Hiking doesn’t require major equipment or even a drive out of town. Throw the knapsack on your back and explore the trails right in our own backyard.
Metro Atlanta situates itself within the Piedmont region of Georgia. With lower elevations than the northernmost Appalachian Plateau and Blue Ridge regions, the Piedmont region terrain is more hilly than mountainous, making for a variety of manageable hiking trails. Features like Kennesaw and Stone Mountain, as well as the Brevard Fault Line paralleling the Chattahoochee River, create a topography that begs to be explored.
HIKING IN ATLANTA
Over the course of a few weekends, our StyleBlueprint “Volunteer Expedition Crew” decided to check out five trails within minutes of downtown Atlanta:
- East Palisades
- West Palisades
- Sope Creek
- Sweetwater Creek
- Vickery Creek
East and West Palisades Trails
The East and West Palisades Trails hug portions of the Chattahoochee known by kayakers for rapids. The East side, also known as the Indian Trail, follows the Long Island Creek tributary of the Chattahoochee for a while before climbing up into scenic bluffs. Keep going … down to Cabin Creek, past the mill ruins, over the stone bridge, to Thornton Shoals, through the bamboo forest. You’ll feel as though you’re a million miles away from the city. The West, or Paces Mill, side continues along the ‘Hooch for a bit until it turns towards the Rottenwood Creek path. This side offers amazing naturescapes contrasting sharply with urban sites.
Sope Creek Trail
Just north of Sandy Springs, crossing into East Cobb County, the Sope Creek Trails wind for about 4 miles through the woods. One of the highlights of this hike is the historical site of the old paper mill, destroyed by Union troops during the Civil War. A serene walk along Sope Creek and around Sibley Pond eventually connect with Cochran Shoals park.
Sweetwater Creek Park
Drive a short way out I-20 West to find the Sweetwater Creek State Park, where a variety of trails of varying difficulty wander through bucolic forests — from the creek banks to the ruins of an antebellum textile mill, up to rocky bluffs showcasing views of the rapids below. A well-organized visitor center can help you get started, whether on your own, or joining one of the park’s regularly scheduled, ranger-led hikes.
Vickery Creek Trail
In Roswell, there are two separate Vickery Creek Trails, one on the west bank of the creek past the remains of the Old Roswell Mill and the other owned by the city of Roswell/Vickery Creek Unit of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. These are connected via a covered bridge near the entrance to the mill, just off the vibrant Roswell Square. The trail entrance markers are a little bit hidden back there, but keep looking to start this 3-mile loop — a historic dam, covered bridge, 2 Civil War mill sites and gorgeous natural treasures all along the way. When you finish, enjoy the shopping and dining around Roswell Square!
Before you set out, let someone know exactly where you’re headed, even if you plan to bring your cell phone. Check the park service websites for any potential trail advisories. Dress appropriately — sturdy shoes are important, though hiking boots may not be necessary for moderate trails. Make sure you bring along provisions, particularly water bottles and sunscreen. Many of these locations provide picnic areas affording the opportunity to make a day out of your adventure. Others are so close to civilization, you can find refreshments only moments out of the parking lot — maybe a few beers for parched explorers or ice cream for the younger scouts. Grab a map, make a plan, and GET OUT THERE!
- Atlanta Trails
- Georgia Trails
- Georgia Department of Natural Resources
- National Park Service