Between Atlanta and Augusta Georgia's Interstate 20 holds some of the most fascinating hiking, history and food in the north Georgia region. This 140-mile stretch of road takes visitors back through almost 300 years of Georgia and our nation's history including the roots of The Civil War, Georgia's favorite Revolutionary War battlefield, Georgia folklore, and one of the state's finest rural restaurants that is so popular, you'll need reservations.
Cyclorama, Grant Park, Atlanta, GA
Our journey begins at the crossroads of the Southeast in the heart of Atlanta where I-75 and I-85, a north-south road known locally as the Downtown Connector, meet with I-20 running east-west. Heading east on I-20, the road begins its journey in the heart of a Civil War battlefield that has been lost to time. On July 22, 1864, John Bell Hood and his Army of Tennessee attempted to turn William Tecumseh Sherman's Union Army right flank east of downtown. This major battle is known as The Battle of Atlanta or Hood's Second Sortie and it was centered where I-20 crosses Boulevard. Due south, in Grant Park, are remnants of a Civil War fort that saw some action during the battle. Sherman watched the battle from a site near present-day Carter Center while Hood watched from a home in Oakland Cemetery. The Cyclorama, in Grant Park, retells the story of the battle.
Home to Bobby Jones, the East Lake Country Club in 1919
East of I-20 on Glenwood Avenue is the East Lake Country Club. Sports fans know this as the course where golf legend Bobby Jones learned to play the game. The club is at the heart of the redevelopment of the nearby area. South of the town of Lithonia (place of rock) lies massive Arabia Mountain. The Stone Mountain-like structure has been developed by Dekalb County as a heritage area while nearby Panola Mountain has been developed as a state park. Until the 1960's granite production was a major industry in Dekalb County and these areas are intended to keep the history alive. While Panola Mountain State Park only permits tours on special occasions, Arabia Mountain is open year-round for hiking and picnicking.
Covington, Georgia is home to one of the most famous courthouses in the state of Georgia. Covington is the county seat of Newton County and filming location for the popular TV series, "In The Heat of the Night" starring Carroll O'Connor and Howard E. Rollins Jr. The courthouse, police station and many other locations will be familiar to fans of the show. Continuing east, Georgia State Highway 11 is a major stop on our route. Travel north through Social Circle to the Blue Willow Inn for a delicious lunch (or dinner) served buffet style. This is one place you will want to leave room for dessert, because the presentation and the taste are among the best in north Georgia. Be sure to call first for reservations. Head south on GA 11 to reach Charlie Elliot Wildlife Center Trails. A premiere "hiking zone" has been sectioned off from a massive wildlife management area to give visitors up close views of animals and birds. On visits here we have seen bald eagles, snowy egrets, beaver, and deer. For detailed information on the park, check out 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Atlanta
North on Newborn Road, past the quaint village of Rutledge, is Hard Labor Creek State Park. While hiking, fishing and camping are draws to this park, golf is also a major attraction. The 18-hole course is challenging, even to those who have played it before. U. S. Highway 441 crosses I-20 at Madison, well-known as the "town Sherman refused to burn" on his "March to the Sea". Madison's major attraction are its antebellum homes, so pull off the interstate for a driving tour. U. S. 441 south takes visitors to Rock Eagle, an effigy mound unique to the area. A similar mound east on Lake Oconee is known as Rock Hawk.
Brer Rabbit from Joel Chandler Harriss retelling of African folklore
Eatonton was the home of Joel Chandler Harris, whose career as an important 19th century newspaper reporter and columnist was overshadowed by his ability to retell the African slave folklore he heard growing up in this rural Georgia town. The stories of Br'er Rabbit and Tar Baby now comprise most of this Georgian's biography. A statue of Br'er Rabbit sits in front of the Putnam County courthouse, at the center of town. From the courthouse, which is on US 441, continue south two blocks to Georgia State Road 44. Follow this through upscale hotels and golf course around Lake Oconee to return to I-20 at Greensboro.
Sparta Road (GA 22) takes us to Crawfordville, home of another Georgia State Park. The centerpiece of this large park is the estate home of Alexander Stevens, a popular and well-known statesman who was Vice President of the Confederate States of America. Our tour started with a Civil War battle and towards the end is a battle of the American Revolution. Kettle Creek was Georgia's favorite battle because of its meaning to Georgians. The English had been claiming for months that they controlled Georgia and that armed resistance had come to an end in the state. Georgians Elijah Clarke and John Dooley, with the help of South Carolinian Andrew Pickens, conquered a Loyalist force led by Colonel James Boyd, an Englishman from South Carolina, that was twice its size. Although Georgia would shortly be dealt a major setback at Briar Creek, word of the victory at Kettle Creek spread quickly throughout the United States.
Appling-Harlem Road (U. S. 221) takes travelers to the tiny hamlet of Harlem, Georgia, known as the birthplace of Oliver Hardy. The town has a museum dedicated to Laurel and Hardy, the comic duo that controlled the box office from the advent of talking films until the 1940's. The first Saturday in October the town fills up with vendors and Laurel and Hardy look-alikes during the annual Oliver Hardy Festival.
As I-20 approaches the South Carolina border it passes north of Augusta, a Georgia city founded in 1736. The city is an amalgam of cultures and has been since its earliest days when Indian traders were a common sight. Today the cultural and historic center of the town is being re-aligned along Augusta Riverwalk and the Augusta Canal Historic Trail. One of the few successful canals built after the 1820's, Augusta Canal was built in 1845. It continued to run in the heart of Augusta until the late 1940's. As industrial plants that had been attracted to the cheap water power of the canal moved elsewhere, the canal fell into disrepair until the mid-1970's.
Interstate 20 travels through almost 300 years of Georgia history in less than 150 miles, touching on major events in the Revolution and Civil War, people who have shaped the nation and made it laugh, prehistoric Indian effigies and modern cities. We hope you see I-20 in a brand new light.