This field sparrow is just one of many types of birds visitors may glimpse at Panola Mountain State Park.
In the midst of a winter that's felt more like spring, Panola Mountain State Park has welcomed a steady stream of visitors who have taken advantage of weekly hikes, and naturalist Amy Snow hopes even more folks venture out to see the beauty of the granite mountain.
Panola's February and early March schedule offers a full slate of Saturday afternoon hikes, along with full moon and sunset hikes, to the top of the mountain, as well as home school science programs, a fly fishing clinic, a bird watching walk and a wilderness survival skill program.
Panola Mountain State Park is located at 2600 Ga. Highway 155 in Stockbridge and features a 100-acre granite mountain only open to the public through organized, ranger-led hikes.
Also at the park are paved biking/walking trails, two lakes, grassy fields, short hiking trails, a playground with equipment and a nature center. The nature center is open Friday through Monday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the park is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to sunset.
"It's been really pleasant for Saturday afternoon hikes," said Snow, who added that a recent hike drew 40 participants, which she split into two groups.
It's about a 1.5-mile hike to the top of the mountain and during the winter visibility is good said Snow. Visitors can see downtown Atlanta, Abrabia Mountain and Stone Mountain.
Outdoor enthusiasts have also taken advantage of the full moon hikes. Snow said sometimes she tries to get the group to navigate the mountain by the light of the moon, instead of by flashlight.
"Our night hikes have been so popular. They're the most popular. I think it's the adventure of it -- it's a little bit of a safe adventure," Snow said.
Snow also wanted to get the word out that Panola Mountain is now hosting birthday parties, offering themes like camping, reptiles and amphibians. There is a party room for guests and Snow takes birthday groups on a guided hike.
She also added that if the park's hike calendar doesn't fit a person's schedule, they can reserve their own personalized naturalist-led hike up the mountain. The cost is $60 for between one and eight people and $7 for each additional person.
The personalized hike might be a good Valentine's Day gift or a scenario for an even more special moment, Snow said.
"We did have someone get engaged on the top of the mountain," Snow said.
To register for any of the following events, call Panola Mountain State Park at 770-389-7801.Saturday Afternoon Mountain Hikes3 p.m. on Feb. 4, 11, 18 and 25
Wear sturdy hiking boots and bring water for this 3-mile naturalist-led hike to the top of Panola Mountain where you'll learn about the mountain's ecosystem and see unique plant and wildlife along the way. Cost is $7 per person, $5 for parking.Full Moon Night Hikes5:30 p.m. on March 3 and 31
Bring your flashlights and plenty of water before heading out just before sunset on this 3-mile hike to the top of Panola Mountain. Listen for sounds of the night in the woods, such as howling coyotes, and try to meander the trail by the light of the moon alone. Cost is $7 per person, $5 for parking.Home-School ThursdaysFeb. 9
Each month, Panola offers a Thursday program related to science and nature for home-schooled children. Ages 9 and younger attend from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and children 10 and above attend 12:30 to 2 p.m. Cost is $3 per child, $5 for parking.Basic Fly Fishing Clinic9 to 11 a.m. on Feb. 8 (and every second Saturday of each month)
Learn fly fishing from a Panola volunteer with decades of experience. The clinic covers casting, safety issues and other skills associated with fly fishing. Wear long pants/shorts and hiking shoes, and bring snacks, water and sunscreen. A Georgia fishing license is required. Cost is $15, or $12 with your own gear, and $5 for parking.Lost Person Prevention10 a.m. on Feb. 11 (and every second Saturday of each month)
Families can learn simple techniques for not getting lost and for keeping track of each other when venturing outdoors. The Georgia Search and Rescue Dog Team will join the class. Cost is $5 for parking.Atlanta Audubon Society Bird Walk10 a.m. on Feb. 11
Remember to bring your binoculars for this relaxing hike through the park's Power of Flight area and learn the names of common birds and basic bird identification techniques. Wear long-sleeve shirts and pants. The hike is good for all ages. Meet at the Alexander Lake area. Donations of birdseed are accepted. Cost is $5 for parking.Friends of Panola Mountain Hike10 a.m. on Feb. 18 and March 17
Take a 2- to 3-hour hike through Panola Mountain and learn from a volunteer why the mountain is protected and what we can do to protect the natural beauty of the granite outcrops. Wear sturdy shoes and bring water, bug spray and your camera. Cost is $7 per person, $5 for parking.Wilderness Survival Skills10 a.m. on Feb. 18
Learn what to pack just in case a day hike turns into a three-day survival experience. Fire building will also be covered. Cost is $7 per person and $5 for parking.Sunset Mountain Hike4:30 p.m. on Feb. 18 and 6 p.m. on March 17
Hike to the top of Panola Mountain just as the sun is setting. Get a glimpse of spectacular views and take advantage of good photo opportunities. Wear hiking shoes and bring water and a flashlight. Cost is $7 per person and $5 for parking.Panola Unlimited9 a.m. on Feb. 25
Take a 6-mile cross country hike up the mountain, and enjoy a lunch break on top of the mountain. Visit the South River and a bouldering area, and walk on deer trail, old logging roads, forested areas with no trails and old trails built in the 1970s by the Youth Conservation Corps. Twenty-four points of interest are incorporated into the hike. The rigorous hike lasts for about four hours and is for participants ages 10 and up. Wear hiking boots, pack a lunch and bring plenty of water. Cost is $10 per person, and $5 for parking.
For more information, visit www.gastateparks.org/panolamountain.