[Updated on November 26, 2021] After becoming empty nesters in 2019, my lady and I decided that we wanted to start the process of looking for our future home.
I’d grown up hiking in the North Georgia mountains with my family, spending many a memorable summer day at my grandparents’ humble cabin on Lake Hartwell.
From Blue Ridge GA to Asheville NC, we’ve been fortunate to explore some excellent mountain towns over the last few years. But it wasn’t until we visited Clayton GA for the first time in September 2020 that we stumbled on a place where it hit me like a ton a bricks… “I could totally live here!”
That place was Lake Burton, and a day trip to Moccasin Creek State Park served as our introduction to it.
Read on to learn what we loved about the area, including some history of the lake and the park as well as our guide to the best things to do there.
From camping and kayaking to hiking, waterfalls, picnicking, and fishing, Georgia’s smallest state park has an impressive array of activities to offer!
READ MORE: 101+ Things to Do in North Georgia
Moccasin Creek State Park Info
ADDRESS: 3655 Highway 197, Clarkesville, GA 30523
MOCCASIN CREEK STATE PARK RESERVATIONS: 1-800-864-7275
PARK HOURS: 7:00am to 10:00pm daily
OFFICE HOURS: 8:00am to 4:30pm daily
ENTRY FEES/PASSES: $5 parking fee for daily entry, or $50 for an annual park pass
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: GA State Parks
RESERVATIONS WEBSITE: Reserve America
DIRECTIONS FROM ATLANTA: Take I-85N to I-985N, following signs for Gainesville for 23.7 miles. The road becomes US-23N, which you’ll follow for 21.4 miles and take the US-441 N/GA-105 N/GA-385 N exit.
Turn left and take GA-105 N/GA-385 N/US-441 BUS N/Old Historic U.S.441 N for .7 miles, then take a left onto GA-105 N/Cannon Bridge Rd. Follow that for 8.5 miles, then turn left onto GA-17 N.
In 3.5 miles, turn right onto GA-255 ALT N, then another right on GA-255 N in 3.3 miles. Follow that road for 3.1 miles, then turn left onto GA-197 N.
In 8.6 miles, you’ll see the entrance to Moccasin Creek State Park on your right.
DIRECTIONS FROM CLAYTON: From downtown Clayton GA, head west on US-76 W for approximately 10.8 miles, then turn left onto GA-197 S. Follow that for 3.7 miles, then turn left into Moccasin Creek State Park.
Want to explore more of the best North Georgia State Parks?
Check out these great guides!
Moccasin Creek State Park GA History
Moccasin Creek State Park is located in Northeast Georgia on Lake Burton, where it is surrounded by the Chattahoochee National Forest.
As with most of the North Georgia Mountains, the Upper Tallulah Valley region was originally inhabited by Cherokee Indians.
The Cherokee were forced to surrender their ancestral lands to the State of Georgia in 1817, and were removed from the area completely after gold was discovered in Dick’s Creek and Dukes Creek in 1828.
The nearby town of Clarkesville GA was founded as the seat of Habersham County in 1821.
But the 2,775-acre Lake Burton wasn’t created until 1919-1920, when Georgia Power (then known as the Georgia Railway & Power Company) built a series of 6 lakes along the Tallulah River‘s natural course in order to provide Atlanta with hydroelectric power.
Both the lake and the long-gone town of Burton (which now lies below the surface of the lake) were named after the area’s first postmaster, Jeremiah Burton.
Moccasin Creek State Park began as a simple campground in 1963, after Fulton Lovell (who was then Director of the Georgia Game & Fish Commission) oversaw the purchase of a 32-acre tract of land.
It was originally run by the Lake Burton Fish Hatchery (which is located inside the park’s boundaries), but quickly became so popular that it became a Georgia State Park in 1966.
Though it remains the smallest of Georgia’s State Parks at just 32 acres, Moccasin Creek remains popular among locals for its sheer beauty and prime location on one of the state’s most lovely lakes.
Things to Do in Moccasin Creek State Park
Encompassing 2,775 acres, with 62 miles of shoreline, the beautiful Lake Burton is obviously the main attraction at Moccasin Creek State Park.
The boat ramp next to the Lake Burton Fish Hatchery is currently closed due to construction (and scheduled to reopen in April 2021). But the Moccasin Creek boat docks remain open.
You can still explore the lake by boat if you put in at the Murray Cover Boat Ramp (off Bridge Creek Road), Tallulah River Boat Ramp (on the river), or the ramp at LaPrade’s Marina.
Moccasin Creek State Park also rents canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards (though this service has been on hold due to COVID-19). It’s an affordable way to explore the lovely lake, with rates at $12/hour, $24 for 4 hours, or $40 for 8 hours.
Note that there is no swimming allowed in Moccasin Creek State Park. But public swimming is allowed at Timpson Cove Beach off Charlie Mountain Rd (an 8-mile drive from the park).
