Need a breath of fresh air or a study break? Getting a group of friends together to go hiking for a daytrip can be a great way to get away from the city and explore Georgia’s great outdoors. Home to rapids, forests, and everything in between, the greater Atlanta area has a diverse ecosystem and plenty of beautiful views well worth the adventure.
Whether you are new to Atlanta or grew up down the street, here are five hikes within an hour away from campus that can be a fun (and cheap) get-away for the weekend.
Located only 22 miles from campus, Sweetwater Creek State Park features roaring rapids, massive boulders and hilly terrain. With four main overlapping trails to pick from, a hike in Sweetwater Creek can be anywhere from two to eight or more miles depending on how you structure your trip, making it a hiking destination perfect for all skill levels. On a warm, sunny day, many park visitors enjoy crawling on the boulders and getting their feet wet in the Sweetwater Creek, so bring water-friendly shoes or even a swimsuit. It’s also worth noting that just like all of Georgia’s State Parks, parking costs $5, so plan accordingly.
Stone Mountain Park
The next hike is a well-known Atlanta classic— Stone Mountain Park. Arguably Atlanta’s most famous rock, Stone Mountain is a popular day trip destination due to its scenic views, seasonal festivals and family-friendly attractions. Whether you want to picnic on the lawn, bike the PATH or hike any of the park’s 15 miles of trail, Stone Mountain has something for everyone to enjoy. If your legs are too tired after a long hike, the Summit Skyride ski lift can take you up to the top of the mountain for an incredible view of the Atlanta skyline and surrounding area. Bear in mind that Stone Mountain is the most expensive day trip hike on this list, with a parking admission fee of $20 without a membership.
If Stone Mountain is a bit out of your budget, Arabia Mountain is a great alternative with all the fun but without the theme park feel. Home to rare plants and reflective water-filled craters, Arabia Mountain’s massive granite-exposed rock feels like landing on another planet. Though the mountain trail itself is only a 1.3 mile round-trip, the greater Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area boasts more than thirty miles of trails suitable for hiking, running and walking.
Despite the mountain’s short trip to the top, the summit has a stunning 360-degree view of the surrounding area and wide-open sky. A perk of Arabia Mountain is that parking and trail-use is completely free, making it a perfect trip for college students on a budget.
East Palisades Trail
The East Palisades Trail is a four mile round-trip hike along the banks of one of the most scenic sections of the Chattahoochee River that makes hikers forget they’re just off of I-75. Park visitors can spend their day exploring a bamboo forest, kayaking whitewater rapids or relaxing to the sounds of rushing water in a riverside hammock. The trail is also a popular location for trail running, fishing and dog walking, so make sure to arrive early to avoid crowds. The trail’s terrain is quite rocky and uneven, so wear close-toed shoes. Parking costs $5 per vehicle.
The final Atlanta hike recommendation is ideal for lovers of history and great views. Located 28 miles north of campus, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is a historic Civil War battleground of the Atlanta Campaign with over twenty miles of trails on site. The trails vary in difficulty and in length, so the park appeals to hikers of all skill levels and athletic abilities. Look out for cannons and ruins from the Civil War alongside the trail during the trek up the mountain, which allow visitors to appreciate the preserved history of the park. The summit rewards hikers with an incredible view of the Atlanta city skyline, as well as the sprawling forests and surrounding suburban area. The parking fee is $5.