Atlanta to Black Hills National Forest Road Trip Guide


Atlanta, the capital city of the state of Georgia, is a great place to raise a family or to visit if you have children. While the city is a modern metropolis and has a stunning skyline, it's also a verdant one with the Oconee National Forest bordering the eastern suburbs, the Talledega National Forest the western and the Chattahoochee National Forest the northern. It's a fact that, even though you're in a heavily populated urban location that covers a staggering one-hundred and thirty plus square miles, making sure the kids participate in outdoor activities isn't too difficult.

Atlanta also has many top-quality educational facilities where you can take them to expand their knowledge of the world and history. The Children's Museum of Atlanta, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and the Atlanta History Center are all fascinating places they'll enjoy visiting. If they're artistic, they'll love browsing around the High Museum of Art or the Center for Puppetry Art. But if you've noticed their own artwork doesn't stretch to more than reproductions of skyscrapers, maybe it's time to give them a little more inspiration.

Plan a seven-day family RV road trip from Atlanta to the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota and as you motor through the seven different states on the way, you'll really wake up their creative muse. Show them a 19th-century homestead hidden in the woods, introduce them to Western art, take them for a ride on a scenic railway, then pitch camp by a waterfall. Blow their minds with a visit to an underground cave before letting them loose in a field of giant sculptures. Just make sure to pack plenty of drawing materials in the rig and don't forget the pencil sharpener.

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Max RV length
Max trailer Length
Road trip length: 7+ days
Recommend rig: motorhome
audience: family

Point of Interest

Porter Sculpture Park

While you're motoring through South Dakota you'll have the ideal opportunity to show the kids art in a large format in a very unusual park. The Porter Sculpture Park is near the city of Montrose right next to the I 90 so you won't need to make a detour to visit it. The park is open every day from around mid-May to mid-September, though even if it's closed when you're on your family RV vacation, the sculptures are so big you'll have no trouble seeing them from the road.

The Porter Sculpture Park contains fifty different and unique sculptures that are set out in a spacious grass field. All created by the same artist, Wayne Porter, there's everything from a pink-legged dragon to a sixty-foot high bull's head with enormous horns to a lilac-colored rocking horse. The sculptures are diverse and definitely fun as well as inspiring.

Worlds Of Fun Village

No-one said the young one's artwork needs to be inspired by nature alone. Just before you cross over the state border between Missouri and Kansas, in the suburbs of Kansas City is a theme park the kids will love to be let loose in. The Worlds of Fun Village is a combined water and amusement park with lots of family rides and a special children's park too. It's open from early April through to the fall from ten-thirty in the morning until eight in the evening, so expect to have a long and exhausting day chasing after the kids.

Spend time with them driving antique cars around a track, take a ride on a carousel or the big wheel. Bigger kids will want to go on the thrill rides like the mind-boggling Bamboozler or the heart-stopping Boomerang. For aquatic fun take a float down the lazy river or make a big splash in the pool after sliding down the Predator's Plunge. Whichever you do together, they'll have a ball.

Woodlands Nature Station

The Woodlands Nature Station is part of the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area and can be found by leaving the I 24 just before Cadiz and taking the US 68 westbound followed by Forest Service Road 134. The center receives plenty of visitors and the access road is easily negotiated in a rig, so don't let its remoteness put you off taking the kids there for a visit.

The Woodlands Nature Station is the entrance point to an eight-thousand, five-hundred acre nature observation area, but what the young ones will want to see is the station's backyard. The backyard is a refuge center that is home to a variety of animals and birds, injured or orphaned, that they can get a close-up look at. They'll be sketching images of red wolves, coyotes, groundhogs, flying squirrels and bobcats long after you've arrived home from your family road trip from Atlanta to the Black Hills National Forest.

Dunbar Cave

Take the kids underground to explore an exciting natural wonderland and you'll leave them completely awe-struck with what they see. The Dunbar Cave is located in the Dunbar Cave State Park near Clarksville in Tennessee and is open for public viewing from May through to September. There are no campgrounds at the park, but if you want to pitch up in the area take a look at the Land Between the Lakes Recreational Area a few miles to the west off the I 24 after St Elmo.

