The State Botanical Garden of Georgia has five miles of color-coded nature trails that wind through serene natural areas. The trails connect numerous natural features and native piedmont plant communities, including uncommon features such as: heath bluffs along the Middle Oconee River, amphibolite geology, and floodplain forest and Piedmont prairie restoration areas. The trails are constructed on native soil, except for wooden bridges over streams and short boardwalks in wetland areas.
Trails are open 8 am – 7pm each day. Dogs are not allowed in the garden or on the trails.
Signs are posted along the trails to assist runners and hikers who have lost their way or help search teams find injured visitors. Signs include a map of the trails on one side and safety tips on the other. The signs, which use a labeling system for trail markers, are placed at every trail intersection and at most bridges and benches on longer trails, with no more than half a mile between each.
Wade Seymour, grounds foreman, has worked at the garden over 20 years. He is a graduate of the Warnell School of Forestry and has hiked many trails in the Appalachians and out West.
Wade’s Hiking Sights
Let us take a tour of our trail system. There are seven color-designated trails at the State Botanical Garden: Red, Blue, Green, Brown (Scout Connector Trail), Yellow, Orange and White.
Both White and Orange trails share our river frontage and travel mostly along the natural levy beside the river. Starting with the Orange trail, some of our natives you will see along the river are elderberry and river cane. Green ash, box elder, red maple and sycamore trees are visible on this trail. At times, especially in winter, you can see activity of beavers and may spot an otter.
The Orange trail follows down river then skirts a wet lands area where ducks and other water fowl sometimes feed. Leaving the flood plain, the trail stays beside a pretty rock-lined stream with large hardwood trees. There is good wild flower viewing here in the spring. May apples, wild irises and geraniums are abundant. The stream branch eventually ends at a steep-sided spring overlooked by a huge white oak tree. Passing through the electrified deer fence, the orange trail climbs up old farm terraces under a succession of pine woods. Ground pine carpets this area. The Orange trail is rather easy to hike, but it grows steeper near the parking lot.
The White Trail is our longest trail and our most challenging to hike. Away from the river, hills abound between steep stream valleys. There are two rain shelters for the weary or storm chased. The woods are generally upland hardwood, but there is one piney terraced area. There is a privet patch at the farthest curve, but the trail is mainly free of invasive plants.
The trail crosses under large power lines no less than four times, and we have to clear back brush from the trail in summer. At one point the trail comes close to an old chimney where a farmer’s house rotted away. Early or late in the day deer, turkey, raccoon, squirrel and many other animals are visible. The State Botanical Garden is designated as an Important Bird Habitat, and many bird species can be seen. Some days you can spot a Barred owl, gold finch and indigo bunting within a 15 minute period. Birding groups come regularly.