Stone Mountain Park is famous for the 400 feet high carving of three Confederate war heroes, the laser light show, and the Crossroads family entertainment district. But did you know those areas only encompass a small portion of the 3,200-acre park? In addition to those attractions, Stone Mountain offers a lot of nature treasures too.
Where is Stone Mountain Park
Don’t confuse Stone Mountain Amusement Park with Stone Mountain State Park which is in North Carolina. Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park is located at 1000 Robert E Lee Blvd, Stone Mountain, GA 30083. From Stone Mountain to Atlanta is about 30-45 minutes depending on traffic.
What to do at Stone Mountain Park
Stone Mountain Park is 3,200 acres. Most of the Stone Mountain Park attractions are concentrated in a small area, but you’ll want to get a Stone Mountain Park map to see where everything is, and make sure you don’t take the long way around like I did.
Stone Mountain Park hours vary by season, day and activity, so check the website www.stonemountainpark.com before you go. The Stone Mountain Park number is (800) 401-2407. Here is a link to Stone Mountain Park directions.
Stone Mountain Park Georgia is considered one of many theme parks in Georgia because of the Crossroads attractions, but the park is also a great place to get out and enjoy nature. Here’s why.
The REI Boathouse at Stone Mountain Park
REI, the famous outdoor retailer has partnered with Stone Mountain for years using it as a location for some of their outreach classes. In the spring of 2017, they opened an official outpost at Stone Mountain, the first in the country.
At the REI Boathouse guests can rent kayaks (both sit-inside and sit-on-top kayaks), canoes and stand up paddleboards (SUP) for an hour, two hours, half day, all day, or for the weekend.
I was invited to a media day at the REI boathouse and was able to get a first-hand look at the new facilities and offerings. Seeing Stone Mountain Park from the water is a completely different experience, and there are more natural areas to Stone Mountain that you might think.
It takes about four hours to paddle all the shoreline of the 363-acre lake. It was serene and relaxing on the water, except when the duck boat came by with its occupants quacking at us. We paddled out past the Grist Mill and to the Covered Bridge, past the Carillon, which I heard chiming on my way back to the dock.
The REI Boathouse provides everything you need for the water sports, the watercraft of choice, paddle(s) and life-vest. They even have dry bags if needed.
Limitations on Water Sports
It’s important to note there are some limitations. Stone Mountain Park doesn’t allow anyone under 6 to participate in the water sports. This is park policy, not REI. They are working to modify that, so be sure to ask if you have someone under 6. They do however allow dogs on the watercraft, provided they have a life-vest that you’ll need to bring with you.
Classes at REI Boathouse
In addition to rentals, the REI Boathouse is a launching point for several REI classes and day events. You can take a learn to paddleboard (SUP) or kayak class. They even have SUP yoga classes. Plans are in the works for night hikes, and perhaps a brunch paddle. REI members currently receive 25% off an annual parking pass at Stone Mountain Park too. An annual pass pays for itself in just two visits.
Bringing Your Own Watercraft
If you have your own SUP, kayak or canoe, you are welcome to bring those and paddle on the Stone Mountain Lake too. However, personal water crafts put in at the public boat dock, not at the REI Boathouse.
Electric Bike and Segway Tour Rental
These rentals are not through REI, but you can rent them in the same building as the REI Boathouse. You may not realize it when you are in the car, but the land around Stone Mountain is quite hilly. I thought at first we should have brought bikes when we went hiking at Stone Mountain, but I was glad we didn’t – we’d have been walking the bikes more than riding. The Electric bikes would have been fun.
Stone Mountain Laser Show
When you visit Stone Mountain, be sure to take in the Stone Mountain Laser Show. The Stone Mountain Laser Show is what locals think when asked about events at Stone Mountain Park.
The laser show has been a favorite for more than 30 years, debuting in 1983. On our paddle I was with several folks who remember coming to the show since they were kids. They loved the fact that it hasn’t changed, just new elements have been added.
Personally, I think they should revamp the show completely. Create something entirely different, and maybe a little shorter. I love the newer elements, the fire, the drones, the lasers, but the old stuff is, well, old.
Not being from Atlanta, I don’t have the nostalgia for the rudimentary elements. I’d rather cut out the older elements and just keep the new stuff, then have a ‘retro evening’ a few nights during the summer where they bring back the old elements. However, I don’t believe I am the majority on that thinking. Most of the folks in my group like that they only add to the show.
Crossroads at Stone Mountain Ga.
Crossroads is the Stone Mountain amusement park within the larger Stone Mountain Park. In this area you’ll have the Stone Mountain water park Geyser Towers; my favorite the Sky Hike ropes course which has two different levels; the scenic train ride; my son’s favorite, a mini-golf course based on the Civil War Story of the General locomotive; as well as shows, shops, restaurants, and a 350 seat 4-D theatre.
This is also where holiday festivities take place such as the Pumpkin Festival in the Fall, Stone Mountain Christmas during the holidays and Snow Mountain, where Southerners can enjoy a bit of winter in the South.
The Stone Mountain Carving
The large granite outcrop that gives Stone Mountain Georgia it’s name, is the Stone Mountain carving of three Confederate leaders on horseback. A lot of people ask who is on Stone Mountain? Well, those leaders are Confederate war heroes: President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee and General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
For those of you not from Georgia, or not from the South, it’s best to learn this before going. My son overheard some folks from the Midwest discussing the carving saying “Now who is that?” “I know, Lincoln, Grant, and I don’t know the other guy, maybe Sherman?”
