Atlanta’s Best Scenic Beginner Hikes

Arabia Mountain Top Trail

Arabia Mountain Top Trail

 

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.

Arabia Mountain Top Trail

(1.3 miles, unpaved / open rock expanses)

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.

 

South Peachtree Creek Trail

South Peachtree Creek Trail

South Peachtree Creek Trail

(2 miles, paved / boardwalk)

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.

 

Morningside Nature Preserve Trail

Morningside Nature Preserve Trail

Morningside Nature Preserve Trail

(2.45 miles, unpaved)

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.

 

Sweetwater Creek Red Trail

Sweetwater Creek Red Trail

Sweetwater Creek Red Trail

(2.3 miles, unpaved)

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.

 

Red Top Mountain Iron Hill Trail

Red Top Mountain Iron Hill Trail

Red Top Mountain Iron Hill Trail

(3.8 miles, unpaved / boardwalks)

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 ChamplinEric 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

 

55 Things to Do on Labor Day Weekend

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Head to any of the Labor Day events in Georgia and make the most of your long holiday weekend. Watch hot air balloons float above the trees in Pine Mountain, crush grapes at a winery in North Georgia, build a sand castle on the beach, cheer for your favorite football team and race car driver, and watch a Pirate Boat Parade on Lake Blackshear. Find these and many more events on http://exploregeorgia.org.

Family Fun

Aug. 29-31: Sky High Hot Air Balloon Festival at Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain

Aug. 30: Annual Kingsland Catfish Festival, Kingsland

Aug. 30-31: Laurel Summer Fest, Gainesville

Aug. 30-31: Labor Day Weekend – Sunset Tours, North Georgia Zoo, Cleveland

Aug. 30-Sept. 1: Labor Day Celebration and Customer Appreciation Weekend, Clayton County International Park – The Beach, Jonesboro

Aug. 31: Tybee Island Labor Day Beach Bash, Tybee Island

Sports & Racing

Aug. 29-31: IPRA World Championship Fall Rodeo, Cumming

Aug. 30: Georgia Tech Football vs. Wofford, Atlanta

Aug. 30: Big Cat Quest Catfish Tournament, Rome

Aug. 31: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton

Aug. 31: Callaway Gardens Family Fitness Series Triathlon, Pine Mountain

Wine & Cheese

Aug. 30: Crush Fest, A Harvest Celebration, Yonah Mountain Vineyards, Cleveland

Aug. 30: Grape Stomping Festival, Paradise Hills Resort, Spa & Farm Winery, Blairsville

Aug. 30: Cheesemaking 101, Sweet Grass Dairy, Thomasville

History & Culture

Aug. 30: 3 Deep in the Yard – The Pivotal Battle of Jonesboro, Jonesboro

Aug. 30: Civil War Event at the Yellow River Post Office, Lilburn

Aug. 30-31: Mountain Heritage Festival, Blairsville

Art & Music

Aug. 30: Lighthouse Gospel Concert, Thomasville

Aug. 30: Just My Imagination Workshop, Dublin

Aug. 30-31: St. Simons Island Antique Show, St. Simons Island

Aug. 31: Drake and Lil’ Wayne at Aaron’s Amphitheatre, Atlanta

Select Events at Georgia State Parks

Aug. 29: Art in the Park, Sweetwater Creek State Park, Lithia Springs

Aug. 29 & 31: Labor Day Weekend Night Kayak, Hard Labor Creek State Park, Rutledge