READ MORE: How to Get to Anna Ruby Falls Near Helen, GA
Fishing Moccasin Creek & Lake Burton
Lake Burton is beloved by anglers for its exceptional fishing opportunities.
Popular catches including largemouth bass, spotted bass, white bass, crappie, bluegill, sunfish, white catfish, walleye, brown trout, rainbow trout, and yellow perch. In fact, the state record for spotted bass was set here with an 8 pounds, 2 ounce catch.
With its location right next to the Lake Burton Fish Hatchery, Moccasin Creek State Park is an excellent place to cast your line for trout. The lake is stocked with 20,000 brown trout every year as fall colors begin to peak, and by the next year they’ll measure 20 inches long and weigh up to 4 pounds!
Note that the fishing bridges over Moccasin Creek itself are only open to anglers under the age of 12, over the age of 65, or those who possess a Georgia disability fishing license (the fishing pier is also ADA accessible).
But the Moccasin Creek boat ramp, Murray’s Cove Boat Ramp, and Lake Burton Dam are all great places to fish, with July through September being the best time to land a tasty trout!
Have a Picnic
From Black Rock Mountain and Tallulah Gorge to Warwoman Dell and the Lake Rabun Beach Recreation Area, Rabun County has no shortage of amazing spots to grab a bite while soaking in the beauty of nature.
But for our money, Moccasin Creek State Park rivals all of them in terms of places to picnic with a picture-perfect scenic view.
The park offers numerous shaded picnic tables right on the shores of Lake Burton, with the spectacular scenery sprawling as far as your eyes can see.
But there are also romantic shaded swings along Moccasin Creek, where the gurgling waters provide a serene soundtrack as you snack with your sweetie.
For groups, there’s the massive Lovell Pavilion, which was named in honor of Fulton Lovell. Call the park at 800-864-7275 to inquire about reservations and current capacity limits.
Hike the Hemlock Falls Trail
There are 17 Rabun County waterfalls open to the public. And some of them– including Dicks Creek Falls, Minnehaha Falls, Holcomb Creek Falls, Panther Falls, and the various Tallulah Gorge Falls– rank among the very best Georgia waterfall hikes.
The 1.9-mile, in-and-out Hemlock Falls trail (which is just around the corner from the entrance to Moccasin Creek park) also deserves a place near the top of that list.
The picturesque trek offers several superb cascades, a gloriously pristine stretch of the forest, and a relatively easy 200 feet of elevation gain.
The hike provides excellent overviews of Moccasin Creek’s rushing waters, as well as several lower falls along the route to the Big Show.
But it’s the photogenic upper Hemlock Falls that makes this one of our favorite waterfall hikes in GA, with rhododendron up top and big rocks scattered about in the pool below.
TIP: get there early on weekends if you want to beat the crowds!
Hike to the Wildlife Observation Tower
Though not quite as eye-popping as the Hemlock Falls trail, this one-mile trail (which departs from the same parking lot) makes for a lovely stroll through the Chattahoochee National Forest.
The Non-Game Interpretive Trail head begins at the dam across from the state park entrance, meandering through the woods along the lower section of Moccasin Creek.
The Wildlife Observation Tower is the highlight of this hike. Animals found in the national forest includes mammals such as Bats, American Black Bears, Coyotes, Beavers, River Otters, Bobcats, Deer, Weasels, and Foxes.
But you’re much more likely to see Squirrels and Georgia birds such as Cardinals, Ducks, Geese, Hawks, Eagles, and, if you’re lucky, the occasional Owl.
Tour the Lake Burton Fish Hatchery
As mentioned above, the Lake Burton Fish Hatchery is currently closed due to major construction. But when it’s reopened in April 2021, the facility will be bigger and better than ever before.
The original building was built back in the 1940s and had only been renovated once, in 1978, as part of the Clean Water Act.
But the new facility should improve the health and conditions of the 300,000 or so brown trout the fish hatchery produces each year.
The upgrades will include a large building with eight 16-foot circular holding tanks inside, along with numerous newly rebuilt linear raceways for outside fish growth.
As always, the new Lake Burton Fish Hatchery will remain open for self-guided tours during its operating hours, from 8am–4:30pm. Call 770-535-5498 for more info.
Moccasin Creek Campground Info
Easily the most popular of the various Lake Burton camping options, the Moccasin Creek Campground features 53 Tent, Trailer, and RV Campsites to choose from on a large, single loop.
Sites #1-7 offer the closest proximity to the gurgling waters of Moccasin Creek, while sites #14-21 offer the best views of Lake Burton.
But there’s really not a bad spot in this well-shaded campground, which includes amenities such asa boat launch ramp, dump station, fish-cleaning station, ADA accessible fishing piers, two comfort stations with showers, washer/dryer access, a picnic shelter, and a trading post.
Other fun recreation options include a huge playground, volleyball court, horseshoes, and the aforementioned canoe, kayak, and paddleboards available for rent.
For campground reservations, call 800-864-7275. –by Bret Love; all photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett