Atlanta Outdoors

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Atlanta's location in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains means it is the perfect starting point for sublime hiking adventures. The Appalachian Trail's southern terminus is just 70-odd miles north of Atlanta at Springer Mountain, and the AT is only one trail among many in the Peach State.

The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area affords bi-pedal enthusiasts interesting opportunities without leaving the city. Two palisades hikes offer about five miles each of true "country in the city" walking.

In addition to the hundreds of fantastic hikes to be found in the State Parks and other locations, Georgia also offers the Bartram National Recreation Trail, near Clayton, Ga. Underappreciated, the less crowded Bartram Trail covers much of the same spectacular terrain as the Appalachian Trail in Georgia and North Carolina. More hiking trails can be found in the Chattahoochee National Forest. A beautiful area in which to put in some miles is along the famous Chattooga River, where hikers can tread more than 50 miles of trails which traverse three states: North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

Atlanta humans often walk their best friends along the recreation area's trails, although there has been some discussion on banning dogs from the Recreation Area. South of Atlanta, canines and their companions perambulate in pleasant places in Henry and Clayton Counties.

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is situated literally within minutes of Atlanta, and offers moderate to strenuous trails. Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, located in northwestern Georgia, offers even more history and hiking.

Other great hikes only a stone's throw from the city are Sweetwater Creek State Park and Panola Mountain and Cloudland Canyon, with its great sandstone bluffs and dramatic sheer canyon walls, south-southwest of Chattanooga, TN and Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.

Anna Ruby Falls, near Helen, Ga., in central North Georgia, is accessible via a short paved trail. But serious hikers can continue from the falls along 4.6 mile Smith Creek Trail to Little Brook campground.


Georgia offers a multitude of mountain biking trails, from flat, smooth and easy to heart-stoppingly steep and challenging. Bikers in the Atlanta area have to go only as far as Woodstock, Ga., on the far fringes of the city's suburbs, to find terrific trails along the Little River. 'Way up in the mountains of northeast Georgia, near the little village of Tiger, is a great mountain biking trip: Stonewall Loop Mountain Bike Trail, in the Chattahoochee National Forest.

There aren't any big mountains around Macon, but there is still plenty for a mountain biker to love. Three rides in and around Macon include rough and rocky Thunder Scout Trail and two great rides in unlikely places. One is the Thomson Company Trail, in an industrial park, and the other is on the grounds of the Hephzibah Children's Home.


It would take a long time for an avid paddler to grow weary of Atlanta-area offerings. The Chattahoochee River flows right through the city, and numerous other rivers are within easy distance, such as Talking Rock Creek, near Ellijay, the Cartecay, the Conasauga, and others. Just a couple of hours in the car will take paddlers to the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River, which offers challenges aplenty. See the camping information below for a list of lakes to paddle.

The Nantahala River in North Carolina is legendary, and in Alabama, the Little River Canyon National Preserve is a destination for paddlers.


Atlanta's rock climbers can find a lot to keep themselves busy right in the city. Local universities such as Georgia Tech have artificial walls, as do a number of commercial climbing companies. There are even a number of natural sites in town for some nice urban climbing. Natural climbing is available at Allenbrook, the old Southern mansion which is headquarters of Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. The climbing is good at Mt. Yonah, near Cleveland, Ga., and Tallulah Falls and Gorge. Not far is Little River Canyon National Preserve in Alabama.


The places to camp in Georgia are innumerable. From backcountry camping along the state's trails to developed campground camping in State Parks and National Forests, an avid outdoor adventurer need never sleep on a bed again! For example, the heavily wooded Desoto Falls Campground in Cleveland, Ga. is well-located for exploring the central Chattahoochee National Forest. Dockery Lake Campground, near Dahlonega, Ga., is an outdoor-lover's dream: the lake is stocked with trout, and 3.4-mile Dockery Lake Trail leads to Miller Gap and the Appalachian Trail. Fort Mountain State Park in Chatsworth, Ga. is the site of an unsolved mystery: a strange, ancient 855-foot wall, broken at regular intervals by circular pits. Also in Chatsworth, Lake Conasauga Campground boasts Georgia's highest lake, the cleanest water and access to the Cohutta Wilderness, the Peach State's largest wilderness area.

The Chattahoochee National Forest and Oconee National Forest offer more than 500 developed campsites in total. Other campgrounds can be found at Georgia's many recreational lakes, such as Allatoona Lake and Lake Lanier.

In nearby states, folks into tents and sleeping bags can go to Tennessee and North Carolina, to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Nantahala National Forest, and Cherokee National Forest, where camping opportunities abound. A shorter drive away is Talladega National Forest, in Alabama, directly west of Atlanta, with a number of developed campgrounds and primitive camping.


The Conasauga River is the most pristine major trout stream in Georgia. In fact, several years back Trout magazine, the national publication of Trout Unlimited, named the Conasauga one of the top 100 trout streams in the United States. The Conasauga is just one satsifying angling destination in Georgia: there are also numerous lakes where the fishing is good. Three examples are Allatoona Lake, West Point Lake and Richard B. Russell Lake.


Nearly every outdoor endeavor in Georgia offers the opportunity to view wildlife. One special place to do so is Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge.

Other Activities

Equestrians can head for Willis Knob in the Chattahoochee National Forest, just one among many, many places to ride in Georgia. And to check it all out from behind the wheel of your automobile, try a couple of scenic driving routes in the state.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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