Atlanta Archives - Urban Outdoors



When the weather gets as hot as it does in Atlanta, Georgia, there is no better escape than hopping in a boat and paddling down some of the most stunning waterways in the U.S. From tranquil creeks hidden under a canopy of trees to sparkling blue lakes, a day spent kayaking in Atlanta is an awesome way to explore the city’s natural beauty.

Canoeing and kayaking in Atlanta is plentiful and diverse. Full weekend trips and quick paddles are both ways you can spend your time exploring Atlanta. With so many great spots, it can be hard to navigate which ones will offer you the best outdoor experience! Below is our complete guide to the most beautiful places to go canoeing and kayaking in Atlanta.

Best Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking In & Around Atlanta

Chattahoochee River National Water Trail

As the first established National River Water Trail, paddling along the 48 miles of the Chattahoochee is an epic water adventure!

Beginning below Buford Dam, Chattahoochee offers some of the most beautiful sites in Atlanta! This spot is perfect for families and beginners looking to get outdoors. The Upper Chattahoochee River Blue Trail is especially good for novice paddlers. The river is relatively calm, although there are some Class I/II rapids along the route. The river is open for kayaking year-round, but water temperatures never really rise above 50 degrees- so make sure to bring a jacket.

With lush greenery on all sides, Chattahoochee is a prime spot for spotting wildlife and taking long, leisurely paddles. Visitors can also paddle past Civil War sites and historical mills while enjoying the beautiful scenery. With rich biodiversity and cool historical landmarks, there is certainly a lot to check out at Chattahoochee.

There are 17 different launch ramps along the river if you plan on bringing your own boat. Otherwise, you can rent all your kayak essentials from High Country Outfitters.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-85 N to I-985 N. Then, take exit 4 and continue on Buford Rd west towards the dam.

Sweetwater Creek State Park

Only minutes from downtown Atlanta, Sweetwater Creek State Park is a great spot for both history fans and kayak enthusiasts! With miles of outdoor trails, Sweetwater Creek State Park is known for its beautiful rocky bluffs and flowers.

Beginner kayakers will love this scenic creek. Its flat waters are surrounded by trees and flowers, and it is also super easy to navigate. Besides the sheer beauty of the park, visitors can also enjoy paddling past a textile mill from the Civil War Era and places used in filming The Hunger Games.

Sweetwater’s close proximity to the city makes it very convenient and accessible to all paddlers. If you have a limited amount of time but want to spend it outside, definitely check out Sweetwater Creek State Park. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful paddle or to catch some fish, kayaking in Atlanta has it all.

You can launch your own boat inside the park for free. Otherwise, you can rent kayaks, canoes and SUPs onsite.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-20 W and take exit 41 for Lee Rd. to Lithia Springs.

Kayakers love paddling around the flat waters of Sweetwater Creek State Park.
Kayakers can enjoy the calm waters of Sweetwater Creek State Park year-round. Photo Credit: rroberts41 (Flickr CC)

Ocmulgee River Trail

With over 200 miles of connected waterways, Ocmulgee River Trail gives you total control over how long you want your water adventure to last. With 25 access points, it is easy to enjoy the flat waters and Class I rapids of this epic waterway.

Ocmulgee River is ideal for longer paddling trips. There are tons of mini islands to explore and camp on. Wide-open blue waters, sand bars, and forested islands all come together to make Ocmulgee an awesome weekend destination. However, there are alligators in the lake and sometimes on the islands- be careful!

Before or after your kayak expedition, check out Little Ocmulgee State Park. These gorgeous acres have rustic cabins if you want to stay overnight.

You can launch your boat for free all along the river. Eventually, this river way turns into the Altamaha River. If you need to rent kayaks or are looking for a guided tour, Ocmulgee Outdoor Expeditions has you covered.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-75 S to GA-83 toward Monticello.

Lake Blue Ridge

The pristine aquamarine waters of Lake Blue Ridge make it one of the most beautiful mountain lakes to kayak in Atlanta. With 65 miles of shoreline and a connection to Chattahoochee National Forest, kayaking around Lake Blue Ridge must be on your list of places to explore in Atlanta this summer.

Lake Blue Ridge’s calm waters make it a serene spot for paddling of all kind. Locals and visitors alike love Lake Blue Ridge not only because of its unique water color, but also enjoy the National Forest, campsites, and miles of sandy beach shorelines.

There are two main entries to Lake Blue Ridge that offer different opportunities. First, the Day Use/Boat Ramp area provides easy access into the water and has short trails along the coastline. The other entrance, Morganton Point Recreation Area, has a beach and swimming area great for children, and is a more developed part of the coastline. While you can launch from both of these areas, the Day Use area is more rugged and focuses on the water and Morganton is better for families looking to set up camp.

You can launch your boat for free at Lake Blue Ridge. Or, you can rent gear and find guided tours of the area from Lake Blue Ridge Outfitters. Kayaking in Atlanta doesn’t get much better than this!

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-75 N to US-76 E and head to Lakeside Dr.

Kayaking in Atlanta's Ocmulgee River is a beautiful way to explore Atlanta's outdoors!
Families love kayaking down the beautiful Ocmulgee River in Atlanta! Photo Credit: Mark Strozier (Flickr CC)

Lake Allatoona

About 30 minutes from downtown Atlanta, the “Lake City” of Acworth is home to two amazing lakes for kayaking. Lake Acworth is a large outdoor space great for beginners. But for those looking for a challenge, I recommend Lake Allatoona.

Intermediate and advanced kayakers will love exploring Lake Allatoona. The lake touches Cobb, Bartow, and Cherokee counties and has views of the magnificent Red Top Mountain Area. In addition to these natural beauties, Lake Allatoona is also a famous Civil War battle site with historical markers along the route.

Visitors can enjoy paddling around the large lake area, or take a mile detour and enjoy the Allatoona Falls around Little River. Between the lake’s open waters and the Falls, avid kayakers will love paddling around Lake Allatoona.

There are a few full-service marinas and boat ramps on the shores of Lake Allatoona where you can launch your own boat for free. Otherwise, feel free to check out Lake Allatoona Kayak for kayak rentals and awesome guided tours.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-75 N and take the exit for Bells Ferry Rd. There are several boat ramps accessible from this branches off of this road close to the lake.

Chattooga River

Spend the day kayaking the Chattooga River. It has different sections to accommodate all ability levels. About 2.5 hours from downtown Atlanta, exploring the diverse Chattooga River is an awesome weekend getaway.

Beginners looking to go kayaking in Atlanta should check out Tugaloo Lake. Opening up into Lake Tugaloo, Chattooga River’s wild waters become nice and calm- perfect for novice paddlers. Tugaloo State Park is also an awesome outdoor destination.

Intermediate and advanced paddlers will have a blast kayaking the whitewater waves of the Chattooga River. Notorious for the legendary Five Falls, Chattooga River’s rocky whitewater runs provide epic trails for skilled kayakers.

You can launch your own boat on Chattooga River, but guided tours are recommended because of the rough waters. Chattooga Adventures has kayak rentals, whitewater tours, and weekend clinics to help you along this epic water adventure.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-85 N toward Gainesville, then take US-23 N toward Clayton. Tugaloo Lake is near Tallulah Falls, and the Chattooga river stretches the state border north of the lake.

Kayaking in Atlanta is an exciting adventure! You can explore tree-lines islands and little inlets too!
Lake Allatoona is one of the most scenic spots near Atlanta. Photo Credit: Sporadic (Flickr CC)

Tybee Island

Kayaking around Georgia’s Tybee Island is one of the best ways to explore the coast. Visitors can kayak and SUP around tons of different areas like marshes, creeks, estuaries, and more.

The southern end of Tybee Island is best for beginners. There, Tybee Creek and Chimney Creek have calm sheltered waters and sandbars which provide an easy and safe area for novice paddling. Novices and families may also enjoy the shorter scenic paddles around Little Tybee Island and Skidaway River.

