UPDATED OCT 14, 2019
With dozens of hiking trails within 20 miles or less, there’s every excuse to get out of the city for the weekend. From waterfalls and rocky climbs to island shores and whitewater rapids, these trails have it all. So, lace up and see for yourself!
A drive to Norcross is well worth it if you’re heading to Jones Bridge Park. The rusted remnants of Jones Bridge still stand as a crowd-pleaser, and they mark the beginning of a hike along the river banks. A wide network of quiet forest trails (keep an eye out for deer!) crisscrosses through the south end of the park and loops around the Chattahoochee River Environmental Education Center.
A short jaunt to Roswell will bring you to this lovely slice of land in Atlanta’s Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. Being on the smaller side (five miles round trip), it’s easy to explore it all in a few hours. See the old mills, snap of shot of the spillway waterfall, dip your feet in the creek, and take your sweet old time. Finish the day with some hearty country eats at the neighborhood watering hole, The Mill Kitchen and Bar.
A quick and quiet walk through the woods, this trail is the one less traveled near the Chattahoochee’s Cochran Shoals. Start off at the Nantahala River outpost, and look for a metal bridge crossing over to the island itself to explore the boulder-dotted banks of the river. Powers Island is also one of the best places for a calm day of kayaking or an easy afternoon spent floating down the Chattahoochee in a rented tube.
The residents of Atlanta’s Morningside neighborhood can call this 30-acre forest preserve their backyard. A wooden suspension bridge is the signature centerpiece here. It crosses Peachtree Creek and connects over two miles of trails. Fitt Tip: The sandy shore of the creek is beloved by local dog owners, so bring your furry friend to play in the shallow waters beneath the bridge.
Choose your own adventure along the eastern bank of the Chattahoochee. The trail network weaves and bobs through dense forest, and while marked at every intersection, it’s not hard to get turned around. The hike comes with numerous rocky ascents leading to views of the Chattahoochee. From the outlook, you can watch kayakers battle the light rapids the Devils Race Course.
This trail offers a more streamlined experience than its cousin on the eastern bank but is still no stranger to windy trails. The Akers Mill trails crisscross through hilly, heavily-wooded terrain, and off-shoots lead you toward the river (where it’s popular to take a swim or wave to families floating by on tubes.) The trail leads you to river overlooks, rock outcrops, and past a bright collection of dogwood trees. And if you hike south, you’ll intersect the Rottenwood Creek Trail leading to Paces Mill Park.
This trail guides you along Sweetwater Creek to the ruins of New Manchester Mill — a place popular enough to be destroyed during the Civil War and grace the big screen in The Hunger Games series. It’s a quick two-miler—there and back—and one of the most scenic trails near Atlanta. Fitt Tip: stay awhile and go camping, kayak on the reservoir, or explore the other five hiking loops and trails; your outdoorsy imagination is the limit at this state park.
What’s reading about Atlanta hikes without the Chattahoochee? The ’Hooch’s Riverside Trail allows for a quick jaunt through the woods to a wooden observation tower where you’ll get some stunning views of everyone’s favorite waterway. For a more intense workout, tack on the Bend Trail for a 10-mile round trip along the river bank, through pleasant pine groves, and if you reserved a weekend getaway, back to your own platform campsite.
Two parks are better than one, right? Cochran Shoals is one of the most bustling trails near Atlanta, while Sope Creek is its quiet next-door neighbor. Both stand alone with amazing trail networks, but the loop that connects the two brings the best of both worlds. Sweep past Sope Creek’s mill ruins, across wetland boardwalks, around Sibley Pond, and along the banks of the Chattahoochee.
This green-space in Vinings is the place to go to start a Saturday morning trek (it’s also a pick-up point for the three-mile tube float launching out of Powers Island.) Two popular hiking routes branch out from here: the West Palisades and Rottenwood Creek. This forest-lined, paved pathway is popular with cyclists and runners, traces the city and passes under busy interstates before finishing near a waterfall.
This place place is nothing short of gorgeous. You can expect to encounter gushing waterfalls and rocky streams, along with ivy-covered ruins and creaky wooden walkways winding far between the trees. For the history buffs among us, there are Civil War ruins left over from the Battle of Utoy Creek. It’s hard to believe this slice of wilderness is tucked into the neighborhoods just southwest of downtown.
Be the envy of your Instagram followers after a hike up Kennesaw Mountain. The journey to the summit is a fun workout rewarded with panoramic views of the distant Atlanta skyline. War relics—like a line of battle-ready cannons—serve as reminders that you’re marching on a Civil War battlefield. Make a day of it and march the 11-mile Battlefield Loop. You’ll conquer the peak, then follow the surrounding roads and trails winding through dense forest and past preserved war sites.
Just east of Atlanta, this mountain preserve will amaze any true nature-lover. The hike to the summit is a quick one, but a series of rock trails and forest loops (like the Klondike Boardwalk Trail) should give you your fill. You can make a reservation for a trek up Panola Mountain, and a ranger will lead you on a guided tour to see a unique ecosystem of rare blooms.