This post is going to be different from any post I have written before, because it is based on a recent hiking adventure that my husband and I went on at Providence Canyon GA, otherwise known as Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon.
While the layout of Providence Canyon State Park does, in a small way, resemble the Grand Canyon, it’s formation did not come about by rivers and streams, but by rainwater runoff from farmers’ fields due to poor soil management techniques.
The forest areas were cleared so the land could be used for farming, but the farmers did not take any measures to prevent soil erosion. By the mid-1850’s, ditches 3 to 5 feet deep began cutting into the land. Eventually, gigantic gullies – some up to 150 feet deep – began appearing, making the area totally inadequite for farming.
Providence Canyon continues to erode due to the runoff of surface water along with the undercutting forces of groundwater. Currently, due to the soft upper soil layers, changes in the canyon happen often and quickly. The gorges continue to grow larger as the pinnacles are gradually decreasing in size. After very heavy rains, some pinnacles have even been known to crumble and disappear overnight!
Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon shows the power that man has over the land. Today, we have the advantage of being able to see the after effects of our ancestors’ mistakes, which has ironically become some of the most stunning views in the state.
While we are on views, I would like to mention a very special plant. The very rare Plumleaf Azalea only grows in this region. It blooms during the months of July and August, when the majority of azaleas have lost their blooms. For plant lovers, visiting Providence Canyon State Park just to see this rare beauty would truly be worth the trip in itself!
The canyon’s formations boast brilliant shades of purple, red, pink, and orange, and the views are absolutely breathtaking! You can walk around the perimeter of the top of the canyon and look down at the beauty of the stunning formations, which are mostly made up of sand and the famous Georgia red clay.
TRAILS AT PROVIDENCE CANYON STATE PARK
CANYON RIM TRAIL
When you arrive at the entrance to Providence Canyon State Park, you will pass a parking area. a picnic area, and also a playground area. Here, you will find the Canyon Rim Trail, which follows a path around the canyon perimeter. This trail is roughly a mile long, is a very easy hike, and there are many lookout areas for viewing and taking photos. The picture below was taken at one of the lookout areas close to the picnic area.
When you finish hiking the Canyon Rim Trail, it is now time to take the hike down to the base of the canyon. All trails to the canyon base begin at the trail head, which is directly behind the visitor’s center. You will then hike down a gradual incline of around a quarter of a mile on a dirt path through the woods to the creek bed. The ground is usually quite wet all along the canyon bed, so be sure to wear some waterproof hiking shoes or boots!
CANYON LOOP TRAIL
Once you hike down to the bottom of the canyon, there are signs directing you to each of the 9 individual formations.
The White Blaze Canyon Loop Trail is a 2.5 mile hike, and is rated easy to moderate. The hike itself will take approximately 2 hours, but be sure to allow yourself plenty of time for exploring the exquisite beauty of the canyons, and amazing photo opportunities!
To reach canyons 1 through 5, bear left as you continue to follow the creek bed. To reach canyons 6 through 9, you will turn left into the second creek a little further down the Canyon Loop Trail. You may then turn right on the trail to return up to the visitor center, or you may turn left on the trail if you would like to continue the loop trail.
One very important thing to keep in mind is the soil of the canyon walls is extremely fragile, so no climbing from the canyon rim or floor is allowed to protect these formations.
The Backcountry Trail is blazed red, and is a 7-mile loop trail which is rated extremely difficult and rugged. Allow yourself a good 6 or more hours for this hike.
The beginning of this trail starts at the visitor center, and upon reaching the creek bed a quarter of a mile down, you will then make a right, where you will hike through some river birch. After you have gone about 2 miles, the trail becomes very rugged and ascends a steep grade. The trail then follows an old logging road, and 6 of the primitive campsites are located in this area. At campsite #2, there is a shortcut, which shortens the trail by 3/4 of a mile.
A little further down the trail, the terrain again becomes very rugged, and you will be able to view 6 of the canyons, but they are not accessible at this point.
The Backcountry Trail dead-ends here when you make a right back into the Loop Trail. From this point, the Loop Trail continues through the day use area, where you will follow the fence line through the picnic area, then returning to the visitor’s center.
While there ARE 6 primitive camping sites roughly 5 miles into the very rugged Backcountry Trail, Providence Canyon State Park does not officially have a campground.
Florence Marina State Park is only 9.1 miles away, and offers campsites, cottages, and efficiency units, as well as 45,000-acre Lake Walter F. George.
Providence Canyon State Park, which is located in Lumpkin, a Southern Georgia city, is recognized as one of Georgia’s 7 Natural Wonders. If you EVER have the chance to visit this State Park, it will definitely be well worth the drive, the $5 per vehicle parking fee, and your time, to see these breathtaking formations! Please remember to wear waterproof hiking shoes or boots, bring along plenty of water and high-energy snacks, and also a very good camera!
Happy Hiking, My Friends!!