We love hiking in the mountains, but often don't have time for that longer drive. When convenience is a factor and fast access is a priority, we turn to some of our favorite close-by hikes within minutes of the I-285 North Perimeter.
Some of the most popular (and crowded) hiking and walking spots near the city include the Beltline, Piedmont Park, and Stone Mountain. But we enjoy less-crowded walks, especially through nature. And when we do city walks, we prefer exploring smaller downtowns with historic sites and tasty treats within an easy stroll. We also like different terrains, ranging from dirt trails through the woods to wide paved pedestrian recreation trails. With those criteria in mind, following are five of our family favorite urban and suburban hikes and walks near Atlanta. As you explore these outdoor ideas, some of the included links may contain advertising where the website or author may receive payments.
Inside the 285 Perimeter
Lullwater Preserve. Tucked quietly between Emory University and the Atlanta VA Medical Center, nature blends with abandoned infrastructure in this natural oasis among urban surroundings. Walk along scenic Peachtree Creek to find a hidden suspension bridge and ruins of an abandoned powerhouse. Venturing inside the powerhouse, some may recognize this as the location of a photoshoot for the legendary Southern rock band, Lynyrd Skynyrd. Follow along multiple trails to make this a walk up to three miles.
East (and West) Palisades. These park technically is just outside the I-285 perimeter, though these forested preserves straddle Interstates 75 and 275 in Cobb County. Trails at both East and West Palisades follow the Chattahoochee River, offering frequent riverbank access and fabulous water level views. As the trails meander away from the river, the climb high above on the neighboring hills, offering some moderate terrain challenges. Hardwood forests and small streams are home to a variety of wildlife. A bamboo forest also is a hidden surprise at East Palisades.
Mountain-to-River Trail. A multi-use recreation trail, we often bike this entire 14-mile paved trail. The best walking is near Marietta Square, where the trail connects historic Marietta City Cemetery, Brown Park and downtown Marietta, then continues on to Lewis Park for a 1.5 mile one-way walk. Turnaround at Lewis Park and head back to downtown for some shopping, dining or history at the Gone With the Wind Museum, Marietta History Center, or the Marietta Fire Museum or the Marietta Cobb Museum of Art. The on-trend food hall, Marietta Square Market, is adjacent to the trail, great for meals and snacks. For a longer hike, keep walking past Lewis Park another 2.6 miles to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.
Kennesaw Mountain. Locals consider KeMo a premier hiking spot for mountain-top views, wildlife sightings and trail variety. And the fact that it's the most-visited national battlefield park in the US likely is due to all the hiking and recreation the park offers. Sunrise and sunset hikes feature colorful panoramas. Our favorite loop hike travels up KeMo’s backside, through “the big zig,” over the saddle and back down to the visitor center. We often see wildlife here, especially on the Brumby Loop trail and the side trails near Noses Creek.
Lake Allatoona Area
Allatoona Pass Battlefield. If you’re looking for a flat trail through the woods, this is it. The trail follows an abandoned railroad bed, passing through a deep mountain cut and alongside Lake Allatoona. In addition to history, there are great views of Lake Allatoona and a side path that allows water access to cool your feet. For the adventurous and those who can handle elevation changes, side trails offer the opportunity to climb the high points and explore former Union gun battery and stronghold locations Just across the water, you can enjoy winding walks in the woods at Red Top Mountain State Park.
Cooper's Furnace and Allatoona Dam. Just off Cobb Parkway, three hidden historical treasures await the exploration-minded. Cooper's Furnace is an Army Corps of Engineers Day use area and home to Allatoona Dam, which forms Lake Allatoona. Trails offer great river and dam view and a close look at the remains of a Civil War-era manufacturing site. At the summit, there's a fabulous overlook of the Allatoona Dam, the Etowah River Valley and Lake Allatoona.
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