Kayaking at Tybee Island also has great spots for more experienced paddlers too. Experienced paddlers can head to the north end of Tybee Island for more challenging waters that surround the historic lighthouse of northern Tybee, Cockspur Island and Fort Pulaski. Bonus- you can spot dolphins here too!

From the quiet waters of the marsh to the exciting ocean waves, Tybee Island has something for everyone! You can spend an afternoon paddling around the different areas or take longer trips out to nearby barrier islands.

You can launch your own boat at Tybee Island for free. Or, you can rent gear and take guided tours from North Island Surf & Kayak, a family-run business specializing in eco-tours of the area.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-75 S and then exit onto I-16 E toward Savannah. Continue on Islands Expy to US-80 E.

Altamaha River

Known as the “Little Amazon”, the Altamaha River is one of the mightiest river sources flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. Home to over 100 rare and endangered species, paddlers interested in wildlife and birdwatching should add the Altamaha to their list.

The Lower Altamaha is the best place for paddlers to go canoeing and kayaking in Atlanta. This section of the river has pretty tame waters and is surrounded by beautiful scenery and wildlife on both sides. Going downstream, paddlers can explore Stud Horse Creek, Lewis Creek, Rifle Cut, and Darien Creek- a stretch of about 17 miles.

Darien Creek, located at the mouth of Altamaha, is a favorite among paddlers. You can kayak to barrier islands, explore Georgia’s coast and the Altamaha’s flat waters all in one place! Kayaking along the Altamaha is usually done in large stretches for long paddle trips, but 29 different access points make it easy to get in and out whenever you choose.

You can launch your boat anywhere along the Altamaha for free, but it is best to steer clear of the raging water of the Upper Altamaha River. Rentals and guided tours are also available at Altamaha Coastal Tours.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-75 S toward Macon then continue to I-16 E and GA-169 S to the river.

Kayaking in Atlanta becomes an ocean adventure if you head out to Tybee Island! Sandy beaches all around!
Kayaking along the sandy beaches of Tybee Island is an awesome way to explore Georgia! Photo Credit: Simon Foot (Flickr CC)

Etowah River

Kayaking in Atlanta’s Etowah River is simply awe-inspiring. The Etowah River Water Trail is considered one of the most biodiverse rivers in the country and connects numerous historical landmarks, state forests, and conservation sites.

The Etowah River is relatively flat and an easy paddle for all abilities. As you paddle down the 136 miles that comprise the trail, you can pass cool sites like the Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site, and the natural landscapes of Dawson Forest, McGraw Ford, Allatoona and the Chattahoochee National Forest.

Besides these beautiful places, Etowah River has another hidden gem- the “underground river”. 3.5 miles from the Castleberry put-in in Dawsonville, an abandoned mining tunnel bridges together two sections of the river. Originally created to search for gold, the 1/4 mile tunnel makes for a spectacular water adventure if you’re brave enough to get to the other side! Please plan ahead and bring a flashlight for this journey, and check to make sure the tunnel is not blocked.

Between the abundance of wildlife, natural scenery, and unique places to explore, kayaking the Etowah River is a utopia for adventure-seekers. You can launch your own boat anywhere along the river for free. Or, you can rent gear from Euharlee Creek Outfitters.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-75 N toward Emerson and take GA-293 N to the river.

Yahoola Creek

Known as a whitewater kayak destination, Yahoola Creek is a fun place for intermediate and advanced kayakers to try out this summer.

Sections of Yahoola Creek have Class I to Class V rapids, so make sure you are prepared for a bumpy ride. Yahoola has two main gorges that have massive drops which make for an exciting ride. Twists and turns in the creek make turning every corner an adventure- rapids and drops come out of nowhere. That being said, it is best to have some experience paddling in rapids before tackling this hidden gem.

For less experienced paddlers, there is one portion of Yahoola Creek that is flat water. In addition to some epic kayaking, visitors also enjoy nearby Vogel State Park and hiking DeSoto Falls and the Blue Ridge Mountain area.

There are a few places to launch your boat for free on Yahoola Creek, but know that the rapids start right away. If you need to rent gear or want a guided tour of the area, check out Appalachian Outfitters. Kayaking Yahoola Creek will certainly leave you breathless!

