Ever wandered up on some unused eroding cabin that seems to have been forgotten by the outside world? Visiting Buck Shoals is a bit like that. While not officially open at the time of this publication, it contains a plethora of park service buildings, wildlife plots, picnic tables, stone structures, and even a man made beach on the river. All apparently waiting for visitors…as they rot away into untended oblivion because the state park service doesn’t have the budget to maintain them.It is a little surreal, but that’s a small price to pay for great views of the mountains and a private beach all to yourself on the Chattahoochee!
Is it goat approved? Yes, if only because this side of the park is generally closed except for special events so there is no one there to care. If you go during the week even in the summer you will probably have the place to yourself. Do check online, however, to make sure there isn’t an event planned for the weekend you want to come.
How you get there: Google “Buck Shoals State Park”. The entrance is off Duncan Bridge Road (Hwy 384). The entrance is just past Clover Leaf Road, which is wedged in next to a house. There is a sign, but the sign for the forest is not a traditional US park service sign. When you pull in pull up on the grass and off the gravel road. Unless an event is going on the main gate is always locked. From here you can walk in!
Time for hike: 2.7 miles in and out visiting all the interesting stuff. Not huge hike, but a great one for training goats and getting away from it all.
Best season to do this hike: Any season but deer season as this area has lots of hunting stands and food plots. I would also avoid high summer as the swimming area at the park is frankly spectacular.
Trails to Take
From the entrance, walk past the keypad operated metal gate and down the road. The road will first pass a nice pond with a fishing dock.
From there the road climbs, passes a gravel parking area on your right and a dirt trail going off into the woods on your left. It then dead ends. At this intersection you will see blue signs directing to the turn right to head for the lake house and the river. If you go left you’ll pass by a private house instead.
If you head towards the lakehouse/river you will pass an overlook with a stone seat, a retaining wall, and a memorial stone. The views of the mountains when it is not foggy are great.
The road continues. A small road will plunge down and into the woods to your left. At the intersection is a fallen down stone chimney from an old house. If you follow it you will reach a green hunting blind and a wildlife food plot, which explains all the deer in the area. This is a rough short cut over to the entrance road to the lake house. Otherwise, you can walk the long way around.
The lake house is impressive but virtually unmaintained so watch for rotting wood and loose stone.
You can climb “fish trap hill” which rises east of the lake house/pond and near the summit is another trail. Follow that west and it wraps around the hill bringing you up along the Chattahoochee river. Continue to follow this road and you will see a picnic table off in the woods. You can either walk down to it and the shoals/beach/fun stuff or take the road up hill, meet another gravel road going left and go back down to the beach that way. Either way, you get there in the end.
The shoals are basically a wide swimming hole free of rocks in the river. It appears to be about 5-6 ft deep at the deepest part of the channel, but so smooth you can swim across to the opposite shore with ease. It appears to be heavily visited during the summer as a swimming hole.
The walk back out the way you came and you’re done exploring the not actually officially open state park!
- This park is set up for hunting. With fancy blinds and food plots and everything.
- This park is not officially open unless a special event or fishing tournament is going on. Make sure the weekend you plan to visit isn’t during one of these super busy events!
- Watch for rotten wood on docks and platforms, as well as loose stone on retaining walls and sidewalks.
- The usual stuff about swift water, undertows, and death by stupidity applies to the Chattahoochee River.
In sum: If all you leave behind in life is a giant piece of State Park property….I’m pretty sure that still counts as a win. Good job dude who donated this piece of property to posterity!