Top 10 Parks and Trails

Many of the most popular Georgia state parks, trails and nature centers are located within mere minutes of metropolitan Atlanta. As a result, locals and visitors alike are never too far from a relaxing day outdoors. Fishing, biking, and hiking in Georgia are all especially common pastimes, as well as rafting and kayaking in the local lakes and rivers.

Whether you are interested in North Georgia hiking along the Appalachian Mountain range, or exploring historic ruins along Sweetwater Creek, there is something for everyone here. Some parks even include additional amenities, such as community gardens, concert venues and fitness classes for the whole family to enjoy. Check out some of the top outdoor destinations in and around Atlanta below.

1.      Appalachian Trail

According to the Appalachian Trail map, Georgia is home to one end of this historic 2,200-mile mountain trail. Located just a couple of hours northeast of Atlanta, this spot provides avid hikers with a great start or end point for adventures on the Appalachian mountain range. Beginning at Springer Mountain, Georgia contains more than 76 miles of mountains and trails for locals and visitors to explore. Whether tackling the entire trail or just a day-long hike, both beginner and advanced hikers can enjoy this popular destination.

2.      Stone Mountain National Park

One of the many national parks in Georgia, what makes this site unique is that it is also considered a theme park. For nature lovers, the park offers 15 miles of natural trails to explore, as well as a 5-mile path around the base of the mountain. Scenic views can be found at the mountain’s summit, as well as near the historic covered bridge and grist mill.

For those interested in other recreational activities, Stone Mountain tickets include access to adventure courses, Segway tours, boat rentals, golf courses and camping grounds. This is a great location if you want to combine your love of nature with outdoor recreation, education and history. While attraction hours vary, Stone Mountain park hours are generally from 5 a.m. to midnight year-round.

3.      Piedmont Park Atlanta

One of the most popular parks in Atlanta is Piedmont Park Conservancy, located east of Midtown. Residents can enjoy bike paths and trails, as well as several free and paid fitness classes there. Among the 200 acres of land sits Clara Meer Lake, which is a great fishing spot.

In addition to the fitness and fishing activities available, the park also offers a wealth of other recreational amenities, from dog parks and green markets to sports and community gardens. You can even opt for one of the sightseeing tours to learn more about the park’s history and wildlife. You can also check out the nearby Atlanta Botanical Garden to get a glimpse of more local plant life during your visit.

4.      Central Park Atlanta

If you already enjoy exploring Old Fourth Ward for its trendy shops and industrial architecture, consider checking out one of the area’s popular parks, as well. Central Park offers some of the more leisurely hiking in Georgia, with 17 acres to explore.

The area also includes several sports fields and courts, as well as a playground for the kids. An indoor recreational center makes this a great spot for rainy day fun as well. If you enjoy attending local events, Central Park Atlanta is also home to several popular music festivals, including Shaky Beats and Shaky Knees.

5.      Chastain Park

If you’re interested in Northern Georgia hiking spots, this 268-acre park is located in Buckhead, a residential district just north of the Atlanta city center. This is a hotspot for residents interested in walking trails, horseback riding and golfing, as well as a slew of other recreational activities. Other popular features include the arts center and gymnasium.

In addition to the abundance of outdoor activities, the Chastain Park amphitheater is another reason that residents flock to this site. Also known as the Cadence Bank Amphitheater, this spot hosts regular concerts and events for locals and visitors to enjoy a variety of performances year-round.

6.      The Atlanta BeltLine

Once an old railway corridor, this network of multi-use trails now connects some of the city’s best parks and neighborhoods, including Piedmont Park and Old Fourth Ward. On an Atlanta BeltLine map, you can see how this 22-mile beltway encircles the metropolitan area with several miles of extensions. It is made up of five main trails, including:

  • Eastside Trail.
  • Westside Trail.
  • West End Trail.
  • Southwest Connector Spur Trail.
  • Northside Trail.

Each trail has something special to offer, whether you want to take advantage of the Atlanta BeltLine bike rental, scenic views or free fitness classes. Adventurous joggers can also check out the more rugged interim trails along the network, as construction of the project continues.

7.      Sweetwater Creek State Park

On the Georgia State Parks map, this 2,549-acre park can be found due west of metro Atlanta. Visitors hike the many trails around the park, as well as set up camp near the rocky hills and rapids of Sweetwater Creek. This area is also home to the George Sparks Reservoir, which offers 215 acres of fishing, kayaking and even paddle boarding.

One of the features that makes hiking in Georgia so unique is the historic ruins. In particular, this park contains the ruins of a textile mill once owned and operated by the New Manchester Manufacturing Company, which burned down during the Civil War. Now the ruins are surrounded by wildflowers and trails, and park rangers provide tours each year.

8. Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

This expansive park is centered about 30 minutes outside of the metropolitan area, and stretches for 45 miles along the riverbank of the Chattahoochee River. While many recreational activities are offered here, the biggest attraction is the river itself. On the Chattahoochee River map, the section that runs through this park became the first designated national water trail under the National Trails System Act of 1968.

This designation marks the river as an important spot that is worth preserving for future generations. From sunrise to sunset, you can choose to enjoy rafting, canoeing, kayaking and fishing along the river at your leisure. If you prefer more land-based activities, there are plenty of Chattahoochee trails in ATL to explore, as well. The park offers several areas for hiking and biking along the Cochran Shoals.

9.      East Palisades Trail

A little further south along the Chattahoochee River is an area known as the Palisades. This section of the national park offers a scenic spot for both hiking and kayaking. For those interested in more than a leisurely float down the river, the Palisades are renowned for their Class 1 and Class 2 whitewater rapids.

The East Palisades hiking trails in Georgia are also highly regarded. In fact, they are considered one of the best networks of trails to hike in metro Atlanta. Along this four mile network, you can encounter a small bamboo forest and historic ruins, as well as views of the river from towering overlooks.

10. Cascade Springs Nature Preserve

If you are interested in more historical spots for hiking in Georgia, this park is worth a visit. Cascade Springs is situated along Utoy Creek, a site which played a role in the Civil War. Hundreds of soldiers lost their lives during the Battle of Utoy Creek, but eventually this spot became known for the healing powers of the spring.

Now, visitors can hike the many trails around the 120-acre Atlanta park to view historic trenches and other ruins, as well as the wealth of wildlife. This park is also home to the waterfall known as Cascade Falls, and one of the largest old forests in the city.