Things to do in Atlanta

Trailblazing in Atlanta: Must-Visit Hikes Within the City Limits

Atlanta is known for arts, culture, and nightlife. But it also offers plenty for the outdoors enthusiast. Explore famous trails for hiking in Atlanta.

The capital city of Georgia is famous as a center for culture. To socialites, Atlanta is known as a destination for amazing rooftop bars, nightlife, and cuisine. To creatives, it's home to acclaimed artistic galleries and inspiring museums — or, one of our famed shows may even come to mind.

Beyond all these claims to fame, hikes are one of the most amazing and world-revealing things to do in Atlanta. Some of the city's greatest joys live outside showrooms and saloons.

Atlanta contains a multitude of iconic hiking trails in or near the city. Here, we’ve assembled a guide to 10 of the most highly prized trails for hiking in Atlanta.

1. The East Palisades Trail at Chattahoochee River

Quite possibly the most scenic section of the Chattahoochee River is the East Palisades Trail. It contains more than four miles of hiking and running trails. The trail also offers access to towering bluffs, historic ruins, and a famous bamboo forest at its northernmost point.

A beautiful hike in any season and open all year round, it’s growing in popularity. The trail is well-trafficked. But with the right timing, it still offers plenty of quiet moments to appreciate scenic river views and a serene ambiance.

It's a challenging hike that calls for careful preparation, sturdy shoes or boots, and a trekking pole. But it’s rewarding. Hikers will forget just how close they are to downtown Atlanta in this soul-nourishing environment.

Photographer: thewritingteacher

2. Cascade Springs Nature Preserve

Within the 135-acre Cascade Springs in southwestern Atlanta, you'll likely encounter wildlife, amazing views, and many historic sites. Here lies the lush greenery of one of the largest old-growth forests in Atlanta’s city limits.

An extensive walking trail network provides access to Utoy Creek — the site of one of many Civil War battles that raged around Atlanta and home to Cascade Falls. The preserve's ruins evoke a haunting connection to bygone years.

There's an auditorium, a pump house, a moss-covered historic springhouse, and the remnants of Civil War-era earthworks. Pet-friendly, free to explore, and open all year, it’s a popular hike for Atlanta natives and adventurous visitors alike.

Photographer: paulbr75

3. Stone Mountain Trail

One of the busiest Atlanta hikes wends from Centennial Park through several intervening neighborhoods and communities. Follow this paved trail, and you'll arrive at the Civil War site known as Stone Mountain Park.

Stone Mountain Trail is one of our favorite spots and is best known for its picturesque greenways that pass through Freedom and Candler Parks. But the trail as a whole comprises a full 19-mile stretch of car-free paths and street-level bike lanes that reach from Midtown Atlanta to the trail’s namesake destination.

Along this route, you can get a stunning view of skyscrapers and landmarks, such as the Carter Center and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. The final destination leads to the “big rock” — Stone Mountain itself. This challenging route provides urban and natural scenery, and you won’t mind the vigorous workout — until perhaps the next day.

4. Sweetwater Creek State Park

This tranquil tract of nature showcases rugged hills and stony outcroppings. Sweetwater Creek State Park is located a few minutes from downtown Atlanta. It hosts a wooded trail to the storied ruins of a textile mill — a casualty of the Civil War — that once belonged to the New Manchester Manufacturing Company.

A system of trails connects to further field and forest sites with hardwoods and ferns, magnolias, and wild azaleas. Park rangers lead a schedule of regular walks, hikes, and class activities that illuminate this area's past. The George Sparks Reservoir within the park is a popular fishing destination.

During the warm months, the park provides rentals and plenty of support for fishing boats, canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, and pedal boats.

The Visitor Center has set a nationwide standard for ecologically responsible architecture and construction while offering historical exhibits and wildlife displays.

5. Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park

Kennesaw Mountain, the tallest mountain near the city, saw the last great confrontation between Sherman’s army and the Confederacy before the fall of Atlanta. This Civil War historical site was designated a National Battlefield in 1917.

Although, the nearly 3,000-acre park is more than just a place for history buffs. Today, despite the violence that marks its past, Kennesaw’s mountain trails are great destinations for picnics or cycling. You can also take your pup along the 18 miles of dog-friendly hiking trails.