Aug. 30: Labor Day Festival, Fort McAllister State Park, Richmond Hill

Aug. 30: Astronomy, Stephen C. Foster State Park, Fargo

Aug. 30: Bark in the Park Dog Luau, F.D. Roosevelt State Park, Pine Mountain

Aug. 30: Labor Day Fishing Rodeo, Reed Bingham State Park, Adel

Aug. 30: Labor Day at Jarrell Plantation Historic Site, Juliette

Aug. 30: Lake Blackshear Pirate Festival, Georgia Veterans State Park, Cordele

Aug. 30: Moonlight Movie Night, Victoria Bryant State Park, Royston

Aug. 31: Guided Canoe Trip, Mistletoe State Park, Appling

Aug. 31: Jr. Ranger Mini-Camp, Tugaloo State Park, Lavonia

Aug. 30-31: Indoor Basic Archery, Panola Mountain State Park, Stockbridge

Aug. 30-31: Tallulah Gorge Floor Hike, Tallulah Gorge State Park, Tallulah Falls

Aug. 30-Sept. 1: Labor-less Day, Little Ocmulgee State Park and Lodge, Helena

Aug. 30-Sept. 1: Labor Day on the Lake, Florence Marina State Park, Omaha

Aug. 30-Sept. 1: Tools and Skills that Built a Colony, Wormsloe Historic Site, Savannah

Sept. 1: Labor Day Commemoration, Fort Morris Historic Site, Midway

Sept. 1: Labor Day at Fort King George Historic Site, Darien

Last Chance! Events Ending Labor Day Weekend

Through Aug. 29: Bea Kuhlke Art Exhibition, Sacred Heart Gallery, Augusta

Aug. 30: Blue & Gray Saturdays, Heritage Sandy Springs Museum, Sandy Springs

Through Aug. 30: Family Farm Tours, Jaemor Farms, Alto

Through Aug. 30: Victorian Mourning Tours, Stately Oaks Plantation, Jonesboro

Through Aug. 30: 3D Off the Wall Exhibit, The Art Center, Blue Ridge

Through Aug. 31: The Land Abstracted: Exhibit by Colleen Sterling, The Art Center, Blue Ridge

Through Aug. 31: Corks and Canvas, Evans

Through Aug. 31: Exhibits at Oglethorpe University Museum of Art, Atlanta

Through Aug. 31: Splash Pad, Southern Pines Regional Park, Dublin

Through Aug. 31: “Right On,” Horizon Theatre, Atlanta

Through Sept. 1: Summer Music Weekends, Rock City, Lookout Mountain

Through Sept. 1: Blue Star Museums, Flint RiverQuarium and Thronateeska Heritage Center, Albany

Opening Labor Day Weekend

Aug. 30-Sept. 17: Perspectives 2014 pottery event, Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation, Watkinsville

Aug. 30-Oct. 26: Pick Your Own Apples, Red Apple Barn, Ellijay

Aug. 30-Nov. 16 Buford Corn Maze, Buford

Sept. 1-30: Blue Morpho Butterfly Month at Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain

 

Albany, Georgia on a Budget

 

Ray Charles Piano StatueLocated in southwest Georgia off of I-75, Albany has lots of fun places to visit that won’t break the bank or, in some cases, even crack the wallet. Stroll the six-acre RiverFront Park anchored by Ray Charles seated at his baby Grand and grab a piano key bench for an evening “concert.” As the sun goes down, the lights go up on this one-of-a-kind sculpture. Take a nature walk along the three-mile Riverfront Greenway Trail System that follows the scenic Flint River or at Radium Springs, one of Georgia’s Seven Natural Wonders, with crystal clear waters, historic courtyard, indigenous and exotic flora and casino garden. Turn the kids loose at the fountain and at Turtle Grove Play Park or shout “fore” with a round of disc golf at Chehaw. Free Albany attractions include the movie, “From the Heart of Southwest Georgia,” at the Albany Welcome Center, which is tucked inside the Historic Bridge House/Welcome Center – a great place to pick up a souvenir bargain, like a stuffed turtle. Also free: the Albany Museum of Art and its growing permanent collection comprised of African, European and American art, including one of the most impressive collections of sub-Saharan African art to be found in the Southeastern United States; and Thronateeska Heritage Center (NOTE: there is a charge for the planetarium show).

