Best Hikes Atlanta  by Ren and Helen Davis

Best Hikes Atlanta Guide Book

by Ren and Helen Davis (Falcon Guides)
Best Hikes Atlanta  by Ren and Helen Davis
Atlanta has long been touted as “the city of trees,” and despite explosive population growth (as of 2017 the population of metropolitan Atlanta was nearly six million), both within the city and its surrounding suburbs, Atlanta still offers many easily accessible woodlands, parks, and green spaces suitable for family outings or more rigorous treks. Wherever you are in Atlanta, there are destinations to suit your interest, from mountaintop vistas and paths along rushing streams to urban parkways great for a jog or bicycle ride and historic sites linking us to those who came before.

© 2018 Ren and Helen Davis/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Best Hikes Atlanta" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 37.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 37.

The park’s name, “Amicalola,” is taken from the Cherokee word for “tumbling waters,” an apt description for the 729-foot falls (highest east of the Mississippi River) created when the waters of Little Amicalola Creek cascade from high above a wooded valley. The park features miles of trails, scenic views, campgrounds and picnic areas, a mountaintop hotel, and the state’s only hike-in lodge (the Len Foote Hike Inn). Amicalola Falls State Park may be best known as a terminal point for hikers traveling the 2,190-mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT), which begins on Springer Mountain north of the park.
Dawsonville, GA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.1
Utilizing abandoned railroad corridors, the BeltLine is the most comprehensive transportation and economic development project in modern Atlanta’s history. It will eventually connect more than forty-five neighborhoods through a network of more than 33 miles of multiuse trails encircling the city. The 3-mile Eastside Trail was the first section completed and links Piedmont Park with the Ponce City Market, passes through the Old Fourth Ward and the Freedom Parkway Trail to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, and continues beyond toward the historic Cabbagetown and Reynoldstown neighborhoods.
Atlanta, GA - Hiking,Road Biking - Trail Length: 3.0
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Located only a short distance from busy GA 400, the Big Creek Greenway offers a wooded retreat away from urban bustle and traffic. This section of the linear park is maintained by the city of Alpharetta and features a wide, paved pathway that follows the course of Big Creek for more than 8 miles as well as a 2.0-mile mountain-biking trail. The greenway trail is popular with hikers, runners, inline skaters, and bicyclists. The park also offers excellent sites for bird-watching and, occasionally, wildlife viewing (on a recent visit, we saw a white-tailed deer). The path also extends 1.5 miles west to Roswell’s Big Creek Park; a noncontiguous 6.8-mile section of the Greenway has been developed in Forsyth County, with plans to link the sections and expand the system.
Alpharetta, GA - Hiking,Mountain Biking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 6.6
This 6,400-acre wildlife center, operated by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, features a network of color-blazed foot trails that wind across old pasture lands, through bottomland hardwoods, beneath upland pine forests, along the shores of man-made ponds and lakes, and around an unusual granite outcrop. An excellent starting point for your trek is the visitor center, with exhibits, a reproduction of Charlie Elliott’s writing studio and library, and a wild bird observation room. The center also hosts educational programs throughout the year, with many events held at a nearby conference center and banquet hall.
Covington, GA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.8
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This section traces a path across the Cheatham Hill Battlefield and through woods where Union troops once waited to assault the Rebel defenses. It descends across John Ward Creek before winding across forests and meadows to Powder Springs Road near the Kolb Farm, site of vicious fighting on June 22, 1864. The path then meanders through forests and shallow creek valleys on a return to the eastern side of Cheatham Hill. (Please do not walk on the historic earthworks.)
Marietta, GA - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 5.3
This section of the national battlefield park contains much evidence of the strong Rebel fortifications. Traces of earthworks may still be seen along the trails, and historical markers note the sites of several long-vanished structures that soldiers would have seen at the time of the fighting (please do not walk on the historic fortifications).
