Trail mix & match: Great hikes around Atlanta for every toughness level

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Trail mix & match: Great hikes around Atlanta for every toughness level

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Georgia Department of Natural Resources
Black Rock Mountain -- At 3,640 feet, this is Georgia's highest state park, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the northeast corner of the state near Mountain City.

Go take a hike!

We’re not being mean. Just the opposite, in fact. Stop beating yourself up for not spending enough time outside in the beautiful spring weather. Or not spending enough time inside, at the gym, getting into tiptop shorts-and-tube-top shape.

Instead … Go take a hike. It’s the perfect combo platter of fitness and nature in one easy serving. Unless, of course, you like your walking a little — or a lot — more demanding. The great thing about metro Atlanta and North Georgia is that hiking trails abound for people of all fitness levels and family situations (i.e. you probably don’t want to take a toddler in stroller on that 11-mile loop around Kennesaw Mountain; better off going Beltline in that case). We’ve even singled out a few hikes that Man’s Best Friend will likely enjoy at least as much as the (hu)man or woman accompanying them on the trail (think: lots of actual dog paddling opportunities in ponds and waterfalls).

So, what are you waiting for? Check out this list of recommeded hikes for beginners, advanced types and everyone in between:

EASY/BEGINNER HIKES

This milelong trail takes you through peaceful woods and past a rushing creek on the way to Sope Creek Park in one of the more upscale sections of Marietta. There’s even a history lesson tucked inside this mostly downward sloping trail laced with flat calm pools of water — the stone ruins of the Marietta Paper Mill, which Union troops set destructive fire to during the Civil War, remain on the banks of the creek. That, combined with the relatively easy terrain and distance make this a good hike to take with kids.

The parking area for Sope Creek is located at 3760 Paper Mill Rd SE, Marietta, GA 30067.

You can’t go wrong hiking any portion of the still-evolving Beltline; but while everyone else is jostling for space on the hip Eastside Trail, you can stretch out and explore this one mile-long hidden gem at Buckhead’s southern edge. The flat paved trail stretches from the Ardmore Park area in Collier Hills — complete with a covered bridge breathakingly tucked under an old wooden railroad trestle — to Bobby Jones Golf Course. In between, the gently undulating trail passes through Tanyard Creek Park, crossing through meadows, over picturesque footbridges and past Civil War historical markers and golfers working on their drives. A children’s playground near the Colliers Hill end makes this another great place for a family hike.

Access points at either end of the trail are at Ardmore Road midway between Collier Road and 28th Street, and at Goodson Lane near 26th Street.

 

MODERATE/INTERMEDIATE LEVEL HIKES

Don’t be fooled by the relatively modest, 1.3-mile length of this hike. You’ll be tested somewhat by a terrain that’s dominated by enormous fields of granite, tall rocky cairns, rare plant life and watery pools. It’s worth watching your step, though, to make the climb to a summit that’s dotted with craters and which offers a breathtaking 360-degree panoramic view of Arabia Lake and the surrounding forested landscape below.

The Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve is located at 3787 Klondike Rd, Lithonia, GA 30038. There’s a nature center where you can park.

A 3.4 mile looping trail that crosses Sweetwater Creek, rises sharply in spots and at one point requires navigating switchbacks. Less than a mile in, you’ll make a more than 300-foot climb; don’t let it distract you from the hike’s scenery, which is a pleasing combination of natural (ferns, shoals and even a cave-like outcropping) and manmade (a rust-hued steel-span and wooden bridge crossing over the creek and the ruins of a Civil War-era mill that remain in Sweetwater Creek State Park.)

Sweetwater Creek State Park is located at 1750 Mt Vernon Rd, Lithia Springs, GA 30122

DIFFICULT/ADVANCED LEVEL HIKES

This 7.2 mile trail in Black Rock Mountain State Park in Rabun County was named one of the five hardest hiking trails in Georgia by the outdoors experience experts at RootsRated.com. You’ll be hiking in backcountry on a trail that ascends nearly 900 feet in less than a mile at one point; passing by small waterfalls and cascading streams, it eventually reaches the 3,600 foot summit of Lookoff Mountain where you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view of Wolffork Valley and surrounding mountain ranges. Dogs are allowed on the trail, but must be on a leash.

Black Rock Mountain State Park is located at 3085 Black Rock Mountain Parkway, Mountain City, GA 30562

As the name implies, you’ll be walking 11 miles in a loop that takes you over a pair of mountains and through battlefields where the Civil War was waged. You’ll start out from the visitor center and quickly climb nearly 600 feet, navigate switchbacks and pass directly by the trenches and earthworks that are vestiges of a prolonged standoff between Confederate and Union troops. Monuments and remains of some other buildings from that period pop up in spots; so does an unparalleled view of the Atlanta skyline in the distance, wildflowers and meadows and creeks that make this an excellent excuse for bringing along your dog (as if either of you needed it!)

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is located at 900 Kennesaw Mountain Dr.  Kennesaw, GA 30152 

Whether you're diehard climbers or the kind of family that needs a little encouragement to get off the couch for a few hours, there are lots of hikes your kids will love near Atlanta. www.accessatlanta.com
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