The woods and lakes captivate at Georgia’s Floyd State Park
The twin lakes at James H. “Sloppy” Floyd State Park will wow you, but the picturesque park’s forested areas also contain some engaging features
The lakes and ridges at Floyd State Park provide a magical backdrop for connecting with nature. Most visitors go to the park to enjoy lake-related activities and the beautiful greenspaces surrounding the water. But, the woods found there make a visit worth the drive, as well.
You’ll discover some excellent trails and some mountain streams hidden among the trees, and also cottages, a small RV campground and a small backcountry camping area.
Deep in the woods at the spot where Marble Spring emerges from the earth, you’ll find the wide entrance of an abandoned mine that was chiseled into the side of the rocky ridge many years ago.
Whether you’re looking for a place to explore trails that are new to you, camp under the hardwoods, fish, kayak, birdwatch, take pictures, picnic or just sit on a swing in a tranquil setting, you’ll find Floyd State Park to be a lovely, refreshing place for your next Southern outing.
Enjoying the lakes
On fair weather days, you’ll almost always see folks fishing from the banks and piers, and from small boats. A fishing license is required for all persons over 15 years of age at all state bodies of water. Fishing hours are from daylight to dark. Bass, bream and catfish are known to lurk beneath the water’s surface.
Bald eagles, ospreys, great blue heron, kingfishers and other fish-grabbing birds may occasionally be seen fishing at the lakes. With 51 acres of water surface, the park is obviously great for birding.
If you don’t fish or birdwatch, the lakes are also great for paddling, photography, picnicking or just walking about. A playground and a number of picnic shelters are located under the tall pines on the hilly northeast side of Upper Lake. They keep several acres of grass mowed right up to the edge of the water, so it’s easy to find your spot either in the sun or the shade.
You can rent a kayak, canoe, jon boat or pedal boat and make your way to a secluded corner of either lake. You can also bring your own boat, but only electric trolling motors are allowed.
The small park office sits under the trees on a slope overlooking the lakes. It features bathrooms, some picnic tables, some benches and a butterfly garden with an arbor.
Separated only by the Upper Lake dam, the two lakes form a T-shape. Upper Lake, which is about 23 acres, features a pier that crosses from one side of the lake to the other. A road follows the northern edge of Lower Lake, which is about 28 acres, leading to a boat ramp, a small covered pier, the park’s maintenance shed and on to that lake’s large, flat dam.
At a small 561 acres, Floyd State Park is the 36th largest state park in Georgia. The state has 10 state parks that are over 1,900 acres, and the three largest range from 5,600 to over 9,000 acres! But being small is not a disadvantage. The trails take you through some rugged Appalachian terrain with captivating forested areas dominated by tall hardwoods.
A perfect complement to the lakes, Taylor Ridge is equally responsible for the park’s beautiful setting. It’s one of the long, narrow spines that are found in northwest Georgia that look like fingers on topography maps. Two of the park’s trails, the Jenkins Gap Trail and Marble Mine Trail, will take you up the slopes of the ridge all the way to the Pinhoti Trail, a 330-plus mile regional path that long-distance hikers use.
Only hiking and trail-running are allowed. Mountain-biking is not an option.
The Upper Lake Loop and the Lower Lake Loop do exactly what their names suggest. The Upper Lake Loop, which is about 1-mile long, does not take you deep into the woods, and you’re walking on grass instead of trails for a good portion. The lake-spanning pier is considered part of the Upper Lake Loop. Both trails require that you walk beside the road across the Upper Lake dam.
The Lower Lake Loop has some great forest on its southern portion, and great lake scenery at its big dam and as you follow the road on its northern side. The route is about 1.5 miles. You can easily get to the Lower Lake Loop’s southern portion from both the ridgetop RV campground and the cottages thanks to a steep connector trail.
Most people who hike at the state park are there to see the mine, so the Marble Mine Trail is busier than the other trails, at least between the trailhead and the mine. It’s common to hike on the other trails or the Marble Mine Trail beyond the mine without seeing anyone else, but you’ll probably see a good number of people making their way to and from the mine.
Marble Mine trailhead (google map)
For most people, a round trip, out-and-back hike along the Marble Mine Trail takes about two hours. The trail is on the former mine’s old road, so it’s very wide in some places. That route is very close to 2 miles, round trip.
Alternatively, you can take the Jenkins Gap Trail to one of the white connector trails for an out-and-back route of about 2.7 miles.
The trail has its own gravel parking lot about 200-300 yards off of Sloppy Floyd Lake Road. Jenkins Gap Trail trailhead/parking lot (Google map)
The Marble Mine Trail and the Jenkins Gap Trail have very similar elevation profiles. Both have low points of about 650-700 feet above sea level. Both have high points of about 1,400 feet above sea level. The mine is about 900 feet above sea level.
On either trail, that 700 foot gain is gradual at first, but the closer you get to the top, the steeper it gets. Overall, the Jenkins Gap Trail is a little steeper than the Marble Mine Trail as you approach the top of the ridge. It has spots between 1,000 and 1,400 feet above sea level that have grades of nearly 30%. Imagine taking the stairs to the top of a 26-story building.
Between its parking lot and its intersection with the Pinoti Trail, the Jenkins Gap Trail is only about 1.3 miles in length, but of course, that steep portion makes it difficult for just about anyone.
The Pinhoti Trail intersects with the Appalachian Trail about 55 miles away from the state park. A 0.6-mile section of it allows you to get from the Jenkins Gap Trail to the Marble Mine Trail. You can combine that short Pinoti section with Jenkins Gap, Marble Mine and the Upper Lake Loop trail for what I consider to be Floyd State Park’s best 2- or 3-hour hike.
Of course, the state park is an excellent place to access the Pinoti Trail for those who enjoy multi-day hikes.
In the state park, dogs on a leash are permitted on all trails. People enjoy the trails in all four seasons. Hiking or trail running in late October or early November will usually reward you with some amazing autumn colors.
Download the state’s Floyd State Park Trail map brochure (PDF)
A $5 per vehicle fee is required for the hiking trails and the day-use areas surrounding the lakes. An annual pass is available for those who visit Georgia State Parks frequently.
Overnight stays at James H. “Sloppy” Floyd State Park
The park’s backcountry camping area is just a few hundred yards east of Upper Lake. The four campsites are right next to a mountain stream that flows into the lake.
Features of each include a fireplace and satellite TV inside, and a picnic table, a fire ring and big front and rear porches for spending time outside.
PHOTO: gastateparks.reserveamerica.comThere are 25 campsites in the hilltop RV campground. They feature electricity and water hookups, picnic tables, fire rings and BBQ grills.
You can get more details or book a cottage or campsite online. CLICK HERE.
Compared to many other Georgia state parks, this one, which is only 3.5 miles from downtown Summerville, flys a little under the radar. That’s a good thing. If it had larger campgrounds, more cabins or a lodge, bigger boat ramps, etc., they would have to build bigger parking areas and the road getting there would be packed at times.
If large crowds descended on this park, its serene, uncrowded nature could easily be diminished.
The park is family-friendly and even teenagers who would rather stay glued to their phone screens all day should find the lakes and the mine intriguing long enough to enjoy themselves. The park would also be a good side trip for those who are visiting the city of Rome, which is only about 27 miles away.
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