We are amidst the season of fall at its finest. The humidity has gone away, the temperature has (mostly) cooled down, and the leaves have changed to their autumnal hues. It is easy to get caught up and cooped up inside with everything at home, but one of the best things we can do for our sanity is explore the great outdoors. Nature is an easy and accessible therapy, so take a hike…literally.
Although traveling looks a little different these days, you can at least hop in a vehicle and drive safely to some of these local parks for some breathtaking views.
1. Piedmont Park (Atlanta, GA)
Piedmont Park is in the heart of Atlanta (Fulton County) about two miles away from downtown and wedged between Midtown and the Virginia Highlands neighborhoods.
Piedmont Park spans a total of one hundred and eighty-nine acres, providing plenty of space for all kinds of activity. As an avid runner, I have gone on countless runs around the park, and the loop around Lake Clara Meer has provided the best views. If you enter the park by way of 12th Street gate and veer right, you will find yourself looking at colorful trees on a road marked by their fallen leaves for about a quarter mile.
For a park map to guide your walk, visit their website. The paths are paved, making it an ideal destination whether you’re on foot or wheels.
2. Chattahoochee River, Cochran Shoals Trail (Marietta, GA)
Just outside of Atlanta lives the Cochran Shoals Trail, which is a part of Atlanta’s Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. This riverside park is located north of I-285. It is an extremely popular spot to frequent over the weekend; therefore, plan your trip accordingly.
You will see a variety of nature-lovers on the trail as there are a lot of beautiful surroundings to take in and admire. You’ll be surrounded by trees, plus a river and its calming current sounds. Colorful leaves coating the ground for miles. Cochran Shoals is 3.1 miles round trip around an unpaved, gravel trail that is dog friendly. Bring your furry buddy along!
If you want to read more on this trail and others within the Chattahoochee River Hiking Trails system, check out Atlanta Trails.
3. Arabia Mountain (Lithonia, GA)
If you truly want an escape from traditional urban and suburban landscapes, Arabia Mountain is about half an hour east of Atlanta located in Stonecrest, GA. A day on Arabia Mountain will take you through exposed granite fields, shallow basins of rare plants, and gorgeous summit views. Though the main hike to the summit is just a little over a mile, there are more than 30 miles worth of trails to explore if you so choose – some paved and some unpaved. There are options for a relatively more strenuous hike that will require some advanced planning and preparation. It is 1.3 miles roundtrip to the mountain peak and considered a moderate hike.
If you want to venture on relatively flatter and paved trails, the Arabia Mountain PATH (AMP) is open to pedestrians, cyclists, and joggers of all abilities. You can find historic landmarks and stunning vistas along the way.
“Arabia Mountain is beautiful and offers endless places to explore. I have been five times and have yet to see it all!”
-Courtney N., Georgia Tech Alumni
4. Amicalola Falls State Park (Dawsonville, GA)
Last, but certainly not least, is Amicalola Falls State Park. You may have heard of it because it home to the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast. The Amicalola Falls Loop Trail is 2.1 miles and begins under a stone arch honoring the Appalachian Trail, and then ends on a series of stairs alongside the waterfall. There is also an option to drive to the top of the waterfall, park your car, and use an accessible, paved trail to view the falls from above.
This exists right in our backyards, so to speak! You may want to dedicate a day for this trip since the drive will take a little longer. Be sure to pack your snacks and enough hydration to get you through the day.
If you are a morning person, plan your arrival to catch an incredible sunrise providing that glow over the lush greenery and mountaintops. Park hours are 7:00am to 10:00pm. All cars require a $5 GA State Park Pass.
I hope this inspires you to explore what is around you, whether it’s enjoying a walk around Lake Clara Meer in Piedmont Park, a sunrise hike at Amicalola Falls State Park, or exploring your own neighborhood! The fall foliage won’t be around for too much longer, so get outside and take in all the views.