Hiking events

Guide to Hiking and Backpacking in Atlanta

The best time of year to hike in Georgia is debatable. The official hiking season kicks off the first weekend in March with the first hikers heading north on the Appalachian Trail. The hike remains popular throughout the spring and even into the summer for those who can handle the heat. Fall is arguably the best time of year to hike in Atlanta and North Georgia. Enjoy longer days, fewer bugs and smaller crowds once school returns. Nights are still warm in September for those looking to hike on weekends and longer. And, of course, there’s the chance to see the fall colors, especially from mid-October through November.

Explore the Atlanta Outdoors

Arabia Mountain, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, Panola Mountain State Park, and Stone Mountain Park offer great hiking in Atlanta for the whole family.

There is so much to see and do outdoors in Atlanta. Many of our local parks and gardens offer trails or greenways for exploring nature and getting exercise on foot. Take a walk or try trail running.

2022 marked the 10th annual Monadnock Madness, where participants can hike the way you want in the Arabia, Kennesaw and Panola Mountains in a Triple Hike Challenge that takes place every March. Hikers submit a selfie from each location to win a prize. The event has included Stone Mountain Park in years past.

Training on the Atlanta BeltLine

Two women out for a walk on the Atlanta BeltLine.
Lace up your sneakers and hit the Atlanta BeltLine with a friend.

A big part of hiking or preparing for a backpacking trip is simply putting in the miles. You can use a program like the Couch to 5K workout program or make your own plan to increase mileage. The Atlanta BeltLine is the perfect place to walk because how far you walk is really up to you. To date, the BeltLine consists of a 33-mile network of multi-use trails. Use our ultimate guide to the Atlanta BeltLine to plan your next workout walk.

Atlanta Day Hike

A boy's back as he walks on a trail in Atlanta.
There are so many great day hikes in Atlanta. (📷: Joleen Pete)

Any hike that can be done in one day is technically considered a day hike. Generally speaking, this encompasses three to 10 miles, but there are shorter day hikes all around Atlanta available for beginners, kids, and hikers with dogs. Many of these easier trails are designed as a loop to easily leave you where you parked your car. The temperate weather makes day hikes enjoyable most of the year in Atlanta, and the opportunities abound.

Here are the 10 best easy hikes in Atlanta, including The Palisades, a unique and popular destination for hikers of all skill levels. West Palisades is the easiest section, without much incline on four miles of mostly paved trails. East Palisades is generally less crowded but more strenuous. However, you will be rewarded with a large bamboo forest and a view of the river.

Chattahoochee Nature Center is another great place to hike with kids. Explore the 2.5 miles on your own or take a guided tour. The center offers several thematic hikes and events each year.

The Peachtree Creek Greenway runs along North Fork Peachtree Creek and connects to PATH400 and the Atlanta BeltLine at Brookhaven. This paved trail runs 1.3 miles from North Druid Hills Road to Briarwood Road and is open daily.

Hiking with dogs

A man and his dog resting on a rock while hiking.
Most Atlanta hiking trails and parks are dog-friendly. (📷: Stephen Leonardi)

Good news for man’s best friend. Dogs are allowed on most hiking trails and parks in Atlanta and North Georgia. You’ll want to do some research before hitting the trail with Fido, especially for leash rules, water availability, trail surface, and difficulty. You’ll find plenty of dogs on all kinds of hikes in Atlanta, but only you know what your own dog is capable of. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has a great tool for researching hikes with dog trails and learning more about each.

Strenuous hikes near Atlanta

If you’re wondering what constitutes a “strenuous hike”, the National Park Service considers it to be generally longer and steeper than most hikes and a challenge for most hikers.

Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls in North Georgia.
The hike up the 600 steps to Amicalola Falls is worth it for that view along the way. (📷: Joleen Pete)

Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville is less than an hour and a half drive from Atlanta. It makes for a nice day trip and hike, depending on your abilities. Some people choose to park above the falls to take in the views before hiking one of the trails. Others, especially those looking for a challenge, park under the falls and “climb the stairs” to the top. Be prepared for this strenuous 600-step climb, especially if you’re hiking as part of the approach trail to Springer Mountain. It’s a doozy. Amicalola Falls is home to one of 11 great waterfalls with hikes in Georgia and is a wonderful backdrop and hiking destination.