Walk the kids through the three-arched entrance into a subterranean fantasy decorated with ancient petroglyphs drawn by the Native Americans who used the cave as a shelter. Although some parts of the cave do have colored illumination, inside it's quite dark and mysterious which the young ones will enjoy. After you've seen the cave, there are trails to hike around the park where you can spot butterflies, dragonflies and all manner of bird life.

Foster Falls Recreation Area

As you're traveling through Tennessee, leave the I 24 and make a short detour along the TN 41 via Jasper to the South Cumberland State Park and if you're in a small rig, pitch camp in the Foster Falls Recreation Area. If you're motoring in a big rig you may need to find a different campground, but you can leave your vehicle in the parking lot while you hike to the falls. For an alternative place to pitch up check out the two campgrounds in the Prentice Cooper State Forest which is just short drive away to the south-east.

The kids will feel as if they're on a real wilderness adventure as you trek along the trail to the falls. It winds through dense forest and over a swinging bridge before terminating by a pool that the eighty-foot waterfall cascades into. The young ones will be captivated by the magnificent falls, the moss-covered boulders around it, the lichen growing on the rock face and the fungi on the fallen trees. If the weather is warm enough they can even take a dip in the pool before attempting to recreate the scene on paper.

Lookout Mountain Incline Railway

Make the most of the opportunity to get the kids in touch with history while giving them a unique experience that will have them drawing trains and mountain scenery rather than square-shaped skyscrapers. Take them for a ride on the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway. The lower station is located just south of Chattanooga on St Elmo Avenue and the line operates seven days a week from ten in the morning until six in the afternoon.

The one-hundred year old, mile-long funicular railway climbs a steep slope up the side of Lookout Mountain. The kids will be clinging to their seats in the colorful tram-style carriage as it ascends higher and higher and they, as well as you, will be open-mouthed at the spectacular scenery. Once you've disembarked at the top station, check out the observation deck from where there are incredible views down to the Chattanooga Valley before hiking some of the trails around Point Park or the Lookout Mountain Battlefield. Even though it doesn't refer to the same railway, why not teach them the words to the classic song Chattanooga Choo Choo, so they can sing it with you on the way back down?

Booth Western Art Museum

Art comes in many formats, but there's one genre that encapsulates the history of North America as well as creativity and that's Western art. As you continue on your family RV road trip from Atlanta to the Black Hills National Forest, take time to spend a couple of hours having a look around the Booth Western Art Museum. The museum is located on Museum Drive in the city of Cartersville which you'll pass by as you're heading north on the I 75.

The art museum houses some amazing collections of paintings and sculptures depicting life in the West from before the pioneering days right up to the present times. The works are presented in multiple formats from watercolors to oils to bronzes and handicrafts. There is an interactive gallery for children aged two to twelve that will show them what life was like on a working cattle ranch back in the day too. You never know, your talented off-spring could well be a Western artist in the making and at some time in the future, you'll be visiting the museum to see their creations displayed alongside all the other super talented artists.

Red Top Mountain State Park

Head northwards from Atlanta along the I 75 for less than fifty miles and you'll be able to pull up at the Red Top Mountain State Park. The park will be a complete change of scene from the continual high rise towers of the city. The park sits on the edge of serpentine Lake Allatoona which is dotted with pine-forested islands and resembles a landscape from a fantasy video game. There are lakeside campsites in the Pioneer Campground at the state park that are available for twelve months of the year if you decide it's a good spot to spend your first night on the road.

Take the kids hiking along any of the park's fifteen miles of trails, but don't miss the one that leads into the woods from behind the visitor center. It winds through the trees to the renovated, 19th-century homesteader's cabin that's complete with an external stone-built chimney. If your kids are old enough to appreciate horror movies, they'll be totally content with all the examples of cabins in the woods they'll see scattered throughout the forest. As inspiration goes, be prepared, it just might bring out the more Gothic side of their creative nature.


Guaranteed as you arrive at the Black Hills National Forest after a week on the road with the kids visiting all of those places, their imaginations will be working overtime. While the forest is a great place to spend some getting back to nature time with them, there are still more fantastic artworks you can introduce them to while you're there.

Two unmissable monuments that you'll want them to see are the Mount Rushmore National Monument with its presidential faces and one that's still a work in progress, the Crazy Horse Memorial. After they've seen both of those amazing and larger-than-life creations, there will be no telling what they might start constructing in the yard once you're home from your road trip.

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