How to Get There: If driving, take GA-400 N toward Chestatee, then take Yahoola Creek Farm Rd. to the water.

Yahoola Creek is absolutely beautiful in the fall! Kayaking in Atlanta is gorgeous under this fall foliage!
Kayaking at Yahoola Creek is gorgeous under this Fall foliage! Photo Credit: Betty Phillips (Flickr CC)

Lake Lanier

From regatta racing to luxury homes, Lake Lanier is one of the most popular destinations for canoeing and kayaking in Atlanta. Lake Lanier itself has wonderful waters for all ability levels, and its tributaries connect to more challenging portions of the Chattahoochee.

Paddling around Lake Lanier is certainly beautiful, but it is not the most remote or tranquil place to kayak. It has tons of lake activities for groups and families, making it a premier destination for outdoor lovers. With so many awesome programs, Lake Lanier is a great option for beginners or those looking for a more structured time paddling.

Around the lake, paddlers can cruise past luxury lake homes and cute houseboats on calm waters. Those looking for more rugged terrain should check out the tributaries connecting the lake to the Chattahoochee.

Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club offers rentals, tours, and classes for all ages. Visitors especially love the Moonlight Paddles where you can explore Lake Lanier’s natural beauty under the stars! Or, you can launch your own boat for free.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-85 N toward Gainesville. Then, take Jim Crow Rd. to Old Federal Rd.

Chestatee River

Perhaps the best adventure for beginners in Atlanta, kayaking Chestatee River has the perfect water conditions for novice paddlers to feel confident in their skills. The river, however, is still exciting for advanced kayakers too.

Located about an hour outside of downtown Atlanta, the serenity of Chestatee River makes it feel like you’re a million miles away. The river is about 6.5 miles long, which takes roughly three hours to paddle for beginners. Chestatee’s waters are calm throughout with some Class I rapids to keep things interesting at the beginning and end of the route.

Chestatee River is perfectly laid out for a relaxing afternoon or day trip. About halfway down the river, Big Bend Beach is a sandy oasis where you can take a break and have some lunch. After that, it is smooth sailing until the last few rapids at the end before the boat ramp.

You can launch your own boat for free. Or, you can rent gear and take guided tours with Chestatee River Adventures. This spot should definitely be on your list if you are a beginner ready to put your skills to the test!

How to Get There: If driving, take GA-400 N to US-19 N and turn onto River Knoll Way.

Chestatee River is a beautiful spot to enjoy a relaxing paddle this summer! Kayaking in Atlanta is such a fun outdoor activity!
The Chestatee River is a wonderful spot for families to enjoy the outdoors together! Photo Credit: Georgia Sierra Club (Flickr CC)

Fort Yargo State Park

Visiting Fort Yargo State Park is the urban escape everyone is looking for this Summer! From the park’s wide-open waters to beautiful hiking trails, a day spent kayaking in Fort Yargo has no shortage of activities to try.

Fort Yargo State Park features two boat ramps for easy access to the water. Most visitors prefer using the ramp at the end of the park near the luxury yurts for the most scenic waterfront views. Paddlers can peruse the sandy beaches and enjoy miles of coastline on flat water.

After your relaxing paddle around the lake, make sure to check out Old Fort Yargo. Originally built as a defense against Cherokee and Creek tribes, it is now a historical landmark any history buff would enjoy.

With hundreds of acres of land, Fort Yargo State Park is a wonderful getaway with tons of outdoor recreational activities. Visitors love spending the day kayaking around the beach and staying overnight in the luxury yurts and cottages on the park grounds.

You can launch your own boat for free at either boat ramp in the park. Otherwise, you can rent kayaks and SUPS at Fort Yargo State Park.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-85 N toward Athens, then Highway 316 E. Turn onto GA-81 N and head to Yargo Area B Rd.

Morgan Falls Overlook Park

For families and novice paddlers, I would definitely recommend going canoeing, paddle boarding, or kayaking at Morgan Falls Overlook Park. Situated on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, Morgan Falls’ quiet creeks and tributaries provide easier paddling with amazing views.

