Put the fun back in your run: 7 of Atlanta's best running trails

  • Eric Champlin
  • For the AJC
9:31 a.m. Friday, Sept. 30, 2016 Atlanta Events
Eric Champlin

Running is a great way to stay in shape and keep active. Sometimes, though, the daily grind of the treadmill or the all-too-familiar neighborhood route can make running a challenge.

Take a run on a trail for a break from the monotony of your every day route. A trail run can make a great recovery run or weekly long run, too; a running trail's softer surface makes a great break from hard-surface concrete or asphalt. Trail running can also give you a chance to breathe some clean air, escape traffic and put the fun back into your run.

Run one of these popular unpaved running trails in metro Atlanta for a great change of pace:

Run this 5.8 mile loop over gently rolling terrain north of Atlanta. You'll run through beautiful, grassy meadows, over a creek, by a grove of bamboo and through former Civil War battlefields at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. Songbirds sing and wildflowers bloom alongside the trail, making a great escape from the bustle of the suburbs.

Run a moderately challenging, hilly 5k loop at Sweetwater Creek State Park. The trail begins at the visitors center and descends through fern-filled forest before crossing the scenic Sweetwater Creek over a large steel bridge. On the creek's opposite bank, you'll catch a great hill workout as the trail gains 300 feet, rising to a small ridge. You'll loop back to the creek, passing a small cave and catch views of Sweetwater's mill ruins and whitewater shoals as the trail runs along the creek.

Enjoy a morning run on the quiet Sope Creek trails in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. The trail runs beside the ruins of a 19th century paper mill, along the boulder-strewn Sope Creek and around the banks of tranquil Sibley Pond. You'll run through cool, shady forest and trickling creek valleys before looping back to the parking area. In the mood for more mileage? Run Sope Creek's connecting trails to the popular Cochran Shoals 5k running loop on the banks of the Chattahoochee River.

Run a beautiful, mostly level 3.8 mile loop near the shores of Allatoona Lake at Red Top Mountain State Park. The Iron Hill Trail meanders along the lake's inlets on a small peninsula, and runs fairly level, thanks to a network of boardwalks and bridges. You'll catch nearly constant views of the lake's rolling shoreline reflecting in on its calm surface, making the run especially scenic.

Run an easy 3.5 miler at Kennesaw Mountain on this combination of the park's 24 Gun and Environmental trails. You'll explore Kennesaw Mountain's lower elevations, crossing creeks and running around boulders as the trail rolls elevation through a shady forest.

Run a moderate 5.3 mile loop near the shore of Allatoona Lake at Red Top Mountain State Park. You'll run through pine and deciduous forest before following the winding finger like contours of the lake. After the run, grab a quick dip in the lake for a refreshing cool down.

Explore a Chattahoochee River island and rolling forest on the Powers Island Trail. Run this 2.4 mile loop in Atlanta's Chattahoochee National Recreation Area on the serene (and sometimes deserted) shore opposite the ultra-popular Cochran Shoals Trail. You'll loop through shady riverside forest, run over bridge to Powers Island and catch beautiful views of the Chattahoochee River's whitewater shoals.

Not quite ready to ditch the pavement, but still looking for a new running route? Escape sidewalks on one of these great paved running trails in metro Atlanta.

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