In 1967, 471.5 acres of land including a 100-acre granite mountain was put up for sale by the Yarborough family. The Georgia Conservancy purchased an option on the property but was unable to close on the property in 1968. As a result, The Nature Conservancy put up $20,000 as a down payment toward a total purchase of $200,000. In 1969, The Nature Conservancy offered the property to the state. That same year, the general assembly approved the purchase, and received the necessary funds through the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, Land and Water Conservation Fund. In 1971, an advisory committee of area naturalists and educators was formed. Panola Mountain State Conservation Park was opened and dedicated by Governor Jimmy Carter on July 24, 1974.
The purpose of Panola Mountain, Georgia's first "conservation park," was to protect the unique features of this area, to interpret the significance of its natural history, and to create a place for public recreation oriented toward a better understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the natural environment. In 1974, 66 additional acres were acquired through the Georgia Heritage Trust, and in 1979, eighty-nine additional acres were acquired again through the trust. In 1980, Panola Mountain was dedicated as a National Natural Landmark. In 1991, six additional acres were acquired through Preservation 2000. In 1998, the state purchased an additional 136.665 acres and the park was dedicated by executive order of Governor Zell Miller as a Heritage Preserve. In 2002, Panola received 155.8 acres of land formerly owned by respected conservationist Ed Alexander. In 2003, Panola acquired the last working farmland in Dekalb County, 141 acres from S.B. Vaughters. In 2004, Panola Mountain acquired 166 acres that was Southerness Golf Course.
Panola Mountain is a 100-acre granite mountain, one of only a few major pristine granite outcroppings in the Southeast. The ecology on the granite outcrops, although rugged in terms of dealing with extreme climatic conditions, is fragile in terms of human impact. The flora and fauna that are adapted to live in these arid environments are specialists, and some of them are now extremely rare. To protect the ecology of Panola Mountain and interpret the importance of the plant and animal communities of the area, visitors can access Panola Mountain by guided hikes only. Panola Mountain also has an interpretive center with geology, plant, and animal displays, and three self-guided nature trails with interpretive signage.