Marietta, GA - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.2
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Following cession of Creek lands in Georgia in 1826, Cheadle Cochran received this property as reward for service in the War of 1812 and built a gristmill on Little Bear Creek. In 1870 Cheadle’s elder son, Berry, erected a mill on nearby Bear Creek, later converting the dam for hydroelectric power for the town of Palmetto. Acquired by Fulton County in the 1970s, the 800-acre park was purchased by the city of Chattahoochee Hills in 2010. Through a 2013 Recreation Trails Program grant from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the park’s trail system was greatly expanded for use by hikers, bikers, and equestrians. In 2016, the Cochran Mill Nature Center, a private facility within the park, closed permanently.
Palmetto, GA - Hiking,Horseback Riding,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 8.5
With its 3.1-mile gravel Fitness Trail, the Cochran Shoals Unit, located just off I-285, is the national recreation area’s busiest (the parking area can quickly fill to capacity on weekends). Beyond the Fitness Trail are challenging hiking and mountain- biking paths that climb into the surrounding hills, including the Scribner Trail linking Cochran Shoals with the Sope Creek Unit of the park.
Sandy Springs, GA - Hiking,Mountain Biking,Trail Running - Trail Length: 6.1
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Created in 1977 by local business and civic leaders Hampton Daughtry and David Settle, Dauset Trails Nature Center is a 1,200-acre, private, nonprofit outdoor education and recreation area adjacent to Indian Springs State Park. The center offers more than 17 miles of hiking and mountain-biking trails and 10 miles of equestrian trails through a landscape of rolling hills, low ridges, and creek valleys. Dauset Trails also features a nature center and classroom building, picnic pavilions, group campground, and a lakeside chapel. The route described here is recommended by center staff as an introduction to the natural beauty of Dauset Trails.
Jackson, GA - Hiking,Horseback Riding,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 5.8
One of the most remarkable and unusual hikes in the Atlanta area, the trails across the exposed granite hills, wetlands, and pine/oak forests at Arabia Mountain take you back nearly a half-billion years in time. Arabia Mountain is a monadnock, an isolated outcrop of exposed rock, near Lithonia (Greek for “place of rock”). In 1973 the Davidson Mineral Company donated the property to DeKalb County for a park. In 2006 Arabia Mountain, Panola Mountain, and surrounding areas were recognized by the National Park Service as the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area. In addition to park trails, a PATH Foundation multiuse trail links Arabia Mountain, Panola Mountain, and other local destinations.
Lithonia, GA - Hiking - Trail Length: 7.4
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This unit of the Chattahoochee River offers a taste of rugged beauty from high, heavily wooded ridges above the water to sandy, lushly carpeted floodplains lined with ferns and willows. Late autumn and winter are ideal seasons for hiking here as the leafless trees offer panoramic vistas of the river and surrounding hills. From the parking area, the trail enters the woods beside an information board, steadily descending to the southwest toward the river floodplain. A short distance ahead, note the fading ruins of buildings to the right of the trail, evidence of long vanished homes slowly being reclaimed by nature. Along this section, portions of the path are moderately eroded, and log steps have been installed to slow further deterioration.
Sandy Springs, GA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.3
Elachee Nature Science Center serves as an environmental education component of the 1,440-acre Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve, established by the city of Gainesville in 1978. Several short trail loops meander through the upper piedmont foothills surrounding the science center, while longer paths descend along wooded slopes to Chicopee Lake and Elachee’s Aquatic Studies Center. The hike described here traces a loop through forested hills and wetlands areas surrounding the lake.
Gainesville, GA - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.4
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Located above the shores of Bull Sluice Lake, an impoundment of the Chattahoochee River created by construction of Morgan Falls Dam in 1904, Gold Branch is one of the less frequently visited units of the national recreation area. The unit is known for its network of upland and shoreline trails, and for its numerous vantage points for viewing waterfowl and wildlife along the lake and the river.
