Atlanta’s plentiful parks, tall trees and comfortable climate make it a fantastic city for outdoor activity. And with unique landscape features, from creeks and rivers like the mighty Chattahoochee to towering bald summits like Stone Mountain and Arabia, there’s an abundance of hiking adventures to be found around the city.
Explore Atlanta’s stunning outdoors on these five metro-area trails, all within 30 miles of the city (and some in town). They’re all great for beginning hikers: they’re easy to moderate in difficulty, under four miles in length, and pack a ton of outdoor beauty within a relatively short distance. And the few that top the mileage charts are still beginner-friendly: there’s plenty of scenic outdoor beauty spread along the trail. So if you don’t make it the full distance your first trip, don’t worry: enjoy as much of the trail as you can, and return for more hiking fun in the future.
No hiking boots? No problem! These trails are running-shoe-friendly. Be sure to pack basics, like printed trail directions (see each trail’s link for detailed directions and maps), water, sunscreen and your mobile phone in case of emergency.
Hike through stunning geology and ecology to the summit of Arabia Mountain in the Davidson-Arabia Nature Preserve near Atlanta’s east side perimeter. The Arabia Mountain Top Trail scales the mountain’s cratered, open rock expanses to stunning 360-degree views at the summit. The best time to hike? After a rain, to catch pools of water in the mountain’s craters that reflect the wide-open sky above.
This PATH Foundation trail near Decatur crosses a towering train trestle before descending to the ruins of the Decatur Waterworks. And after rolling elevation through a shady forest, the South Peachtree Creek Trail runs raised boardwalk through a forest on the banks of South Peachtree Creek.
Located on the fringes of Morningside, one of Atlanta’s upscale residential neighborhoods, the Morningside Nature Preserve Trail is a tucked-away favorite of neighborhood residents. The trail hikes across a suspension bridge spanning the sandy shores of South Peachtree Creek before winding through a terraced forest. Keep watch for wildlife on the trail: beavers, turtles, raccoons and birds are often sighted in the preserve.
Hike the Sweetwater Red Trail at Sweetwater Creek State Park to the ruins of a mill destroyed in the Civil War on the banks of a beautiful, whitewater-filled creek. Sweetwater Creek’s rushing whitewater rapids, small cascading waterfalls, and sandy banks punctuated with large boulders are a perfect backdrop to a mid-hike picnic.
Hike the meandering shore of Allatoona Lake on the Iron Hill Peninsula at Red Top Mountain State Park north of Atlanta. The Red Top Mountain Iron Hill Trail hikes through a spindly, shady forest, catching nearly continuous views of the lake’s glassy-water cove. The trail gently rolls elevation along the shore thanks to a series of raised wooden boardwalks that span the peninsula’s occasional elevation dips.
Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, kayak and cycle Georgia’s beautiful outdoors. Eric is the author of Atlanta Trails, an online magazine that reviews the best hiking trails, running trails and outdoor adventures throughout Georgia. His mission? To inspire Atlanta residents and visitors to get fit outdoors and explore Georgia’s beauty.
PHOTO CREDIT (all): Eric Champlin