up a prime location for stargazing. On select nights throughout the year, the Coca-Cola Space Science Center and Columbus State University come together to offer stargazing and learning at the park. You can bring your own telescope to admire the cosmos, or use the equipment that's provided. Either way, the low light pollution makes for amazing views, and parking is just $5. Upcoming events in 2024 are often scheduled on Saturday evenings. Visit the park's website for dates.