One doesn’t normally think of Georgia as a state with lots of backcountry hiking, but thank Franklin D. Roosevelt for creating a vast stretch of wilderness there that not only bears his name but is a terrific destination for active RVers looking to get away from it all and breathe clean, pine-scented mountain air.
The FDR State Park is a 9,049 acre Georgia state park located near Pine Mountain and Warm Springs, and hour or so south pf Atlanta. It is the site of Roosevelt’s so-called Little White House where he came for therapeutic sessions in the constant 88 degree spring water that offered welcome relief from the discomfort of polio.
Roosevelt so loved this area – first as Governor of New York, then as President – that he retreated here as often as he could, living in an unassuming little two bedroom “cottage” not far from his favorite spring. He explored widely, driving cars with hand controls he designed himself, and was instrumental in the creation of the state park that bears his name and a rehabilitation and therapeutic treatment center for polio patients.
The park looks like it could be in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, that’s how big and wild it is. It boasts more than 40 miles of well maintained hiking trails, including the popular 23-mile Pine Mountain Trail, that wind through hardwood and pines, over creeks and past small waterfalls. Best of all in our book, hikers can bring their dogs, as long as they are on a six foot leash.
Few such wilderness areas anywhere in the country allow dogs to hike with their owners. At FDR State Park, pets are very welcome.
The park also has a stunning 151-site campground, perfect for Class B and Class C RVs, tents, smaller trailers and truck campers. There are a few spots that can handle rigs as big as 40 feet, but most spots are for RVs 25 feet or less. Of the 151 sites, 105 are electric. Most have water.
Some of the sites are right on a small fishing lake and all are shaded and flat.
The park is located on the Pine Mountain Ridge, which is Georgia’s southernmost mountainous area and the southernmost mountainous area in the United States east of the Mississippi River. It’s not a major mountain by any means. Still, we were surprised to find rolling mountains 80 miles southwest of Atlanta.
Dowdell’s Knob is the highest point in F. D. Roosevelt State Park, at 1,395 feet. FDR sometimes picnicked and pondered world affairs from there and a life-size sculpture of the president now welcomes visitors to the overlook.
Plan to stay several days to take in the area and be sure to drive 11 miles into Warm Springs to visit the Little White House.
There’s a fascinating exhibit about FDR’s ties to the area and you can see the unfinished portrait of artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff, who was commissioned to paint a portrait of FDR at the Little White House and started her work around noon on April 12, 1945. At lunch, Roosevelt complained of a headache and subsequently collapsed. The President, who had suffered a stroke, died later that day.
We throughly enjoyed our visit to the area, easily accessible off I-85. We found August to be a bit too hot for long hikes. Late fall and spring are the best times.
Be advised that backcountry permits are required if you plan to overnight deep in the woods. They are available in the visitor’s center.