Historic Banning Mills
Between the tree house lodging, the zip lines, and the massive climbing wall, Historic Banning Mills Resort seems designed to keep travelers from ever touching the ground. This 1,200-acre retreat and conservation center 50 miles west of Atlanta sits in a hidden gorge along the Snake Creek at the site of a former textile and paper mill that operated during the Civil War. Mike and Donna Holder bought the overgrown property in the late 1990s and, over the years, have developed it into a sprawling outdoor adventure complex.
Flying along the world’s longest continuous zip-line course, over some 40,000 linear feet of cable, is a highlight for most visitors, who can hit speeds of up to 60 mph as they pass over the Snake Creek Gorge and a dense hardwood forest. Altitude lovers can also scale a 140-foot climbing wall and trek along a 600-foot-long Sky Bridge (pictured) that provides sweeping views of the roiling water below.
When visitors are ready to return to earth, a new 7-mile network of mountain biking and hiking trails winds along old town roads and across bridges. Several outfitters, including Georgia Trail Outfitters, offer trips to a number of local rivers, including the Class III Flint and Cartecay Rivers, as well as Class IV Sweetwater Creek, sections of which run through beautiful, 2,549-acre Sweetwater Creek State Park, with nine miles of hiking trails and a 215-acre lake where you can hook bass and catfish.
Between adventures, refuel at the main lodge, which serves a big country breakfast and a variety of hearty repasts, including pork chops, red grouper, and beef filet. At night, play Tarzan in one of the new tree house accommodations. The two-person suites, accessible by rope bridge, are made of heart pine logs, and feature king beds, jetted tubs, and back decks with panoramic forest views.
More information: Historic Banning Mills Resort cabins go for $189 a night, while rooms in the main lodge cost as little as $99 a night.
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