January 3, 2018

Hiking Near Atlanta: 8 Great Trails to Explore

If you like hiking along scenic rivers, past cascading waterfalls, or on exposed granite bedrock, then these Atlanta area hikes are for you!

amazing hikes near atlanta
Strap on your hiking boots, Atlanta has a hike for you! This list of 8 great hikes near Atlanta has trails for all ability levels, but remember the nickname — HOTlanta — especially if you head out in the summer. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and a hat. And if you’re bring your furry friend along for a hike, don’t forget that the rocks can get a bit hot for puppy feet. Enjoy!

1. Stone Mountain Cherokee Loop

Distance from downtown Atlanta: 17 miles via DeKalb Ave or 20 miles via I-20 and I-285

Length: 5 miles (6.8 miles with the summit option)

Type of Trail: Loop with optional summit

Difficulty: Moderate with a sustained climb to the summit

Elevation gain: 500 feet (1,200 with the summit)

Family friendly: Yes – dogs on leashes

Best season: Spring, fall, and winter

Trailhead location: 33.831440, -84.141518

Sound smart when you tell your friends you hiked on a pluton (a large plume of granite magma that hardened underground about 350 million years ago). The Cherokee Loop is full of history and culture and a summit option. From the enormous, flat summit, you can enjoy views of the forested foothills to the east while standing firmly on the expansive bedrock.

You will have plenty to talk about as you hike past a relief panel carved directly into the mountain depicting the Confederate leaders Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. The carving is the largest of its kind in the world.

2. Pine Mountain Trail near Cartersville

Distance from downtown Atlanta: 40 miles

Length: 5 miles

Type of Trail: Figure 8

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation gain: 1,500 feet

Family friendly: Yes – dogs on leash

Best season: Spring, fall, and winter

Trailhead location: 34.175320, -84.753546

This hike offers gorgeous views of Allatoona Lake and Stone Mountain from the rocky 1,562-foot summit. Because this area is home to a diverse animal population, you may see deer, turkey, or even a bear. Summer moonlight hikes offer a great way to beat the summer heat and still get out. Try to go when there is a full moon and you might even be able to hike without a headlamp (but you should still bring one).

3. Arabia Mountain Top Trail

Distance from downtown Atlanta: 20 miles

Length: 1.3 miles

Type of Trail: Out-and-back

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation gain: 150 feet

Family friendly: Yes

Best season: Year-round

Trailhead location: 33.672390, -84.116527

You can easily forget the concrete jungle of Atlanta on this hike when all you see is granite and Mountain Lake below. This easy hike on bedrock gently climbs to 360-degree views at the summit of Arabia Mountain. Explore the biology of the potholes in the bedrock after a rain (but be careful of the protected species!) or play a game of hide and seek in the bushes with your children. This hidden gem has something for the whole family. Bonus: check out the remains of the defunct rock quarry.

4. East Palisades Trail

Distance from downtown Atlanta: 12 miles

Length: 4 miles

Type of Trail: Loop

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation gain: 400 feet

Family friendly: Yes

Best season: Year-round

Trailhead location: 33.884274, -84.436826

This river oasis is only 12 miles from downtown and less busy than the West side of Chattahoochee River. The commanding views from the bluffs overlooking the river are matched by the beauty of the river up close as you hike along its shores. Explore the bamboo forest and you can imagine you are in another country. If hiking during the summer months, bring along a suit for a dip in the cool water!

5. Amicalola Falls State Park

Distance from downtown Atlanta: 70 miles

Length: 2 miles

Type of Trail: Loop

Difficulty: Strenuous

Elevation gain: 750 feet

Family friendly: Yes

Best season: Year-round

Trailhead location: 34.558000, -84.249850

This trail boasts one of the most incredible waterfalls in the Southeast and is well worth the drive from Atlanta. At 730 feet, you will hike to the top for breathtaking views of the valley below and Appalachians straight ahead. Descend via a trail on the back-side of the mountain and rest your muscles from the steep ascent. Don’t forget your camera!

6. Cochran Shoals

Distance from downtown Atlanta: 12 miles

Length: 3 miles

Type of Trail: Loop

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation gain: 239 feet

Family friendly: Yes

Best season: Year-round

Trailhead location: Eugene Gunby Road

Once you arrive, it will be no surprise why this trail is one of the most popular in metro Atlanta — it’s close to downtown and sits along the banks of the beautiful Chattahoochee River. You will get the chance to view waterfowl, rapids, kayakers, and more along this unpaved trail that winds through multiple ecosystems including the riverbank, upland forests, and wetlands. This trail is on the opposite side of the river from the Powers Island hiking trails, if you haven’t had enough hiking for one day.

7. Sweetwater Creek State Park – Yellow Trail

Distance from downtown Atlanta: 18 miles

Length: 3.5 miles

Type of Trail: Loop

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation gain: 528 feet

Family friendly: Yes

Best season: Year-round

Trailhead location:  33.753443, -84.628394

This lesser traveled trail courses along the edge of the creek across from a large brick mill used during the Civil War. Cross the creek on an oversized steel trestle bridge and into mature forest. Spring wildflowers are a favorite of locals here and will bring a smile to your face. Additional trails are an option to add some miles, if you haven’t had your fill.

8. Tallulah Gorge State Park

Distance from downtown Atlanta: 95 miles

Length: 3.5 miles

Type of Trail: Loops with multiple spurs

Difficulty: Strenuous

Elevation gain: 1,000 feet

Family friendly: Yes, but challenging for small children

Best season: Summer and fall

At 1,000 feet deep, the Tallulah Gorge is incredible. Descend into the gorge via steel stairs constructed to preserve endangered Trillium species. Descend past the thunderous Hurricane Falls and become intimate with the five additional waterfalls that afford ample swimming opportunities in the summer with the highlight of the rockslide into the pool below Bridal Veil Falls.

Only 100 permits per day are issued to descend into the gorge, so be sure to arrive early in the summer and fall seasons. Select weekends in April and November have additional water releases and no hiking into the bottom is allowed on these days, but you can observe expert kayakers and rafters testing their skills on the class V rapids.

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