Umm, No. There is not a southerner alive who would carve the likeness of Lincoln, Grant and especially Sherman, who burned Atlanta on his March to the Sea, on the side of anything.
The relief itself measures three-acres, larger than a football field and Mount Rushmore. In fact, the carver that initially began Stone Mountain Gutzon Borglum, later carved Mount Rushmore. One of my favorite historic pictures of Stone Mountain is the one of guests at round tables enjoying dinner on Lee’s shoulder.
Stone Mountain History and Hidden Attractions
Many wonder is Stone Mountain a mountain? Technically it is a rock. Stone Mountain is a quartz monzonite dome manadnock. A manadnock that was once mined for its granite.
The Confederate Hall Historical and Environmental Education Center is an often overlooked, but really quite an interesting museum located at the base of the walk up trail. In addition to this indoor museum, you can learn about the history of the quarry in an outdoor exhibit.
Cool fact, Stone Mountain granite was used in the building of the locks of the Panama Canal, the East Wing of the US Capital and the rock has traveled as far away as Tokyo.
But why is Stone Mountain famous? Well in addition to the having the largest high relief sculpture in the world (even bigger than Mount Rushmore), Stone Mountain has a colorful past recent past. But the area’s history goes back much further. To pre-historic times in fact.
Other fun often overlooked attractions at Stone Mountain Park
In addition to the Confederate Hall Historical and Environmental Center at the foot of the walk up trail, and the outdoor granite museum, we also discovered a cool museum of Stone Mountain’s history on the second floor of Memorial Hall (the building at the top of the hill opposite the carving).
The Discovering Stone Mountain Museum at Memorial Hall is a great place to get a breather from the Georgia heat. This room also has exhibits about the stone carving, and how big it actually is (The stars on General Lee’s uniform are about the size of a child’s head! In this room is a grand staircase. Take the staircase to a hidden museum on the history of Stone Mountain from the Indians who first settled here, to modern day events. Especially interesting is the information on the Civil War with artifacts such as letters, uniforms and arms.
Where to Stay at Stone Mountain Park
Even though Stone Mountain Park is so close to Atlanta, it’s only 30 – 45 minutes from Stone Mountain to Atlanta, many folks like to spend more than an afternoon. It’s a wonderful place for an Atlanta vacation, the acres of forest make you feel like you are miles away from the city. In addition, there are several ways to spend the night at Stone Mountain Park.
Stone Mountain Camping
Stone Mountain offers several different camping options. There is pampered tent camping, as well as an RV campground. If you don’t want to bring your own, Stone Mountain Park has lakeside yurts you can rent, as well as RV’s (these were described to me as more like train cars, but hey, that sounds cool too)
If you want to try tent camping, but don’t want to invest in all the gear, ask about the Ready, Set, Camp package. It includes a four-person tent that is already set up when you arrive, and four sleeping pads. Best of all, you get to keep everything for your next adventure.
Hotels Near Stone Mountain Park
The Stone Mountain Inn is located across from the Stone Mountain Park attractions, so this is a super convenient place to stay if you are planning to take in the laser show or events at the Crossroads. It’s also where you want to stay if you want an authentic antebellum experience. The Inn itself is a carefully preserved replica of a nineteenth century plantation.
The Marriott Evergreen Resort is a perfect place to base your Stone Mountain vacation. The full service hotel is nestled within the forest. They have standard resort amenities like indoor/outdoor pool and Jacuzzi, giant chess and checker board, fire pits, and a restaurant/bar.
Golf at Stone Mountain Park
The Marriott also managed the two golf courses at Stone Mountain Park. If you bring your kids, ask them about the Kids Golf Free program.
Stone Mountain Park Festivals
In addition to the everyday events, Stone Mountain Park has several well-known festival throughout the year. A few of the most popular are
Who Owns Stone Mountain Park
Many people ask is Stone Mountain a National Park? Or is Stone Mountain a State Park? The answer is no to both. Although Stone Mountain is owned by the State of Georgia, it is not a Georgia State Park. The Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation has a long-term contract to operate the Stone Mountain Park attractions.
Hidden Attractions at Stone Mountain Park
Most people know about the laser show and Stone Mountain Christmas. You may have visited for the Yellow Daisy or the Highland Games Festival, but did you know about these secret stone mountain attractions? If not, you should.
The Geology Museum in Confederate Hall at the Base of the Walk Up Trail. When we have guests come to town, we’ll take them on a hike up the Stone Mountain Walk Up trail. But before or after the hike, stop at the museum in Confederate Hall located at the base of the walk up trail. In addition to exhibits on the mountain ecology, there’s even a cave you can walk through!
Museum of Stone Mountain History at Memorial Hall. Inside Memorial Hall (the building at the top of the hill opposite the carving) you can get a breather from the Georgia heat and a gorgeous view of the carving. This room also has exhibits about the stone carving, and how big it actually is (The stars on General Lee’s uniform are about the size of a child’s head! In this room is a grand staircase. Take the staircase to a hidden museum on the history of Stone Mountain from the Indians who first settled here, to modern day events. Especially interesting is the information on the Civil War with artifacts such as letters, uniforms and arms.
Outdoor Granite Museum. For many years, Stone Mountain was a quarry.