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.