Augusta, Georgia: The South's Hidden Outdoors Gem

Why the small town you’ve never heard of is becoming the South’s hub of the outdoors.

Augusta GA is really in the middle of nowhere: an hours drive away from the capital of South Carolina, and a two hour drive from the capital of Georgia; it’s a go between. Most people recognize Augusta as a historic city built around the famous golf tournament: the Masters. While that’s true, what most people don’t know is that Augusta is quickly becoming one of the top choices of kayakers, mountain bikers, runners, hikers, rock climbers, whitewater rafters and photographers. Why? 


Because Augusta is really not on the way to any major cities or along a major interstate route, very few people simply “wander” into the town and stay awhile. Because of this, it is a gold mine for mountain bikers or rock climbers who want to practice without crowds of people, or waiting in line. Though the river is a huge part of the Augusta region, few people take advantage of its incredible kayaking waters, simply because they never stop by. Local hikers often hike along the Bluff Trail in North Augusta which winds its way through the woods along the massive rocky bluffs of the Savannah River: nine times out of ten, you’ll never see another person. 


So why haven’t you heard of Augusta before if it is indeed so beautiful? The answer: stereotypes and old thinking. Before I moved to Augusta, almost everyone told me not to live there. It was dirty, old, crime was an issue, there was little to do there, etc. Being the hardheaded guy I am, I moved anyway: one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve only lived here a year, but I’ve found gold mines of outdoor activities that no even locals have heard of. Augusta is such a transient city because of the medical schools, universities, and military bases surrounding it, very few people actually have the time or knowledge to get out and explore. Augusta’s wonders are secret, hidden places you have to look for in order to find, they don’t jump out at you like other big cities. For this reason, I put together a list of 15 hidden outdoor gems in the Augusta area on The Outbound, anyone can look them up and go. They range from kayaking, to hiking, to mountain biking, to rock climbing, and my favorite: photography. Best of all: they’re all free. 


Ok, so maybe I'm biased...need more convincing? 

  • Both in 2015 and 2016, Augusta hosted the USA Cycling Marathon Mountain Bike National Championships through a 65 mile circuit, much of which hosted vast views of the river. 
  • Every year Augusta hosts 1 of the 75 Official Ironman Triathlons in the US. 
  • The city and surrounding area host over 3 running races every month
  • Fort Gordon, the military base in Augusta, uses the fast paced Savannah River for training exercises in canoes and kayaks. 
  • The largest kayaking event in the South East, “Benderdinker” was held in Augusta in April and “Paddlefest Festival” was held in downtown Augusta Riverfront Marina! 
  • The Savannah River along Augusta also includes natural Class I-III whitewater rafting: some of the most challenging in the US. 
  • The USA Climbing Bouldering Regional Championship is being held in Augusta just 6 days from the time of this publishing. 
  • Phinizy Swamp in Augusta is one of the countries largest man-made wetlands in the country, with miles of hiking trails and boardwalks along the swamp.

                                    


So why haven’t you visited Augusta yet?

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Matt Van SwolExplorer

Matt Van Swol is a self-taught landscape photographer, writer, and nuclear scientist for the US Department of Energy. After personally struggling with depression for many years, he is passionate about showing others t...