At Kennesaw, you can learn about the Civil War and its legacy up close. Hike Kennesaw Mountain, and get a taste of the literal uphill struggle troops faced during the long-ago conflict.

You can visit 11 miles of preserved earthworks or pop into the Visitors Center to view a documentary about the tale of the battle. Guided hikes, demonstrations, talks, and Living History events are also offered year-round.

Photographer: Nikhil Mistry

6. Lullwater Preserve

This 154-acre nature preserve occupies the center of the Emory University campus, and it's accessible to members of the broader community of Atlanta who want to explore its scenic byways.

Lullwater Preserve is full of green spaces and wildlife within miles of well-maintained trails. The Lullwater House mansion — accessible by a 210-foot suspension bridge — the remains of an octagonal powerhouse and its accompanying spillway, and the waterfowl- and fish-rich Candler Lake are all accessible via this haven.

We think it’s the perfect serene retreat to prepare anyone for a return to the bustling city. And once you return, be sure to check out some of the live music scenes in Atlanta.

7. Sope Creek Trail

Sope Creek Trail is a verdant getaway just outside the city of Atlanta. It features several miles of picturesque trails for hikers, runners, and mountain bikers. However, it's mostly famous for the multistory Civil War ruins of a paper mill that looms within its precincts.

Not far from the mill is Sibley Pond, home to many species of large fish and turtles. Sope Creek Park is a part of the larger system of scenic parks in Atlanta and nature preserves known as the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. Its trails are easy to navigate, thanks to abundant maps and signposts.

8. Arabia Mountain PATH

The Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area lies just a few miles east of Atlanta. Dominated by a pair of mighty granite outcroppings, it offers heart-pumping activity for visitors.

A trail designed by the PATH Foundation hugs the rugged landscape and connects natural beauty with historical sites.

The Arabia Mountain PATH features around 30 miles of pathways paved for walking and cycling convenience. You won't want to miss this experience if you're a true enthusiast of Atlanta hikes.

Photographer: Sir Manuel

9. Doll’s Head Trail

Situated in Constitution Lakes Park near Atlanta, the Doll's Head Trail is a truly unique Atlanta hiking experience. Locals may describe the spot as “spooky” and “creepy.” Yet, it began as a project to clean up the grounds of an old abandoned brickyard.

It evolved into a combination of art installation and a preservation project, featuring a nature walk decorated with pieces of recycled litter and eponymous doll heads.

The hiking community has played its own part in gradually adding to these decorations, reusing found pieces of litter and lost objects. The result is a trail that’s extraordinarily clean, despite its rather haunted reputation.

As hikes go, it’s a short and simple loop that takes around a half hour to complete. But we think the memorable scenery more than compensates for the brevity.

10. Red Top Mountain State Park

Red Top Mountain State Park sits at Lake Allatoona's shores and offers all manner of outdoor attractions. With a 12,000-acre body of water, fishers, water skiers, and swimmers can appreciate the sandy beach nestled in a tree-sheltered cove.

If aquatics aren't your thing, the 15-plus miles of hiking trails are just as popular. If you're looking for an overnight stay, explore the spacious campgrounds.

Campers can lodge in rental cottages or a lakeside yurt. If you're a social traveler, bring your companions to the picnic and group shelters. You might just make some new friends along the way.

Discover Treasures of Natural Beauty In & Around Atlanta

Here, we’ve gathered 10 of the most unique spots for hiking in Atlanta, but this guide only scratches the surface. The next time you visit Atlanta, we urge you to explore these popular trails that are within easy reach of the Peach State’s largest metropolis. The North Georgia countryside and sightseeing opportunities around Atlanta will never disappoint.

After a tiring day of outdoor activities, you may want to rest your legs. What better way to unwind than to explore the frontiers of imagination? Experience our Atlanta shows to be immersed in otherworldly wonder. Our engaging stories will touch your heart as our acrobats mystify you with their performances.

Catch the excitement and immerse yourself in another world that will have you questioning reality and everything you thought you knew. When the show’s over, you won’t want to come back down to earth.

Photographer: Shelbie Fredericks

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