Went to southwest Georgia to checkout the trails at Providence Canyon state park. This one has been on my list for years after I saw a picture of the canyon in a 5th grade Science book in the chapter on Erosion. This was a great hike due to the unique, colorful geological formations. The trail was neatly maintained and due to the relatively flat nature of the trail, I would rate this hike as Easy. Backcountry campsites are available with a fee and reservation. However, I would recommend simply doing just a day hike or a 1-night stay at most. The backcountry sites are fairly nondescript and the main event is the white blazed canyon hike. The trail through the nine primary “canyons” is 7 miles total and can be completed in 3 – 4 hours, depending on your pace. I recommend taking your time and taking in the scenery however as this canyon is quite the sight to see.
Directions to the trailhead: Providence Canyon State Park is located seven miles west of Lumpkin, GA on Highway 39C. Take US 27 from Columbus, GA or Georgia State Highway 27 North from Eufaula to the town of Lumpkin. Turn west on 39C and drive seven miles to the park. There is a parking fee, so bring cash. Check the website for more info on hours, fees, etc.
Providence Canyon is referred to as “Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon” due to the unique geological features and redrock appearance. The soil in this area is very soft and massive amounts of erosion occurs due to the location (thanks Science class). Also, the area was once an ancient seabed and the “canyons” you see today were created by poor farming practices during the 1800’s. Once trees and vegetation were removed, the soil and land eroded at an accelerated rate.
Eventually the work of the 1850’s farmers led to massive amounts of land erosion and a total of 16 canyons. Some of the canyons reach a depth of 150 feet and expose the colors of iron ore, manganese, kaolin, mica, and sandy clays.
There are two primary trails in the park. The white blazed Canyon Trail is a three mile day-hiking loop that allows you to explore canyons 1-9. The red blazed Backcountry Trail is a larger seven mile loop that circles the park and is mainly used by overnight backpackers. The Backcountry Trail requires a permit and allows access to the six primitive campsites.
The path and direction you choose to navigate through the canyons is up to you, but I highly recommend that you explore each of the 9 canyons on the white trail as they each offer a unique glimpse into this geological wonderland. Each canyon is numbered and marked with a sign. Stop by the visitor’s center for a free map of the trail through the canyons. Ask a park ranger about joining the Georgia Canyon Climbers Club (a $10 purchase that rewards you with a tee shirt for completing 4 specific scenic hikes throughout the state – this is one of them), or Google it for more details.
A word of caution: do not attempt to climb the column structures or get too close to the edges of the canyon or you will find out the hard way (as did the farmers of old) that the soil is soft and is likely to crumble, resulting in possible injury. I did this trip in the springtime and the weather was nice and cool. I would recommend this hike during the fall, spring or even winter, as the canyon is located in southwest GA, near the border of Alabama, and the temperatures can be brutally high there during the summer months.
As always: hike out what you hike in, enjoy the hike, and be safe.