Wide Trails, Tall Bluffs at Atlanta State Park

Wide Trails, Tall Bluffs at Atlanta State Park

Atlanta State Park is a lovely spot for fall campers who like a serene view of the lake (like me, I’m nuts for lakes!) A friend and I spent a night there last weekend and, even though most of the campsites were taken, were usually secluded on the quiet, empty lake shores or all alone in the woods on the trails.

The park sits on high bluffs overlooking the south shore of Lake Wright Patman; the bluffs are made of clay and sand and crumbling away in places (there’s a closed asphalt road near the western boat ramp that looks like something took a bite out of it) with lots of interesting roots and waterlines and textures to explore. 

Atlanta State Park is divided into two sections, with a generous day use area, boat ramp and camping sites on the west side, and two more camping areas and a smaller boat ramp on the east. The road between the east and west sections is long enough that we didn’t bother trying to hoof it. I prefer my parks walk-able, but there’s currently a trail undergoing construction that, when finished, will connect both sides of the park (in a meandering sort of way.)

We camped in the White Oak Ridge camping area (on the east side) on a tall bluff that had a bit of a view of the lake through the woods. I was told at checkout that this area can get windy, although we were lucky and only had to put up with a little rain early the next morning. A new horseshoes playing field (court? turf?) was half-constructed in the middle of our camping loop, and we saw a finished set-up at the western day use area along with sand volleyball and a playground. But, our main recreation was the trails.

The Trails at Atlanta State Park

The White Oak Ridge and Hickory Hollow trails were a quiet and woody walk before lunch. White Oak Ridge had gentle, shady slopes and comes out at the lake on its north end, where there’s a little peninsula with grasshoppers and a bald cypress or two. On the map it looks like you should be able to get on this trail from the campsites just above it, but there weren’t any side paths leading to it that I could find near our site (51) so we entered via the trailhead by the bathrooms.

White Oak Ridge led to Hickory Hollow, which is marked as “moderate to challenging” on the official trail map, however I didn’t find it especially difficult. There are elevation changes, yes, but nothing too steep or crazy, and the hardest part was navigating a large puddle of water. The only trail markers we saw on these two trails were rectangles of paint on the trees, but there was large signage marking off-ramps to the camp sites and parking lot.

After lunch we drove to the west side of the park and walked the Volksmarch trail–an easy walk with a couple of blinds where you can sit and watch for wildlife–and the Arrowhead trail, a small loop (less than a mile) that gets out into some sunny prairie-like areas with a northern spur that goes up to the lake.

Something that stood out to me about these trails (other than the Hickory Hollow nature trail) was just how wide they were. As I was hiking with a friend I appreciated how we could usually walk side-by-side and chat as we went along. The paths were flat and grassy and not rutted into the dirt, but the grass was kept short. I imagine trail maintenance and tree removal must be a dream, as a mower or ATV would fit easily.

Our campsite and the park overall was clean and mostly litter-free; our bathrooms were old (and in desperate need of more wall hooks) but not dirty. The park ranger who checked me in (like all Texas State Park staff I’ve interacted with, so far) was friendly. Cut firewood is available via donation at the headquarters.

I give Atlanta State Park five stars and am looking forward to appreciating its East Texas beauty at other times of the year.

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