Atlanta is the place to explore in Georgia. From its artsy entertainment scene to its Southern culture, Atlanta is the city all about expanding experiences. But outside of the metropolis attractions, Georgia is patched with many native flora regions fit for nature lovers in need of a disconnect from the “new normal.”
“When everything feels like an uphill struggle, think about the view from the top.” Now more than ever, citizens could use a little more adventure and fresh air amid their newly renovated routines. An environment that keeps folks at ease while adjusting to the needs and priorities of their journey ahead is just what the doctor ordered.
American essayist, poet and leader of the transcendentalist movement, Ralph Waldo Emerson, centered his philosophy around “an original relation to the universe,” one that is sought in solitude amid the natural world. “Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
There is something special and satisfying about the living stillness that exists in nature as it teaches and reminds you how to relax. And what better way to find your center than taking a trip to the top three hiking trails in Georgia?
1. Amicalola Falls
First on the list, Amicalola sits at the peak of the North Georgia Mountains, northeast of Dawsonville, Georgia. Named after its cherished feature, a 729-foot waterfall, it’s known in Georgia as “a nature lover’s wonderland.”
Upon arrival, there’s an entranceway into the forest from the open gravel lot. From there, you are instantly taken into the depths of the forest and engulfed in an expansion of apple, avocado skin and broccoli-colored leaves holding and hanging on coconut husk-shaded branches.
Wooden signs with white letters inform the way to the falls and show the paths to more hiking trails. Whether on purpose or not, it’s easy to get lost in the birdsongs that echo against the silence, letting the hiking trail guide you deeper into nature’s core.
The trek to Amicalola goes from intermediate to difficult once you’re face-to-face with “the third-highest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River.” A mile of stairs leads to the crown of the waterfall, where the views are covered in lively summer greens.
2. The Bamboo Forest
The name speaks for itself as to how this hiking trail stands out from the rest. You’ll forget you’re in Atlanta when trekking through the giant bamboo that’s secluded as its own feature of the forest. Not far from the city, just off Interstate-75 and tucked behind a residential neighborhood, resides the enchanting forest that would make pandas drool.
Aside from the main attraction, this reserve also has “4.9 miles of hiking trails with a grade between 14 and 38 percent,” and a nature-made swimming hole where visitors can jump from the jagged rocks above into the refreshing river water below.
3. Morningside Nature Preserve
Morningside Nature Preserve is located in upscale Northeast Atlanta, and it uses the same road that leads to Georgia’s most well-known mall — famous for its rich celebrity clientele. But this trail is the opposite of the materialistic lifestyle generated in the area.
Just to give a brief backstory on the development of Morningside’s hiking trails, the preserve was originally a project “initiated by the Wildwood Urban Forest Committee to stop the destruction of 30 acres of forest … and to develop this land for leisure and educational uses.” In 2001, the city of Atlanta purchased the property that was negotiated by the Nature Conservancy.
Now, a suspension bridge just above a sandy bank area known as Atlanta’s “dog beach” connects the two hiking trails that make up the entire preserve. It feels like you’re walking onto the set of a movie once you’ve crossed the bridge, and it’s important to stay on the lookout for the preserve’s wide range of wildlife, like waterfowl, beavers and foxes.
Three different hiking trails expose you to three different layers of the forest. One in particular snakes through tall and buoyant green grass, like what you would see in a cornfield. The end of the hiking trail brings you to the middle of an open foundation the size of a football field. There, you’re welcomed by a mountain-like climb. At the top sits a cute blue bench next to a white gazebo with colorful, rusted metal chairs for you to rest in.
Hiking Trail Tips and Tricks
Of course, there isn’t a single outdoor activity that is completely risk-free, especially hiking. This is why, during your trek, you want to ensure not only a fun and stimulating experience, but also — and most importantly — a safe journey as well. Here are a few things to bring and tips to keep in mind while on a hiking trail.
Wear hiking boots or shoes, and bring a backpack filled with water canteens and protein snacks (e.g. CLIF bars, trail mix, dried or fresh fruits, tuna salad pouches, etc.). Bring sun protection for when it’s hot, and “avoid cotton products, which take a long time to dry and pull heat from your body.” Pack outerwear layers for when it’s cold or if there’s a change in weather, such as a down hooded jacket or one with rain protection. It’s important to have first aid supplies that are reliable for treating minor ailments, such as a prepackaged, lightweight first aid kit.
With summer just around the corner, there’s only one thing left to say: “Leave the road, take the trails.”