While in Albany, try these budget-friendly boredom busters:

  1. Picnic at Albany RiverFront Park.
  2. Explore Ray Charles Plaza and walk along the Greenway.
  3. Paint the town at Albany’s Art Park on Pine. Bring your own paint; rules of “open” walls are posted. Musicians and other artists are welcome, too. Open Monday to Sunday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m.
  4. Stroll through Radium Springs Gardens.
  5. Take it to two wheels. Rent a bicycle at the Albany Welcome Center.
  6. See the wild animals at Chehaw animal and adventure park, providing nearly 800 acres of fun, including a 100-acre, AZA-accredited zoo. Noted naturalist and Albany native Jim Fowler of TV’s “Wild Kingdom,” originally designed the park and is still involved with updates and expansions. The park features BMX bike racing, disc golf, campgrounds, nature trails, petting zoo, a miniature train and one of the state’s largest play parks for kids.
  7. Stargaze at Wetherbee Planetarium. Regularly scheduled shows plus fun evening special showings.
  8. The Albany Museum of Art serves as Southwest Georgia’s only fully accredited art museum. Six galleries offer a wide array of styles, artists and themes. Collections from across the country combine with showings by local artists, and exhibitions from AMA’s extensive permanent collection offer visitors an entertaining and educational museum experience. Free admission.
  9. Tour the historic Carnegie Library, which houses the Albany Area Arts Council. While there, view art work exhibitions of regional artists.
  10. Step back in time at the Albany Civil Rights Institute – where the Freedom Singers perform the second Saturday of every month.

Albany meerkats low resKids can romp to their heart’s content at RiverFront Park with Turtle Grove Play Park and its Dino Dig, Tot Lot and fountain; at Legacy Park (fishing pond – with poles available, soccer, baseball and softball fields, 8 tennis courts, sand volleyball, a mile and a half walking track, recreational facilities and more); and at the All American Fun Park with arcade, go-carts, bumper boats, miniature golf and cosmic bowling.

Fun family eateries include The Cookie Shoppe and Harvest Moon for pizza, among other kid-friendly places. Young shoppers will want to spend their mad money at the gift shops at the Flint RiverQuarium and Chehaw animal and adventure park. Albany has more than two dozen hotels – and many include complimentary breakfast and have the all-important swimming pool, among other amenities.

FREE attractions:  Turtle Grove Play Park and fountain at RiverFront Park; Thronateeska (NOTE: there is a charge for the show); the Albany Museum of Art; Legacy Park; and the movie, “From the Heart of Southwest Georgia,” at the Albany Welcome Center.

katieMom-on-the-go and Laurie Rowe Communications PR pro Katie Reeder graduated at the top of her class from the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University with a degree in Communication Studies. Katie resides in Cumming, Georgia – between the beautiful mountains of North Georgia and the lights and action of nearby Atlanta.

Hike the Hooch!

East Palisades Trail

Explore the banks of the Chattahoochee River on these five Chattahoochee hikes near Atlanta. From historic bridges to tucked-away islands and rushing whitewater, these trails visit the river’s most beautiful stretches.

The Chattahoochee River is one of Georgia’s great rivers. The river, nicknamed the “Hooch”, begins as a tiny trickle in North Georgia’s rolling Appalachians before pooling in Lake Lanier and flowing wide and mighty toward Atlanta.

South of Lake Lanier, the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area spans 48 miles of shady, forested river banks. This enormously long chain of parks offers over 70 miles of hiking, running and biking trails managed by the National Park Service.  For a great hike, walk or trail run near Atlanta this summer, explore the Hooch! But with over 70 miles of trails in the Chattahoochee River NRA, where should you begin?

Explore the best of the river and several tributary creeks on these five fantastic Chattahoochee hikes north of Atlanta. New to hiking? No problem: these hikes travel under five miles on well-traveled, easy to moderate trails. Take a hike to explore beautiful Chattahoochee River views, a mid-river island, historic mill ruins and a rushing spillway waterfall.  And watch for wildlife: the Chattahoochee’s forested banks are home to deer, heron, turtles and geese that frequent the river’s shore.

Parking: $3 (daily), or included with a Chattahoochee River NRA annual pass.

East Palisades Trail

Hike a 3.4 mile loop on the East Palisades Trail to explore one of the Chattahoochee’s most scenic stretches near Atlanta.

The Hooch cascades through small waterfalls and whitewater at the Palisades, rushing over angular rock rising from the river. The East Palisades trail treks to stunning overlook views from towering bluffs and hikes through a bamboo forest on the river’s banks.

Vickery CreekVickery Creek Trail

Explore historic mills, a waterfall and steep river banks on this 3 mile hike near a Chattahoochee River tributary.

