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Chasing waterfalls in Atlanta: 5 serene nature trails for ultimate relaxation

Sweetwater Creek Park in Lithia Springs features two trails with waterfall views.
Contributed by Atlanta Trails

There’s something about being near running water outdoors that soothes the soul. A couple of hours hiking along a rustic trail and listening to the burbling of a nearby creek can wash away the stresses of even the most hectic workday. A legendary musical trio that formed originally in Atlanta wisely advised listeners not to chase waterfalls, but given the local bounty of these beautiful water features, it seems fitting for residents to waive that particular advice when they’re looking to destress in the metro’s natural abundance. Here are a few trails of varying distances that lead to not-to-be-missed spots, and you’ll find corresponding destressing strategies you should take along with you on your next waterfall hike.

Sweetwater Creek

A walk along Sweetwater Creek affords views of the historic textile mill ruins it’s well-known for. Take the 4-mile loop trail past the hulking brick structure, and you’ll be able to look down on an especially attractive stretch of rapids in Sweetwater Creek.

While you’re hiking, consider this: This type of exercise can help you sleep better at night by simply inducing healthy fatigue. And endorphins that naturally flow during physical activity allow your body to let go of a lot of the tension that stress brings on.

Location: Sweetwater Creek State Park; Website:

West Palisades Trail

Catch one of the prettiest falls inside the perimeter on Rottenwood Creek, a tributary of the big Chattahoochee River. Enjoy the approximately 4-mile-long West Palisades Trail that will take you over steep grades along the creek with its picturesque waterfall near the I-285 overpass.

While you’re hiking, take a few breaks to breathe deeply. This practice lets you push past what’s worrying or distracting you. Get in the habit of meditating, which you can do even for a short time on a hike. Follow these steps to focus on your feet and let your mind take a break from anxiety and any uncomfortable emotions you might be harboring.

Location: West Palisades / Paces Mill trailhead; Website:

Yellow River Park

A slightly shorter trip along the Yellow River near Stone Mountain will put you within a stone’s throw of a cascading water feature near the river’s namesake park. Just outside the perimeter, this walk, at a little over 3 miles, is a hidden treasure in a commercial-to-residential area. Enjoy the rapids from an observation deck when you do sight them.

Location: Yellow River Park; Website:

Cascade Springs Nature Preserve

Sometimes a medium-length hike is just what you need to unwind, and you can find such an abbreviated trek in the beauty of the Cascade Springs Nature Preserve in Southwest Atlanta. Enjoy three tiers of whitewater 1.3 miles into the trail at Cascade Falls, framed, in true Atlanta fashion, by dark green ivy. Travel on for another 0.3 miles to see a historic stone springhouse.

Location: Cascade Springs Nature Preserve; Website:

Arabia Mountain Cascade Trail

Catch the beauty of water cascading over granite on the appropriately named Arabia Mountain Cascade Trail. Trek a mere 0.25 miles along a paved route that gives way to the actual trail, and you’re there! You’ll get a good view of Pole Creek spilling over undulating granite outcroppings, and you can tack on an additional three or more miles if you take the connecting Wilburn Farm Trail. Although it’s probably inadvisable to be completely unplugged in a remote area, especially if you’re by yourself, you can keep your lifeline but escape its inevitable distractions by putting your phone on silent. This simple switch will allow you to enjoy the scenery to its fullest and give your brain a break.

Location: Arabia Mountain Evans Mill Road trailhead Website:

So, now that you know where to find some of Atlanta’s most beautiful waterfalls, don’t hesitate to set out in search of them - and a little tranquility! You may even make friends along the way. Dr. Felipe Lobelo with Kaiser Permanente shares the benefits of getting out into the community and staying active and healthy.

Credit: Kaiser Permanente Georgia

Combined ShapeCaption
Kaiser Permanente Georgia

Credit: Kaiser Permanente Georgia

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