Hiking Near Atlanta: 11 Must-Do Trails for Nature Lovers

You probably know all about Atlanta’s fantastic dining, shopping, and entertainment, but what about all the gorgeous hikes close to the Atlanta metro area? Want to learn more then read on!

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Written by: | Reviewed by: Kieran James Cunningham
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If you’re looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of Atlanta, head to Georgia’s lush woods and rolling hills for a bit of hiking! With such gems as the Talladega Forest, Stone Mountain, and the world-famous Appalachian Trail all within easy driving distance, there’s plenty of awesome hiking to be enjoyed without venturing too far.

In this guide, we give you the lowdown on our 11 favorite trails in the area. Whether you’re a day-tripper, a weekend warrior, or a seasoned peak bagger, there’s a trail on our list to suit every type of outdoor adventurer!

RELATED READING: For more outdoor adventure check out our guide to some of the best hikes in Georgia.

1. Arabia Mountain Top Trail

Arabia Mountain
This otherworldly hike takes you through fields of exposed granite and past two scenic lakes on the way to a panoramic summit.
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 1.3 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

The unique geology and landscapes you’ll encounter along the Arabia Mountain Top Trail create an almost unworldly experience. The trail is located in the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, where fields of exposed granite and red diamorpha will have you feeling like you’re on a whole other planet instead of just 30 minutes away from downtown Atlanta. 

Despite its short distance, the Top Trail will take you to the top of Arabia Mountain. This is an easy, family-friendly hike where you’ll encounter unusual and picturesque landscapes, an abundance of flora and fauna, and sublime, 360-degree views at the summit. 

You’ll find ample parking at the Nature Center parking area just off Klondike Road. Remember to stay on the cairn-marked trail during your trek. The Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area hosts an incredibly important, yet fragile, ecosystem, so it’s important to protect the rare and unique plants that line the trail. 

2. Powers Island Trail, Chattahoochee River

Powers Island Trail
A mellow but enjoyable trail that’s suitable for all the family. Photo by Shawn Taylor / CC BY 2.0
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 2.5 miles 
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Located in the heart of the Chattahoochee-Oconee Forest, the Powers Island Trail is a quiet and secluded trek that offers city dwellers the perfect opportunity to escape the city and enjoy nature. This 2.5-mile loop begins on a densely wooded path before a metal bridge nestled amongst the foliage brings you to Powers Island. 

The Island is named after James Powers, a 19th-century operator of the ferry that once provided the only route across the Chattahoochee River to the island. The trail completes a loop of the entire island before rounding back to the entryway bridge. The forest-lined pathways are well-maintained but narrow in places.

While there are many other trails to explore in the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area, few offer the serene and scenic landscapes that the Powers Island Trail does. The trail is accessible year-round, dog-friendly, and offers the perfect degree of challenge for any novice hiker. 

3. Vickery Creek Trail, Roswell Mill

Vickery Creek Trail, Roswell Mill
Scenic waterfalls, Civil War ruins, and an enchanting forest are just a few of the highlights of this short but rewarding hike.
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 4.7 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate

There’s a whole lot to love about the Vickery Creek Trail. A rushing waterfall, two Civil War ruins, and a rustic bridge make up just a piece of what you’ll find hidden amongst the densely-wooded trails.

Start your journey from the trailhead on Riverside Road in the town of Roswell. The path slowly winds its way along Vickery Creek, but to reach the two historic mills and the Roswell dam you’ll have to venture down some side trails. Marked trail posts at each intersection will guide your way. 

The beauty of this trek is that even if you get lost, it doesn’t matter. There’s something scenic or historical to discover around every bend. Complete this nearly 5-mile loop for a moderately difficult trek or get inspired by the lush Georgia landscapes and make up your own adventure as you go! 

4. East Palisades Trail, Chattahoochee River

East Palisades Trail
One of the most picturesque stretches of the Chattahoochee River. Photo by TranceMist / CC BY 2.0
  • Type: Loop 
  • Distance: 4.5 miles 
  • Difficulty: Moderate

We’ve got one last trek along the Chattahoochee River before we leave this enchanting forest behind. 

