Looking for ways to escape the summer heat for an outdoor workout and/or some socially-distanced fun? It’s time to hit one of Metro Atlanta’s many beautiful hiking trails. (Please keep in mind, some of the area’s most popular trails may be a bit more crowded on the weekends, so consider visits during the week or in the early mornings if possible.)
Arabia Mountain Top Trail (Stonecrest): Located just west of Atlanta, Arabia National Heritage Area includes fields of exposed granite, several lakes, two weather-worn granite mountains, and more than 30 miles of trails. With rock cairns helping to mark the way, the 1.2-mile Arabia Mountain Top Trail is one of the park’s most popular hikes. Featuring exposed granite, patches of wildflowers, and shallow water-filled pools, the hike culminates at the summit with a 360-degree panoramic view, 180 feet above Arabia Lake. Open daily from dawn until dusk.
East Palisades Trail at the Chattahoochee River (Sandy Springs): Discover one of the Chattahoochee’s most scenic sections in metro Atlanta along the 3.4-mile East Palisades Trail. A favorite spot in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, the East Palisades Trail follows the banks of the Chattahoochee through a bamboo forest and onto bluffs with stunning views of the river below. Hours: 5:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.; parking: $5.
Freedom Park – Stone Mountain Trail (Downtown Atlanta): This semi-shaded, paved, urban hike begins at the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site and travels past some of the sights of Downtown Atlanta and Old Fourth Ward including MLK’s birth home and Ebenezer Baptist Church. The 7-mile, out-and-back, art-lined trail features rolling hills and a jaunt through Freedom Park as well as stops in the quaint residential neighborhoods of Inman Park and Candler Park.
Island Ford North Loop Trail (Sandy Springs): At just under 3 miles, the beginner-friendly Island Ford North Loop Trail offers scenic glimpses of the Chattahoochee. This trail is almost completely under a forest canopy creating a cool escape from Atlanta’s summer heat. The Island Ford North Loop Trail doesn’t attract the weekend crowds of other popular trails in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, making it the perfect socially-distant escape. Hours: dawn – dusk; parking: $5.
Len Foote Hike Inn Loop Trail (Dawsonville): This 10-mile round trip trek from the crest of Amicalola Falls in Amicalola State Park to the Hike Inn is nestled in the North Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains. The two-to-four-hour hike features quiet streams, wooden bridges, and scenic ridges. The Hike Inn, located around the five-mile mark, is a backcountry, sustainably designed inn nestled in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Book a reservation ahead of time and stay the night or take advantage of the inn’s porch-side watercooler around the halfway point of this out-and-back adventure. Parking: $5.
Morningside Nature Preserve (Morningside Neighborhood – Atlanta): Morningside Nature Preserve offers up a beautiful slice of nature just minutes away from Midtown Atlanta. The 2-mile, round-trip hike departs at the trailhead at Lenox Road in the Morningside neighborhood of Atlanta. The trail is mostly shaded and follows the western shores of the South Fork Peachtree Creek. A beautiful wooden suspension bridge connects the east and west sides of the trail across South Fork Peachtree Creek. Hours: 6 a.m. – 11 p.m.; parking: free.
Sope Creek Trail (Marietta): Sope Creek Trail is in Sope Creek Park, one of the many parks in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. The 1.5-mile hike begins at the trailhead off of Paper Mill Road in Marietta and winds through a young forest, past the flowing waters of Sope Creek and a tranquil pond to the beautiful ruins of a paper mill. Park hours: dawn – dusk; parking: $5.
Sweetwater Creek State Park (Lithia Springs): Just minutes outside of Atlanta, Sweetwater Creek State Park features miles of hiking trails through a beautiful forest amid historic Civil War mill ruins and the flowing whitewater of Sweetwater Creek. Three main trails offer up hiking loops ranging from 1 – 5.2 miles – all of which provide views of the impressive five-story New Manchester Mill ruins. Park hours: 7 a.m. – dark; parking: $5.
Vickery Creek Trail at Roswell Mill (Roswell): The over 4-mile adventure on Vickery Creek Trail at Roswell Mill takes you past two historic mills, a covered bridge and a beautiful waterfall pouring from a spillway dam. Though part of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, this shaded trail follows Vickery Creek, a tributary of the Chattahoochee. Hours: dawn – dusk; parking: $5.