Unlike other parks along the Chattahoochee, visitors can swim and paddle board at Morgan Falls. A new playground and fire pit also make it a wonderful destination for a low-key family get together. Kayaking this part of the river, technically called Blue Sluice Lake, takes about 2.5 hours. Paddlers can explore nearby marshlands and spot tons of wildlife along the coast.

If you’re looking for a low-key spot to get out on the water, Morgan Falls Overlook Park is an awesome place to explore this summer. Between the lake’s natural beauty and easy hikes along the shoreline, Morgan Falls Overlook Park is a wonderful spot for families to enjoy the outdoors together. Bonus- it isn’t too well known, so you will probably have the lake to yourself!

You can launch your boat here for free. Or, you can rent kayaks at High County Outfitters.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-85 N and take exit 5B toward Sandy Springs. Then, take Roswell Rd. to Morgan Falls Rd.

Kayaking in Atlanta's marshes is great way to see diverse wildlife!
Kayaking around Atlanta’s marshes is great way to spot wildlife! Photo Credit: Adriaan Greyling (Pexels)

Additional Resources

What to Pack for Kayaking in Atlanta

  • Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare men’s and women’s styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
  • Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses and croakies to keep them from falling off.
  • Hat: It’s best to keep the sun off of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
  • Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip with these cool water bottles.
  • Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray in the boat with you to ward off any pests and sunburns.

For a more complete packing list, check out our ultimate kayaking packing list to help you prepare for all of your outdoor kayak adventures. These essentials will make your time kayaking and canoeing an unforgettable experience!

Related Links to Kayaking in Atlanta

Atlanta might seem like a big city with a vast spread of suburbs, but if you take a closer look, you’ll find plenty of urban outdoor adventures to try here. One of the best ways to spend time outdoors is by hiking in Atlanta and exploring its many trails, forests, and rocky terrain. Many of the hikes in Atlanta will bring you through hills and mountains, to historic factories and mills, and past some pretty scenic waterfalls and stone formations. The scenery here amidst the backdrop of the Appalachian Mountains is so surreal! Our guide includes 15 of the best hikes near Atlanta to help you plan your next outdoors.

Looking for the perfect gift for your favorite hiker? Here’s a comprehensive list of our
35 favorite (practical) gifts for hikers, updated for 2020!

Vickery Falls Trail - Hiking in Atlanta, GA
Vickery Creek Trail, with beautiful waterfall views

Easy Hikes in Atlanta

Vickery Creek Trail

For a nature-filled area that’s in the middle of the action, the Vickery Creek Trail is one of the easiest to get to hikes in Atlanta. While it’s not completely secluded from people, cars, or homes, the trails wind around in a lovely loop through the forest and along the shores of Vickery Creek. The main highlights on the trail include a wide waterfall that served formerly as a dam, and a scenic, historic bridge that crosses the water.

Sope Creek Trail

There are several historic hikes in Atlanta, and one of the most accessible and fun ones is the Sope Creek Trail. Here, hikers of all levels can take a leisurely walk through the forest and admire the massive ruins of a paper mill, the brick walls of this multi-story structure still largely in place. Additionally, you’ll find a creek and beautiful forest areas, perfect for a shady hike in the warmer months of the year.

Photo Credit: Cody Wellons (Flickr CC)

Cascade Springs Nature Preserve

  • Trail Distance: 1.9 miles
  • Location: Southwest Atlanta

For an easy, family-friendly trail, head to Cascade Springs Nature Preserve to explore around these forested hiking trails in Atlanta. On-site, you’ll find 1.9 miles of trails that take you to a cute, hidden waterfall and grotto, several historic ruins, an amphitheater, and lush green forest areas. As you make your way through this forested path, there are also plenty of opportunities to view wildlife, including turtles and deer.

Photo Credit: Shane Clements (Flickr CC)

Moderate Hiking in Atlanta

Sweetwater Creek Trail

  • Trail Distance: 1.9 miles
  • Location: Sweetwater Creek State Park

As one of the most beloved spots for hiking in Atlanta, the Sweetwater Creek Red Trail is a beautiful, hilly hike that takes you to a diverse set of landmarks and views. History lovers will enjoy seeing ruins of historic brick buildings, while nature lovers will be thrilled at the wildlife viewing opportunities and beautiful views of waterfalls, the forest, and the creek.