The Vickery Creek Trail hikes rolling forest near the banks of Big Creek in Roswell. The hike visits a spillway waterfall where Big Creek tumbles over a historic, stacked-stone dam that once powered the Roswell Mill downstream.  The trail arcs to cross a wooden covered bridge to explore the Roswell Mill Ruins in Old Mill Park, a mill complex destroyed in the Civil War.

Sope CreekSope Creek Trail

The kid-friendly Sope Creek Trails explore a boulder-studded creek, a historic paper mill destroyed in the Civil War and a serene pond on the banks of Sope Creek, a Chattahoochee tributary.

This 1.5 mile trail descends through a young pine and deciduous forest to the banks of Sope Creek where the ruins of an 1855 paper mill rise, cathedral-like, from the forest floor.  The hike explores Sope Creek’s rocky bed before trekking through a stream-filled forest. Watch for wildflowers and wildlife along the trail as it rises to Sibley Pond, where it loops the glassy pond’s banks before returning to the trailhead.

Powers IslandPowers Island Trail

This 2.4 mile trail explores an island on the opposite banks of the Chattahoochee from Cochran Shoals, a hugely popular biking and running trail.

The Powers Island Trail crosses a wide footbridge to loop around Powers Island, catching beautiful upriver views of the whitewater-filled Chattahoochee. Heron, geese and sunlight-basking turtles are a common sight in the smooth-flowing inlet on the island’s eastern side.

Jones BridgeJones Bridge Trail

The Jones Bridge Trail catches beautiful Chattahoochee River views in the City of Johns Creek, visiting a historic bridge and crossing wooden suspension bridges over trickling tributaries. Hike the Jones Bridge Trail on a cool summer morning for a chance to catch fog flowing downriver, illuminated by rays from the rising sun.

The 4.6 mile trail visits the remains of a turn-of-the-twentieth-century metal bridge that spans the Hooch. Other than the remaining metal shell, most of the bridge was heisted by thieves in the 1940s.

Eric ChamplinEric 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 objective? To inspire Atlanta residents and visitors to get fit outdoors and explore Georgia’s beauty.

Neighborhood Eats: Virginia Highland

Photo by Deborah Weiner

Photo by Deborah Weiner

At the heart of Virginia Avenue and Highland Avenue, there is no shortage of culinary variety. Here are three favorites, so far!

Goin’ Coastalgoin-coastal2

This ‘sustainable seafood joint’ doesn’t mess around. Whether it’s a dinner menu or a brunch menu, there is no shortage of good eats. Goin’ Coastal ensures the acquisition of their seafood does not harm the environment or have a negative impact on marine life.

Dinner offers an array of seafood but don’t forget Sunday brunch where warm banana bread is served at every table; I dare you not to ask for more! There are a variety of eggs benedict options to choose from along with sandwiches and sides. It’s is pretty much impossible to make the wrong choice with this menu.

latavola-9La Tavola

La Tavola which literally means ‘The Table, has more than enough delicious choices to make everyone in your party a very happy customer. The menu offers hearty choices as well as lighter fare. The mozzarella burata is not to be missed as a starter. La Tavola offers a cozy dining room inside. If you prefer to dine al fresco there is a wrap-around porch with fans keeping you cool in summer.

Two favorites? The Tagliatelle Bolgonese and the Ricotta Gnocchi.

946547_10152062978699569_388689383_nMurphy’s

An icon at this intersection for 30 years, Murphy’s is upscale comfort food that is not to be missed.

If you choose to dine in the restaurant, it feels like you are in someone’s living room – with a few rooms offering different ambiance. You can choose to sit at the wine bar for drinks or dinner. Murphy’s is a fine place to take out-of-town guests in order to give them a taste of the South and an interesting take on classic dishes. Brunch is a big hit but be prepared to wait.

lorisusslebonanniLori Sussle Bonanni spent her career in New York City and relocated to Atlanta in December 2013. Lori loves immersing herself in local culture and going off the beaten path. She is excited to explore all that Atlanta and Georgia have to offer. Lori earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with a Specialization in Advertising and Public Relations from Rowan University. Say hi to Lori @smplythreecents on Twitter or visit her blog, simplythreecents.com.