The East Palisades Trail is a popular route in the Chattahoochee River’s Palisades section. The trail is dotted with exciting things to see and do, including a trip through a bamboo forest, ruins of stone buildings, a swimming hole, a dog park, and bluffs with stunning views of the whitewater rapids below. 

Start your journey at the trailhead near Buckhead. From here, the route heads southward until hitting the roaring Chattahoochee River. It then follows the sandy banks of the Long Island Creek, a small tributary of the Chattahoochee, and eventually retraces its steps back to the trailhead. 

A vast network of trails runs through this area, so follow the maps at each intersection closely to avoid veering off-route. 

5. Pine Mountain Trail (near Allatoona Lake)

Pine Mountain Trail
Serves up sweeping views of Lake Allatoona, Stone Mountain, and Kennesaw Mountain.
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 4.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate – Challenging 

Just 40 miles away from midtown Atlanta, Pine Mountain offers the opportunity to conquer a mountain summit and be home in time for dinner. 

The route winds and climbs its way through a rugged pine forest before eventually reaching the summit of Cartersville’s Pine Mountain. While the PMT is well-marked, wide and manageable, Pine Mountain’s steep elevation makes it best suited for more seasoned hikers. 

You’ll find the west trailhead for this route near Komatsu Drive in Cartersville, north of Atlanta. 

The elevation gain is steep, with a tough, 675-ft climb through a series of switchbacks to the mountain’s summit. The views, however, are well worth the quad-busting climb! As you near the top, the forest’s canopy opens up to reveal stunning views of the valley below and Lake Allatoona in the distance. 

6. Sawnee Mountain Indian Seats Trail

sawnee mountain 1
This hike offers some of the best views in North Georgia. Photo by Manish Vohra / CC BY-ND 2.0
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate

The Indian Seats is a fascinating natural rock formation found at the top of the trail system of the Sawnee Mountains. If you want to check them out, you can do so on the Indian Seats Mountain Trail. Along the way, you’ll pass by several abandoned gold mines and enjoy breathtaking views of the commanding Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. 

You’ll find the trailhead next to the Sawnee Mountain Preserve Visitor Center, where you can also learn about the park’s rich history, from the story of the local Cherokee and Creek tribes to the park’s role in the Georgia Gold Rush. While hiking, keep an eye out for natural depressions in the rock that were once used as places of spiritual worship and meditation by local tribes. 

The entire round trip from the trailhead to the Indian Seats and back again will take you roughly 1.5 to 2 hours and you can check out our full guide to hiking Sawnee Mountain.

7. Sope Creek Trail

Sope Creek Trail
One for the history buffs (and none too shabby for nature lovers, too)!
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 1.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

Take a leisurely walk along Sope Creek and uncover some fascinating Civil War history at the old stone mill. A paved trail makes for easy walking and the park’s vast network of trails offers you ample choice to lengthen your stay. Its short distance and convenient location close to Atlanta make Sope Creek the perfect choice for ditching the city and getting back to nature. 

The hike starts from the Sope Creek Parking Lot just off Paper Mill Rd. In less than a mile, you’ll encounter the towering ruins of the 19th-century Marietta Paper Mill, which met its end at the hands of Union troops during the Civil War. From here, the route continues to the quaint Sibley Pond before looping back to the trailhead. 

8. Sweetwater Creek Red Trail, Sweetwater Creek State Park

Sweetwater Creek Red Trail
Enjoy more natural beauty in two miles than most trails can deliver in ten!
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Distance: 2.3 miles 
  • Difficulty: Easy 

Just 25 miles west of the downtown Atlanta area, Sweetwater Creek State Park offers endless opportunities for outdoor adventures. The most popular hike in this state park is the Red Trail, which provides an epic journey along the banks of a whitewater creek and the chance to explore the 150-year-old New Manchester Mill Ruins. 

Your journey starts at Sweetwater Creek State Park Interpretive Center. 

From the trailhead, make your way to the boulder-strewn banks of Sweetwater Creek. Follow the creek downstream until you reach the ruins of the old mill. The mill once played a fundamental part in producing yarn for the Confederate South, enticing Union soldiers to burn it down when they captured the area. 

