Hike Providence Canyon State Park, Georgia’s ‘Little Grand Canyon’, exploring steep-sided, colorful canyons of carved sandstone.
LOCATION:near Columbus, Georgia
Reminiscent of a southwestern US landscape, Providence Canyon State Park’s colorful, sculpted canyon walls carve deep through a sandy, stream-filled landscape near Columbus, Georgia. Soft-bedded, sandy hiking trails wind and weave through vibrantly-colored carved canyons, exploring an ever-evolving landscape of loose sandstone and trickling water.
The park’s unusually sculpted, serpentine canyon walls have earned its nickname as Georgia’s ‘Little Grand Canyon’ – and though the Arizona giant dwarfs these canyons, this hike is a unique adventure unlike any other in Georgia. Undoubtedly, this is one of the most unique of Georgia’s State Parks, and one of the three canyons in Georgia that are undeniably hike-worthy.
The park offers over 10 miles of fantastic hiking trails, including the white-blazed Canyon Loop Trail that treks the canyon’s floor and rim, and the red-blazed backcountry backpacking trail. This hike on the white-blazed Canyon Loop offers outstanding views of the sculpted sandstone canyon walls from above, and up-close views within the depths of the canyon. The trail winds through vibrant orange, white, pink and deep purple sandstone walls in nine numbered canyons before circling the rim. It’s a moderate hike, but majorly scenic and ultra-photogenic.
Providence Canyon Loop Trail: the hike
The Canyon Loop Trail descends from the park’s visitor center (view maps and driving directions), switching back through a shady forest. The trail reaches the canyon floor at .25 mile. The trail walks up a sandy riverbed, turning left to hike into canyons 1-5.
The hike follows stream beds on the canyon floor, a nearly-continuous flow of water and sand between the canyon walls. Grain by grain, sand has flowed away from the canyon’s walls, creating the spectacular rock formations and pinnacles that tower nearly vertically over the trail. Each canyon is unique, carved by water and exposing dramatic, flowing shapes of sandstone carved by continuously moving water.
Unlike the canyon’s exceptionally larger cousin in Arizona, fragile, crumbling sandstone forms Providence Canyon’s walls. Water carved these walls in the early 1800s, eroding sandstone that dates to nearly 70 million years ago. To preserve the fragile geology (and for safety), hikers should stay on blazed trails and off the canyon walls. And the sandy trail surface is often saturated with water, so a lightweight, waterproof hiking boot is an excellent choice to grab traction on the canyon’s wet, sandy trails, like our favorite Vasque Breeze GTX boots.
After exploring canyons 1-5, the hike backtracks to the main loop, hanging a left on the white-blazed trail and rolling elevation southbound through a shady forest. The hike reaches the park’s second canyon set, canyons 6-9, at 1.8 miles. The hike hangs a left, exploring the ever-more-dramatic shapes of canyons 6 and 7. The hike reaches the broad canyon 8 at 2.75 miles. It’s our by-far favorite for its towering, sinuous walls and defined pinnacles.
After exploring canyon 9, the hike backtracks to the main, white-blazed loop trail, turning left to climb out of the canyon into a predominantly pine forest. Reaching the canyon’s rim at 3.5 miles, the hike turns left at a trail junction, continuing to follow the white-blazed Canyon Loop Trail. The trail passes through an old homestead, the forest littered with rusted antique autos left to decay.
The hike skirts the canyon’s rim, catching views from sporadic overlooks along the trail. From these elevated vantage points, the canyon’s meandering, wavy walls and curvy architecture are even more dramatic.
The hike skirts the park’s road, passing the park’s picnic area, pavilions and playground. At 4.5 miles, the hike passes the historic Providence Methodist Church and cemetery on the opposite side of the road; for a quick stroll through history, cross here to explore the white, wood-clad church and time-weathered gravestones from the early to late 1800s.
Reaching the end of the Canyon Loop, the trail returns to the park’s visitor center, completing the hike at 4.8 miles.
Trails and routes may change – so please refer to official trail maps for the latest route.
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32.068991, -84.913373 // N32 04.140 W84 54.803