Blood Mountain Loop

The back of a woman standing on top of Blood Mountain.
You’ll want to celebrate when you reach the top of Blood Mountain at 4,458 feet. (📷: Joleen Pete)

Blood Mountain Loop is a six-mile loop located near Blairsville and, at 4,458 feet, is the highest peak on the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail. This is one of the most difficult hikes and also the most rewarding. Celebrate with an unparalleled view, snack, and electrolyte water. Here are more hikes in Georgia with amazing views (within 3 hours from Atlanta).

Hiking near Atlanta

The backpack is a multi-day hike where you carry everything you will need to walk, eat and sleep. If you are interested in hiking, Atlanta is a great place to live and visit. Anyone, regardless of age, shape, or background, can take up hiking. One of the most appealing things about it (besides being out in nature) is the variety of people you’ll meet along the way. It is also a fun activity to do with family and friends.

Three smiling women under the arch at the start of the Appalachian Trail Approach.
Pose near the infamous arch at the start of the Appalachian Trail approach. (📷: Joleen Pete)

You’ll want to figure out when and where your first backpacking trip will be. Use Atlanta’s most local trails for distance training and be sure to plan a few training hikes with higher elevation gains. You will gain 700 feet going up Stone Mountain. Another great starting point is the 3.2-mile Indian Seats Trail where you’ll reach the top of Sawnee Mountain in about an hour and a half. Coosa Backcountry Trail is a popular and strenuous hike from Vogel State Park. Test your hiking gear on a weekend hike on this 12.8-mile loop trail.

A woman smiling and sitting at the door of her tent while hiking in Georiga.
Hiking is a fun adventure for those who love the outdoors. (📷: Joleen Pete)

If you’re in Atlanta, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail (AT) is right in your own backyard. You can be so inspired during your research that you decide to train and save for the whole 2,000 mile hike to Katahdin, Maine (also known as the “hike through”) or to start with a “section hike” (any section of the AT ). The Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail is 78.2 miles not including the approach trail through Amicalola Falls State Park.

Top Tips for Hiking Near Atlanta

  • Research everything, then put a plan in place. You need to know where you are hiking, how many days your trip is, when it will be and what you will have in your bag.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

  • Consider your “Big 3” – your sleeping system, your cooking system, and your tent. The season you plan your backpacking trip in will determine how much warmth you need to keep you warm. There are several outfitters in Atlanta, including REI, that will help you determine the best gear for your trip.
  • North Georgia Premium Outlets carries brands such as Columbia, Eddie Bauer, Merrell, Nike, The North Face, and Under Armour, where you can find clothing, shoes, and outdoor gear for hiking. Explore Georgia has a long list of what to pack for your backpacking trip.
  • Be prepared for the weather. Having a way to cover yourself and your backpack from the rain is a great idea. Atlanta stays green and beautiful because it often rains. The weather doesn’t have to bring you inside if you’re prepared for it.
  • Safety first. Always let someone know your hiking plans and be aware of your surroundings. There are bears in Georgia. Take precautions when packing your food (use a bear box or bear bag and a pulley system).
  • Maybe it goes without saying, but be prepared to pack all your trash. Keeping Atlanta’s trails beautiful is a community effort and the result is a great experience for everyone.
A woman posing in the trees while hiking outside of Atlanta.
You won’t regret the time spent hiking in Atlanta and North Georgia. (📷: Joleen Pete)

For more fun things to do outdoors, check out this ultimate list of things to do in Atlanta for nature lovers.

Joleen Pete lives outside of Atlanta with her husband and their son. On weekends, they like to head into town for family fun and exploring. Joleen is the family travel and lifestyle blogger behind Love, Joleen.