From here on out, the path becomes increasingly rocky, and you’ll encounter several large outcrops that must be climbed over. Those unsure of their footing should consider turning back, although you’ll miss out on the two outlooks located at the end of the hike. 

9. Kennesaw Mountain Trails

Kennesaw Mountain
Take your pick between rugged and paved trails in this charming, historically fascinating corner of Cobb County.
  • Type: Network of trails
  • Distance: 1.5 miles to 11 miles 
  • Difficulty: Easy to Challenging 

It’s hard to imagine that the beautiful, rolling hillsides of Kennesaw Mountain were once the site of a bloody, Civil War battle. Thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers lost their lives in this serene countryside in a grueling 14-day battle.

Today, Kennesaw Mountain serves as both a sobering history lesson and a place to relax and enjoy the quintessential Georgia countryside. The area has several hikes of varying distances and difficulties, so everyone from weekend warriors to experienced hikers can find something that suits their ability level.

Beginners should try the 1.5-mile Environmental Trek for a short, family-friendly hike. Seasoned hikers can tackle the 11-mile Battlefield Trail for an all-day adventure and a more serious challenge.

10. Stone Mountain Cherokee and Walk-up Trails, Stone Mountain Park

Stone Mountain Cherokee
A testing, popular hike to the top of a mesmerizing granite monolith.
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 6.8 miles
  • Difficulty: Challenging

Stone Mountain Park has two scenic paths that will guide you to the summit of the towering Stone Mountain. From the base of the mountain, we recommend taking the Walk-Up Trail to the summit. This is a challenging, steep climb through the mountain’s granite landscape and wildflower meadows and is better tackled on the ascent than the descent. 

This is a popular hike, so expect to share the summit with other weary travelers, especially during the peak season. 

Once you’ve had your fill of the sublime mountaintop views, retrace your steps until you reach the Cherokee Trailhead. This part of the hike is considerably easier, winding its way down from the summit gently through a sparse pine forest and wind-swept landscape. 

11. Blood Mountain

Blood Mountain
Expect awesome views from the top of the tallest mountain on the Georgia section of the AT.
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Distance: 4.3 miles
  • Difficulty: Challenging 

It’s hard to beat the breathtaking panoramas you’ll witness on the way to the summit of Blood Mountain, the highest peak in the Georgia section of the world-famous Appalachian Trail. 

Your journey starts at the Byron Reece Trailhead. Expect a grueling workout as you climb 400ft before reaching the intersection of the AT. From here on out you’ll find rocky terrain and tight switchbacks, but you’ll be rewarded with stunning views from the mountain’s higher elevations. 

You’ll know you’re at the summit when you find the rock building created by the Civilization Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Take in the views and rest your legs before returning to the same path.

RELATED READING: If you fancy some pretty waterfalls then check out our guide to hiking Helton Creek Falls.

Hiking Near Atlanta!

We know Atlanta’s all that for dining and shopping, but we hope our guide has illustrated that there are some pretty fantastic hiking trails near the heart of Georgia too! From the mighty AT to the Blue Ridge Mountains, any of these hikes will quench your thirst for outdoorsy adventure.

If you’ve got any questions or comments about our hiking near Atlanta, feel free to share them with us below. Don’t forget to share this list with all your friends so they can get in on the fun, too. See ya on the trails!

More Outdoor Fun in Georgia

Last update on 2023-05-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Jolanda Lapegna Avatar

Jolanda is a full-time writer and life-long outdoor enthusiast. Growing up on a small island off the Eastern Canadian coast, she spent most of her childhood hiking, swimming and fishing in the Atlantic ocean.

After a short stint in the corporate world, Jolanda quit her day job to write full-time and check out what lies beyond the Canadian shores. Ever since, she’s been hiking, biking and kayaking her way across 11 European countries and counting.

Jolanda currently lives in the beautiful, Tuscan countryside. When she isn’t hanging out in the woods or at the beach, you’ll catch her foraging for mushrooms and truffles with her truffle-dog, Red.

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