- Lesli Peterson for The AJC
No matter the season hiking in Georgia is always rewarding. Different seasons have different charms, even winter, but Georgia’s natural beauty is always there for you.
Here are five trails of varying terrain that everyone in the family is sure to enjoy. Get outside, Atlanta.
Anna Ruby Falls in Helen. An easy hike with a lovely reward at the end, Anna Ruby Falls' paved access leads you to the base of two waterfalls that meet to form Smith Creek, which fills the lake at Unicoi State Park. The falls are majestic, and the walk is short and easy. Hikers traverses the creek twice over nearly a half-mile, and the slope is gentle and easy on weary legs. Strollers work well here, also.
Don't be deceived by its location. Anna Ruby Falls is adjacent to Unicoi State Park, but the U.S. Forestry Service owns this beauty. A Georgia State Park Pass will not grant you entry. Bring cash for your visit; the fee is $3 per person 16 years and older.
Lullwater Park in Druid Hills. Sand and water, mill ruins and a 210-foot suspension bridge – it doesn't get better than that for families that like to explore. The best part is that you never have to leave the city. Officially, Lullwater Park trail access is limited to Emory students and faculty with Emory identification. Unofficially, it's a magical city oasis adjacent to Hahn Forest Park that beckons families to explore.
Arabia Mountain in Lithonia. Mile Rock Trail and Forest Trail Loop join to create a family-friendly two-mile loop that begs to be seen in spring, when rich reds of the diamorpha shine brightest. Diamorpha are succulents found in the pools of rock outcrops like Chattahoochee Bend (near Newnan) and Arabia Mountain. In spring they turn bright red, and then burst with a white bloom. Primarily found in Georgia, they are on the endangered species list in Tennessee.
This particular loop of Arabia Mountain also includes discoveries for kids like blocky granite cairns, water pools inundated with tadpoles and several dilapidated buildings perfect for playing hide-and-seek.
Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell. Not all trails are on the ground; some are in the water. Join the team at Chattahoochee Nature Center for a 2.5-hour trip down the Chattahoochee's river trail. Discover the plants and animals that call this area home, and explore the river's backwaters as you learn about the river through a canoeing experience. Children must be 6 years or older. Several weekend options are available, but trips fill quickly so be sure to register.
Blood Mountain near Blairsville. Pick a clear day and head to the summit of Blood Mountain. The views from the top are spiritual, as peaks of distant mountains kiss the sky in almost every direction. The round trip hike is almost 4.5 miles of moderate terrain. You're going to work for this view, but once you arrive at the summit there will be no question that it was worth it. At the top, keep a look out for the geo marker, and stop in the shelter knowing it's been a haven to many thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail.
Insider's Tip: Don't park at Neels Gap/Mountain Crossings for your hike; it's only for those visiting the building. Park at Byron Reece Trailhead, just north of Neels Gap. Parking here is free, and a .7-mile connector trail will keep you off the main road.
Once your hike is complete head to Mountain Crossings, and take in the history of the only covered section of the Appalachian Trail. Grab a snack and a souvenir t-shirt, then head outside to enjoy the breeze and additional vista views. Often a weekend visit will greet you with live music and mountain-loving friends.