Fort Yargo State Park: running and hiking the Lake Loop Trail
Hike or run the southern half of Fort Yargo's inner Lake Loop Trail, catching nearly-continuous lake views and beautiful sunsets at Fort Yargo State Park near Athens, GA.
Its close proximity to Atlanta and Athens make Fort Yargo State Park a popular hiking, mountain biking, fishing and camping destination. The park’s highlight is a large, 260 acre lake with a meandering shoreline that’s shaded by pine and deciduous trees and features a sandy, swimming beach. Circling the lake, the Lake Loop Trail stretches 7 miles, trekking through some of the park’s more popular areas, like the picnic pavilions and disc golf course. This out-and-back hike on the Lake Loop Trail travels through some of the park’s more remote and scenic areas and trails nearly level, making it equally great as a hike or trail run.
Fort Yargo Lake Loop Trail: the hike
The hike departs from Fort Yargo’s picnic area off Picnic Area Road (view maps and driving directions), hiking southbound with the lake on trail left. The Lake Loop Trail passes a small island, a wooden dock and the park’s boat ramp before reaching a wooden bridge at .3 mile.
The trail crosses the bridge, catching great views of Fort Yargo’s Marbury Creek Lake from both sides, and reflections of the opposite shore in the lake’s rippled surface. Reaching land at the bridge’s end, the hike veers left to follow the Inner Lake Loop Trail, trekking toward a power line clearing. The trail’s surface is sandy as it hugs the lake shore, and scraggly shrubs and networks of vines blanket the landscape.
The hike reaches a second power line clearing at .8 mile. A quick pause in the sun-drenched, grassy clearing catches views of wildlife, as hawks soar overhead, grasshoppers buzz and butterflies flutter in the grass. The hike turns left, following the dirt road northbound for a short stretch through the clearing before veering left to dart back into the forest, following signs for the Inner Loop Trail.
The trail follows the contours of Fort Yargo’s lake, hiking through a forest of pine and red clay and rolling elevation gently on several short hills. The hike veers left at a fork in the trail at 1.25 miles before crossing a wooden bridge at 1.75 miles. The trail reaches an intersection at 1.9 miles, turning left to follow the Inner Loop Trail and crossing over Fort Yargo State Park’s dam.
Views from the grassy, raised dam are wide and open. The lake’s outlet flows through the dam, exiting in a small stream that’s visible far below in the forest on trail right. Reaching the end of the dam, the trail veers left, hiking northbound along the lake’s edge and passing Fort Yargo’s new collection of Camper Cabins set high on a hill on trail right. (The camper cabins are modern and nearly brand new – and worth a stay! Check out our Fort Yargo Camper Cabin review for details and photos. And if you’re staying in the cabins, just follow this hike in reverse from your cabin.)
This stretch of trail is a particularly great spot to catch a sunset with open views to the west, the lake’s glassy surface doubling the light show in its reflections. Chasing the sunset? Be sure to leave plenty of time to hike back to the trailhead before dark.
Reaching the park’s campground area, this hike turns around, doubling back on the same trail and completing at 5 miles. Alternately, continue hiking through the campgrounds to circle the upper portion of the lake, completing the hike in a loop. (The full loop is a great hike, but travels through some of the park’s busier recreation areas… while we’ve done both, we prefer the scenery of this 5 mile out-and-back.)
More Fort Yargo State Park adventures
Before you leave Fort Yargo State Park, be sure to check out the park’s much shorter nature trail to explore a scenic wildlife habitat. The Fort Yargo Bird Berry Trail is paved and just under a mile, and is located near the park’s main entrance at the lake’s north end.
Fort Yargo Lake Loop Trail Map, Directions & Details
$5 (daily), or included with a Georgia State Parks annual pass.
33.966267, -83.736400 // N33 57.976 W83 44.184