Roswell, GA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.2
Following removal of the Cherokee from northern Georgia, pioneers moved into this area, establishing the nearby town of Roswell on bluffs above the Chattahoochee and carving out farms along the waterway. There were few ferries across the river, so settlers crossed at shallow fords. One such site was Island Ford. When President Jimmy Carter created the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in 1978, this site included the former vacation home of Judge Samuel Hewett (c. 1930s). Today, the rustic log and stone structure serves as the national recreation area’s headquarters and visitor center.
Roswell, GA - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.3
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After settling on this land in 1819, James Martin ran a ferry across the Chattahoochee River for many years. His descendants, the Jones family, operated the ferry until it was replaced by the steel bridge in 1904. By the 1930s, the structure had deteriorated to a point where it was declared unsafe and abandoned. The remaining metal span of the bridge collapsed into the river in January 2018. Today, this unit of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area offers more than 7 miles of trails along floodplains and across ridges of upland mixed forest. Within the park is the Chattahoochee River Environmental Education Center (CREEC), a converted residence used for outdoor educational classes.
Roswell, GA - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.8
Nestled along upland slopes and wetlands of the Appalachian foothills adjacent to Lake Lanier’s Buford Dam, Laurel Ridge Trail offers a glimpse of the landscape before the massive lake was completed by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 1957. Featuring more than 700 miles of shoreline, the multipurpose lake offers access to parks, picnic areas, and boating facilities. A portion of the trail below the dam follows the course of the Chattahoochee River as it flows from the lake toward Atlanta.
Buford, GA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.8
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Nestled in the northeastern corner of Gwinnett County, Little Mulberry Park is an 892-acre greenspace featuring more than 13 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian paths meandering across meadows, through the 200-acre Karina Miller Nature Preserve, and around Miller Lake. In addition to recreational facilities, Little Mulberry Park also preserves trace evidence of early Native American habitation in mysterious “stone mounds” found along sections of the 2.2-mile Ravine Loop Trail. The hike profiled in this chapter begins at the southern parking area and includes a walk along the paved Meadows Trails, Ravine Trail, Carriage Trail, and Miller Lake Trail.
Auburn, GA - Hiking,Horseback Riding,Mountain Biking,Road Biking - Trail Length: 8.3
Few sites in the piedmont hills surrounding Atlanta surpass the scenic beauty and historical significance of the 527-acre McIntosh Reserve. The park was once the home of William McIntosh, a Creek chief and veteran of the War of 1812. In 1825 McIntosh was assassinated here by Creeks angered by his signing the Treaty of Indian Springs, ceding Creek lands in Georgia (his grave is across the road from the site of his home). In the early 1900s, Georgia Power purchased the land, planning to dam the Chattahoochee for hydroelectric power. The dam was never built, and in 1978 the company donated the property to Carroll County for a park.
Whitesburg, GA - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 6.9
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During the spring of 1864, Union General William T. Sherman led his troops into Georgia to engage the Rebel army and capture Atlanta. In his reports, Sherman made little mention of the May 27 fight at Pickett’s Mill. The likely reason is that, among a string of victories, the battle was a stunning defeat brought about by poor field command and misunderstanding of the site’s terrain. The site remained virtually unchanged in the decades after the war and is today considered among the best preserved Civil War battlefields in the nation.
Dallas, GA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.4
At first glance, the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge appears as a natural landscape. In fact, the heavily wooded hills and valleys represent the culmination of years of effort to restore land devastated by ruinous agriculture. During the Depression, submarginal lands like these were purchased by the federal government, retired from farming, and science-based restoration efforts initiated. It was through this initiative that the 35,000-acre Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1939 by the federal Resettlement Administration. Today, the refuge is home to many wildlife species, including more than 200 kinds of birds, and is testimony to the value of preserving and restoring the natural heritage of the Southern Piedmont.
Forsyth, GA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.1
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