While the trail is well-maintained, there are several areas with hilly terrain and stairs, so be sure to wear sturdy shoes and plan to sweat a bit!

Island Ford Loop Trail

  • Trail Distance: 5.4 miles
  • Location: Island Ford Park

Perfect for hikers who want to explore a bit longer, the Island Ford Trail is a beautiful haven for wildlife and nature lovers looking to escape urban Atlanta for a little while. This trail is very shady and has opportunities to see turtles, deer, and a wide variety of birds. Plus, there are waterfalls, wildflowers, and views of the Chattahoochee River’s teal waters. Note that the trail can get quite muddy after rain, so come prepared with waterproof hiking boots and thick socks if that’s the case!

East Palisades Trail - Hikes in Atlanta, GA
Photo Credit: Bradley Huchteman (Flickr CC)

East Palisades Trail

For lovely views of the city skyline juxtaposed with the beauty of the Chattahoochee River, the East Palisades Trail is a fantastic place to start. This moderate trail is accessible to all levels of hikers, but does have a few ascents that can provide a bit of a workout! Locals love this trail because it is dog-friendly, shaded, and has beautiful and diverse views of the Chattahoochee River, the nearby forests, and the surrounding hills.

Sawnee Mountain Indian Seats Trail

  • Trail Distance: 3.1 miles
  • Location: Sawnee Mountain Preserve

If you’re looking for a hike with panoramic views, the Indian Seats Trail at Sawnee Mountain is a fantastic spot for hiking in Atlanta. Situated on a mountaintop, the trail takes you through the forest to some epic views of the surrounding countryside, where you can see down into some nearby neighborhoods, nearby waterways, and more mountains off into the distance. While the trail is rated as moderate, this hike is accessible to all levels who want a bit of a challenge with some excellent views as a reward.

Photo Credit: D Wright (Flickr CC)

Stone Mountain Walk Up & Cherokee Trail Loop

  • Trail Distance: 4.9 miles
  • Location: Stone Mountain Park

As one of the most popular hikes in Atlanta, Stone Mountain Walk Up & Cherokee Trail is an adrenaline-inducing and fun adventure for the intrepid folks out there. With a mix of paved and dirt trails, the hike features beautiful wooded areas, historic ruins (including a former mill!), and a trek to the top of Stone Mountain.

This hike is a fun challenge for adventurous hikers – there are a few steep inclines and the summit requires a bit of a scramble (yes, “Walk Up” is definitely a misnomer). However, the views and the thrill of the hike are well worth the effort!

Tennessee Rock Trail

  • Trail Distance: 2.2 miles
  • Location: Black Rock Mountain State Park

For a more serene, less crowded hiking experience, the Tennessee Rock Trail is one of the most peaceful hikes in Atlanta. This trail is densely forested and has plenty of shade as you make your way up to the top of the overlook, where you’ll catch sweeping views of the Appalachian Mountains surrounding Black Rock Mountain State Park. While the trail does have some ascents and descents, we’d recommend it for hikers of all levels who want to see some of the best views in the Atlanta area!

Photo Credit: G. Dawson (Flickr CC)

Arabia Mountain Top Trail

  • Trail Distance: 1.3-3.8 miles
  • Location: Arabia Mountain Park

One of the most unique places for hiking in Atlanta is the Arabia Mountain Trail. The trail itself is just 1.3 miles, but can be combined with the Klondike and Forest Trails pathways to make a 3.8 mile loop. Arabia Mountain is unique because the first portion of the trail requires traversing a granite slab. Locals call it a “moon-like landscape” because it’s wide and barren, unlike the many wooded trails in this area. Along the hike, you’ll find waterfalls, rocky terrain, and some historic ruins, which add to the variety and uniqueness of the trails.

