Those epic, long-distance hikes on the Appalachian Trail in North Georgia might seem beautiful but intimidating, especially if you’re new to hiking. That’s fine! It’s easier to start local, on beginner-friendly trails, and work up to the more challenging hikes when you’re ready. Luckily, metro Atlanta offers many trails that are easy enough for beginners but still packed with scenic beauty.
Here’s a beginner tip: if the distances of these hikes seem daunting, don’t worry. There’s plenty to see in the first mile or two. Finish what you can: you can always return to the same trail again once you’ve upped your hiking skills.
Arabia Mountain Mile Rock and Forest Loop
Explore the beauty of Arabia Mountain without a climb to the mountain top. Hike a two-mile loop on the Mile Rock Trail and Forest Trail, traveling through wide, open granite fields to a small lake nestled in the forest. The scenery is outstanding, and the landscape is surreal: boulders and rock outcrops stretch far into the distance. (If you’re up for a challenge, also hike the Arabia Mountain Top Trail. It’s shorter, but steep— and the summit views are beautiful.)
Kennesaw Mountain Environmental Trail
Hike just over a mile on this scenic loop near the base of Kennesaw Mountain. The Environmental Trail explores wildlife habitats in a forest filled with boulders, a creek and a wide variety of trees. Read the interpretive signs scattered throughout the trail to learn more about the mountain’s geology, forest, and wildlife.
Yellow River Trail
Hike the banks of the Yellow River in the shadow of Stone Mountain to explore a beautiful, gently rolling forest. Catch river views from an observation deck and hike the river’s banks on a nearly level trail. At the river’s shoals, the Yellow River cascades over a stair-stepped outcrop, creating a series of short, wide waterfalls.
West Palisades Trail at Akers Mill Dr.
Explore the Chattahoochee River near Vinings on a scenic hike off Akers Mill Dr. Drop from the trailhead to the river on a gently sloping trail to visit a sandy beach and a rocky stretch of the river filled with whitewater. Visit wetlands near the river’s shore, and keep watch for wildlife; heron, geese and deer are a common sight.
Red Top Mountain Iron Hill Trail
Explore a peninsula and quiet cove on Lake Allatoona. This Red Top Mountain State Park trail loops the lake’s meandering shore and runs nearly level, thanks to raised boardwalks. See stunning shoreline views, and pack a lunch: picnic tables dot the sides of the trail. (Please be aware and share the trail: it’s popular with hikers and mountain bikers.)
Gold Branch Trail
Upstream from Morgan Falls Dam, near Roswell, the Chattahoochee River runs wide and smooth. Hike the Gold Branch Trail for a chance to view wildlife, like small herds of deer running the mud flats on the riverbanks. Visit Bull Sluice Lake to catch reflective views of the opposite shore in the lake’s glassy water, and hike through a shady, rocky forest. Gold Branch is one of the Chattahoochee’s lesser-visited trails, but also one of the most beautiful.
Indian Seats Trail
This Sawnee Mountain Preserve trail is one of the hardest hikes on this list, but one of the best for scenery. Hike the Indian Seats Trail to spectacular summit views from a mountain near Lake Lanier. It’s a moderate, two-mile climb to the summit, but views are rewarding, stretching north to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Please leave the family dog at home, though: pets are not allowed in the preserve.
This story was originally published by Eric Champlin in 2015 and has since been updated.