Ocmulgee Mounds – Explore One of the Best Things to Do in Macon

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Who would have thought that an area of historic Native American mounds would be such an interesting experience? That’s exactly what we thought before heading to Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park (formerly Ocmulgee National Monument) in the heart of Macon, Georgia. If you are looking to find the best things to do in Macon, this is certainly one of the more popular choices and with good reason.

When you first hear about a bunch of grass mounds providing an intriguing spectacle, you could be forgiven for wondering why on earth you would waste your time here. After spending some time exploring the area it’s certainly an interesting reflection on American history that has been preserved.

Where is Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park?

You may be wondering how we stumbled across the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park? After leaving Atlanta en route to Jacksonville, Florida, we headed down I-75 knowing that we would pass through the city of Macon, GA.

things to do in macon georgia

A quick Google search led us to believe that Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park was worth exploring so we took the short drive from the interstate to find out what this was all about.

Click here for directions to Ocmulgee National Monument using Google Maps


The history of Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park is what makes this such an intriguing place to explore. When you hear that this place dates back 17,000 years and is a prehistoric American Indian site, if you are an avid historian or archaeological guru, this place is certainly an attractive spot to visit.

Ocmulgee National Monument protects and preserves “Lands commonly known as the Old Ocmulgee Fields”

There have been four different prehistoric cultures that have resided on the Ocmulgee land until European settlers set foot on this part of the world. Ocmulgee is the ancestral homeland of the Muscogee tribe which now resides in the state of Oklahoma.

ocmulgee national monument

When you visit Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park today, you can set foot on this hallowed ground and learn all about the history of the tribes and different cultures that resided here.

Meanwhile, the visitor center includes an informative museum with a variety of ancient artifacts found during the mass excavations of the Macon Plateau.

ocmulgee visitor center

Ocmulgee Hiking Trails

There are several distinctive mounds that you can explore throughout the landscape. A designated walking trail has been created and if you are really adventurous you can experience the full 3.25-mile loop (there are up to 6 miles of different trails around Ocmulgee) that also takes in some of the forest and wetland environments.

american indian settlements

For those of you just interested in learning more about the American Indian settlers here, take a short 1/2 mile trail from the Visitor Center to the Great Temple Mound. This trail leads to three of Ocmulgee’s most popular landmarks –the Earth Lodge, the Trading Post site, and the Greater and Lesser Temple Mounds.

places to visit in macon

You also have the opportunity to cross over the iconic railway that leads to the unfortunate demise of Ocmulgee Mounds as settlements for local tribes. Here are is a list of the various trails you can experience here:

  • Dunlap Trail – 1/4 Mile
  • McDougal Trail – 1/2 Mile
  • Heritage Trail – 3/4 Mile
  • Opelofa Trail – 1 Mile
  • Bartram Trail – 3/4 Mile
  • Visitor Center to the Great Temple Mound – 1/2 Mile
  • Southeast Mound Trail – 1/4 Mile
  • Hitchiti Village Site Trail – 1/2 Mile
  • River Trail – 1 Mile
  • Funeral Mound Trail – 1/4 Mile
  • Corn Field Mound Trail – 1/4 Mile

As you can see, there are plenty of ‘short’ hikes available so if you are planning on staying in the area and want a variety of things to do in Macon, be sure to check out a variety of these trails. A word of warning, if you plan on taking the River trail, be sure to watch out for alligators and other wildlife that are frequently spotted along this route!

ocmulgee national monument

Earth Lodge

The first mound we stumbled across with any significance was the wonderfully named ‘Earth Lodge’. As we approached this mound, we had no idea that as we went around the side we would have the opportunity to crawl (unless you are only 5ft tall, you will be crawling!) inside and explore.

earth lodge ocmulgee national monument

The central chamber can be accessed through the narrow tunnel before you can then stand upright and appreciate the interior.

earth lodge ocmulgee

A smoke hole is the only other form of access for light to enter the tunnel though today the air-conditioned museum display offered a moment of respite from the searing hot weather outside.

ocmulgee national monument

Historians and archaeologists have researched the Earth Lodge and after uncovering this mound during excavations in 1938, it soon became apparent that this was a unique structure with nothing else like this in the surrounding area. Research also suggests that the tribes guilty of creating this Earth Lodge were inspired by the Pawnee tribes who followed similar design features when creating these types of structures.

earth lodge

Impact of the Railroad

In 1843, the Central Georgia Railroad constructed a railway line that ran through the heart of Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park. It’s no surprise to hear that this had a detrimental effect and in fact damaged many of the iconic mounds that are in close proximity to the present day railroad tracks. It destroyed a portion of the Lesser Temple Mound and the great prehistoric town that was once on this site.

central georgia railroad

Today, as you walk along the trail, crossing over the bridge gives you time to reflect on the history of this landscape and how human intervention helped cause the demise of a natural habitat used by prehistoric tribes.

things to do in macon

I’m glad that this location has been designated as a National Monument and will be preserved in the future because these types of locations are becoming less prevalent in today’s society. Reading about the prehistoric tribes is one thing but there is nothing quite like investigating their roots and how they survived in communities like Ocmulgee.

things to do in macon georgia

Great Temple Mound

After crossing the railroad tracks, you can immediately see the magnificent sight of the Great Temple Mound in the distance. This is the largest mound at the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park site and is well worth the short hike from the visitor center. The mound stands at 55ft and is located on a high bluff overlooking the floodplain of the Ocmulgee River.

great temple mound

A walkway and steps are located at the side of the Great Temple Mound and provide easy access for visitors to climb to the summit.

great temple mound walkway

You are well and truly on top of the world, well at least in Macon, Georgia when you reach the top of the mound and the panoramic views offer stunning scenery across the surrounding countryside.

georgia countryside

Visitors are not allowed on the slopes of any of the mounds but the Great Temple Mound is one that is large enough for you to walk around the top before heading back along the trail.

great temple mound ocmulgee


Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park is certainly a gem worth visiting if you are in this part of Georgia. When it comes to the best things to do in Macon, Ocmulgee is definitely near the top of that list especially if you have any interest in American history, prehistoric cultures or gorgeous panoramic Georgia landscapes.

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Chris Boothmanhttps://abritandasoutherner.com
Chris Boothman is the co-founder of A Brit and A Southerner. Born near Manchester, England, Chris moved to USA in 2006 where he soon after met his wife and travel partner in crime, Heather. They have since embarked on an amazing journey of travel as they challenge others to follow in their paths of working full-time but also being able to travel frequently! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact Chris at [email protected]


  1. Fascinating history, isn’t it? I just visited the Hopewell Mounds in Ohio and I couldn’t believe how interesting it was. Gonna have to pay a visit to this one in Georgia next time I’m there.

  2. Had no idea this was in Macon! Sure is a pretty site though. It looks so lush and green, no wonder the Muscogee settled there. Shame they were resettled in the name of progress. Thanks for putting this on our radar – we’ll look for it next time we’re in Georgia!

  3. I went to Georgia in the fall, and really want to go back. I majored in anthropology so I’m into stuff like this and learning about cultures – past and present. Thanks for sharing!

  4. As someone who knows very little about American Indian culture and history I’m sure I’d Omuclgree to be quite interesting, although I’d never heard of Macon before. All those hiking trails seem pretty manageable too which is always nice to see. The more I read about the deep south of the USA the more intrigued I become and would love to see one day. #weekendwanderlust

  5. Visiting NPS sites are my favorite thing to see when traveling the US. They are so diverse and I love the history, culture, and environments. I have been here since I was a kid, looks like it’s time to go back! #WeekendWanderlust


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