Every year, the US Forest Service offers 5 days where you are allowed to enjoy the US Forest Service sites for free! The US Forest Service waives recreation fees at most day-use sites on lands managed by the agency on these days.
The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.
Participation by concession-operated sites may vary, so always check details in advance of your trip.
Forest Service COVID-19 Policies
The Forest Service is taking the risks presented by COVID-19 seriously and is following USDA and CDC public health guidance as they continue to offer services to the public. Visitors to our National Forests and Grasslands are urged to take the precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
From the US Forest Service website:
In coordination with state and local health and safety guidelines, certain areas and facilities on National Forests are closed. Please check with your local forest for specific status updates. Recreation services at our facilities may be changed, suspended or offered through alternate approaches as we manage for the health and safety of our work force and the public. Agency direction tasks local managers to perform risk assessments of our facilities and limit congregations of people and person to person interactions. Our decisions will align with local city, county and state actions to provide for human health and safety (i.e. quarantine, curfew, and other social restrictions).
Free Entrance Days at US National Forests
Mark your calendar for these 2020 dates and enjoy spending time in these beautiful natural settings both in the Georgia mountains and the rest of the United States. NOTE that the free entrance dates for 2021 have not yet been released but have usually included MLK Jr Day as the first free day of the year.
** The next Free Entrance Day to US National Forest Sites is expected January 18, 2021 **
Visit the US Forest Service online for more details about these free 2020 dates:
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Monday, January 20, 2020*
- President’s Day: Monday, February 17, 2020
- National Get Outdoors Day : Saturday, June 13, 2020
- National Public Lands Day: Saturday, September 26, 2020*
- Veterans Day: Wednesday, November 11, 2020*
NOTE that the dates marked above with an asterisk (*) are days where all visitors also receive free entrance to US National Parks!
Other ways to get FREE forest entrance include:
- Volunteers with 20 hours of volunteer work may also earn a free National Forest Annual Pass
- All 4th graders are eligible for a free annual pass via Every Kid Outdoors program
- Free annual pass benefit runs for 4th grade school year (September 1st thru the following August 31st)
- Annual pass gets the 4th grader plus their siblings and parents into all parks for free for a year!
US National Forests in North Georgia Mountains
Browse the extensive list of all the beautiful US Forest Service sites nationwide, or browse the list of sites here in North Georgia in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests.
These are many unique experiences you can find in the Chattahoochee and Oconee National Forests — these include some well-developed / well-known facilities and other little-known jewels that are more tucked away.
The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests provide some of the Georgia’s best outdoor recreation options and natural resources. These vast forests feature almost 867,000 acres stretched across 26 counties, with thousands of miles of clear-running streams and rivers, 850 miles of recreation trails, plus campgrounds, picnic areas, and more. Enjoy a visit for the natural scenery, long history, and unique culture.
Explore nationwide locations on the interactive map or enjoy visits to some of the great local favorites including:
Anna Ruby Falls
- Visit twin waterfalls plunging more than 150 feet
- Stretching across 14 states, more than 76 miles of the Appalachian Trail (AT) are in Georgia
- Passes through five federally designated wilderness areas
- Georgia section includes the trailhead and offers views of diverse and stunning ecosystems as it winds north through the Blue Ridge Wildlife Management Area
Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway
- Enjoy a scenic drive on this scenic byway encircling headwaters of the Chattahoochee River and surrounded by the Chattahoochee National Forest
- Ideal for curvy mountain roads, colorful wildflowers, and spectacular fall colors
- Allow 3 hours to drive and explore this 40-mile loop and it’s vineyards, towns, and other local treasures
- Take in 360-degree views from the top of the 4,784 feet Brasstown Bald (Georgia’s highest peak)
- Enjoy the view from with live view from the South-facing webcam or North-facing webcam
- Note that facilities / shuttles are closed for season in Winter
- Note that road to top may be closed during poor weather conditions
Track Rock Gap Petroglyphs
- Visit this ancient site where the Creek and Cherokee people carved their stories over 1,000 years ago into the boulders of Track Rock
- Over 100 carvings of a wide range of figures and one of the most significant rock art sites in the Southeastern United States (the only site located on public land in Georgia)
- Site details including map of boulder 4 and boulder 6
In addition to getting in free at the US National Forests, there are also 5 days each year where you can get in free to the US National Parks too! With these unbeatable deals, it’s hard to resist a day exploring the natural beauty of the area!
Tips for Enjoying the US National Forests
Be sure to be prepared when venturing into a National Forest with items like plenty of water and food, bug spray, sun protection, comfortable shoes and clothing, and working navigation tools. Follow ranger advice and online sources for local seasonal weather advisories.
Double Check for Seasonal Hours or Park Alerts
Some parks or roads may be closed during off seasons or poor weather. Check the individual forest area website for current alerts, local conditions, and ongoing updates.
Share Your Plans with Someone
Be sure to let someone know of your travel plans including departure date, return date, and location of travels.
Don’t Rely on GPS or Data Coverage
GPS can be unreliable in some remote areas and cell phone coverage is unlikely to be strong when you are deep into the wilderness. Plan ahead by downloading maps in advance, or by taking waterproof printed maps along with a compass. Turn off your cell phone to save battery when you do not have cellular coverage.
Respect the Environment
A great rule of thumb for respecting National Forests is to “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.” Be sure to capture great photos with waterproof bags for your electronics, selfie sticks, drone camera shots, or a dedicated hands-free GoPro camera!
Follow Park Rules
Be sure to follow the rules of the forest and obtain permits for restricted activities like ginseng harvesting. Get familiar with local forest policies and enjoy personal rockhounding and panning for gold when you:
- are not in a designated Wilderness area
- are collecting for non-commercial purposes
- do not create significant ground disturbance
- are not using any mechanized equipment
Protect Your Valuables
Protect your valuables from weather by make arrangements to keep your essential items dry. Use ziplocs or specially designed waterproof bags to secure your items from rain or boat splashes.
Protect your valuables from theft by not leaving valuables in sight in a car that will be parked all day at a trail head. Leave valuables at home or secure them out of sight in your car.
Dress for the Weather
Conditions in the Georgia mountains can vary from freezing cold Winter temperatures to blazing Summer heatwaves. Be sure to plan for any extreme temperatures by dressing appropriately for the location and season. Dressing in layers can be helpful for days when the temperature varies a lot between daylight and night.
Carry Plenty of Water
Be sure that each person in your group carries plenty of water for their round trip journey into the forest.
Be Aware of Threats and Wildlife
Be prepared for potential natural threats and any wildlife that you may encounter when in the forest. Depending on the time of year, you’ll want to be aware of any venomous snakes, bears, ticks, mosquitoes, or other dangerous critters that should be avoided. Wear long sleeves and long pants to avoid sun exposure and to deter bites from mosquitoes and ticks.
Enjoy your visits to the US National Forest sites across Georgia and the USA. See the GaMountainsGuide.com section for more information about national, state, and local parks in the Georgia mountains.