Sitton’s Gulch Trail

  • Trail Distance: 5 miles
  • Location: Cloudland Canyon State Park

Waterfall lovers rejoice – Sitton’s Gulch Trail is the perfect spot for waterfall viewing and hiking near Atlanta. This beautiful, 5-mile hiking trail offers views of several waterfalls (this part of the trail is aptly named the “Waterfall Trail” for a reason!), as well as dirt paths connected by scenic wooden bridges. The lush, mossy forest provides a fantastic backdrop for seasonal wildflowers and nearby wildlife. Additionally, you’ll find spectacular views of Cloudland Canyon State Park, one of Georgia’s most beloved places for wild, rugged scenery.

Photo Credit: Anish Patel (Flickr CC)

Challenging Trails for Hiking near Atlanta

Blood Mountain

  • Trail Distance: 4.3 miles
  • Location: Vogel State Park

Did you know that you can find challenging hikes in Atlanta? Among locals, the Blood Mountain trail is a scenic favorite. This difficult hike offers absolutely stunning views, from a picturesque, moss-lined forest creek with tiny waterfalls to sweeping views of the Appalachian Mountains. The coolest part? This trail is technically part of the Appalachian Trail, meaning that you’re hiking a double-whammy when you tackle the Blood Mountain trail.

Photo Credit: Stephen Rahn (Flickr CC)

Brasstown Bald/Arkaquah Trail

  • Trail Distance: Up to 12 miles
  • Location: Brasstown Wilderness

For a day full of stunning Appalachian Mountain views, there are few better trails than those in the Brasstown Wilderness. If you are limited on time, the short Brasstown Bald trail leads hikers up an incline to a stunning overlook, where fog engulfs the valleys below in the early morning light. A longer addition to this hike would be to continue on the Arkaquah Trail for some or all of the 11 miles it extends, out and back through the forest with even more spectacular views of the nearby mountaintops.

Photo Credit: Ryan McKee (Flickr CC)

Len Foote Hike Inn & Amicalola Falls

Arguably the coolest hiking experience near Atlanta, the Len Foote Hike Inn Trail is a backcountry inn that offers shelter and food to hikers along the Appalachian Trail. Yes, you can book a room there and hike in ~5 miles to spend the night!

The reward of reaching the Len Foote Hike Inn doesn’t come without some effort – this challenging trail has a lot of steep inclines and terrain variations to keep you on your toes. Along the way, you’ll pass the breathtaking Amicalola Falls, which is Georgia’s tallest waterfall, cascading a whopping 720 feet from the top of a rocky cliff.

Pine Mountain Trail (Allatoona Lake)

  • Trail Distance: 22.2 miles
  • Location: F. D. Roosevelt State Park

Counting in as the longest trail on our list, the Pine Mountain Trail is a whopper of a trail that winds through F.D. Roosevelt State Park. This rugged trail contains over 22 miles of forested areas, mountain views, and waterfalls. While the Pine Mountain Trail can technically be done in just one day, we’d recommend turning this trail into a multi-day backpacking and camping experience. Many people choose to take 2 days to complete this trail, and there are campsites along the way that you can set up camp in, enjoying the sunset and sunrise views through the trees.

Lookout Mountain, Georgia, USA at High Falls during autumn.

Additional Resources for Hiking in Atlanta

What to Bring Hiking in Atlanta

  • Hiking boots – You can’t hike without appropriate footwear, period. For most trails, we recommend an all-purpose waterproof boot with ankle support. We recommend Salomon hiking boots or Keen hiking boots for a comfortable hike.
  • Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to stay cool in a sweat-wicking shirt/tank top and breathable pants, like these PrAna hiking pants for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers, an insulated puffer jacket, and a waterproof outer shell. And don’t forget a pair of the best hiking socks in the world!
  • Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we recommend throwing them in your car anyway just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond foldable trekking poles, which are lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To spare disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask bottles because they keep water cold for hours, but a good old Nalgene works very well too.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray – This should be self-explanatory, but sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects.
  • A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
  • Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
  • Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend Osprey day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes.

Wondering what exactly you should pack for your next hike? Visit our Complete Day Hiking Packing List for our full list and our top gear recommendations.

Related Links