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Scale a mountain, climb a tree, hike in the moonlight at Panola Park

Georgia State Parks employee Jody Rice performs a trick on rope in a tree at Panola Mountain State Park during a Tree Top Excursion program which allows park visitors to belay up into the branches and stay for an hour if they wish. The next Panola Tree Top Excursions are Aug. 18 and Sept. 15.

Georgia State Parks employee Jody Rice performs a trick on rope in a tree at Panola Mountain State Park during a Tree Top Excursion program which allows park visitors to belay up into the branches and stay for an hour if they wish. The next Panola Tree Top Excursions are Aug. 18 and Sept. 15.

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This widow skimmer is one of the many types of dragonflies visitors can view during the Damsels and Dragons program at Panola on Aug. 19.

Scale a mountain, climb a tree, hike in the moonlight at Panola Park

With the kids back in school, it's time to schedule some outdoor fun on the weekends -- and the perfect place to do that is at Panola Mountain State Park, where families can learn about everything from butterflies to archery.

A host of unique activities is scheduled for the remainder of August and early September at Panola, a park that features a playground, picnic area, lake, nature center, archery range and the 950-foot Panola Mountain.

Below is a rundown of the calendar. Panola Park Assistant Manager Jamey Rabun said all programs require registration by calling the park at 770-389-7801. Night hikes and archery activities fill up fast, so register as soon as possible, he said.

Ranger-led Panola Mountain Hikes 10 a.m. on Saturdays, Aug. 18 and 25, Sept. 1

Join a ranger at the nature center for a 3-hour, 3-mile hike to the top of Panola Mountain, and take in views of Atlanta, Arabia Mountain and Stone Mountain.

Along the way the ranger will point out unique features of the rock outcrop system including cacti, yucca, diamorpha, mosses and lichens. Hikers may also see turkey vultures, deer and a variety of birds.

Rabun said because the mountain is a national natural landmark, it can only be traversed under the guidance of a ranger.

"There are certain places you can step and some you can't because if you do, you'll destroy some of the plants up there," said Rabun.

Because the ranger takes lots of breaks to discuss the mountain, the hike is doable even by young children, but wear sturdy hiking shoes and bring water.

Cost is $7 per person, plus $5 for parking.

Tree Top Excursions: Introduction Climb 1 to 4 p.m., Aug. 18 and Sept. 15

Explore the canopy by belaying 10 to 40 feet up into the branches of a tree at Panola. Climbers are harnessed into a rope system and propel themselves up into the tree by pushing down on a loop and pulling up with their arms. Rabun said that the climb is for ages 8 and up, and group climbs can be arranged.

"You get about an hour to spend up in the tree," he said.

Rabun said a "ZZZs in the Trees" event is in the works for the fall and those interested should check www.gastateparks.org/panolamountain. Visitors climb the tree and spend the night in a hammock amidst the branches.

"It's definitely not something you get to do every day," Rabun said.

Cost is $15 per person, plus $5 for parking.

Atlanta Audobon Society Bird Walk 8 to 11 a.m., Aug. 19

This ranger-led walk for all ages takes visitors through the Power of Flight area of the park, and departs from Alexander Lake. Bring binoculars to spot birds, and contribute to an official count of species. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts are recommended. Cost is $5 for parking.

Dragons and Damsels Noon to 1 p.m., Aug. 19

Take a stroll around Alexander Lake and bring binoculars to search for dragonflies and damselflies that feed on flies and mosquitoes. Pack a camera to take advantage of photo opportunities presented by an abundance of these flying wonders. Cost is $5 per person, plus $5 for parking.

Butterfly Safari 2 to 4 p.m., Aug. 19 and Sept. 9

Explore grasslands around Panola Park in search of butterflies such as buckeye, tiger swallowtail and various types of grass skippers. Cost is $5 per person, plus $5 for parking.

Basic Archery 3 to 5 p.m., Aug. 25 and Sept. 22

Take lessons from a certified archery instructor, with the first hour providing a discussion of archery basics and the second hour offering actual shooting at targets at Panola Park. Equipment is provided but visitors may bring their own. The class is designed for ages 9 and up. Cost is $10 per person, plus $5 for parking.

Full Moon Night Hike 7:30 p.m., Aug. 25 and 6:30 p.m., Sept. 29

Take a ranger-led hike up to the top of Panola Mountain at sunset and watch the full moon rise.

"It gives you a different experience," Rabun said.

Hikers are asked to bring flashlights and water. Cost is $7, plus $5 for parking.