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From atop Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest point at 4,784 feet.
From atop Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest point at 4,783 feet. It’s a surprisingly easy hike/walk to get there.
Josh Green, Curbed Atlanta

Eight top picks near Atlanta for great autumn hikes

From ITP forest treks to bona fide mountain adventures, Atlanta and North Georgia are loaded with terrific hiking options this time of year.

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From atop Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest point at 4,783 feet. It’s a surprisingly easy hike/walk to get there.
| Josh Green, Curbed Atlanta

Blazing summer temps are (hopefully) a thing of the past, which means it’s time to take advantage of the abundant outdoor destinations at Atlanta’s doorstep (or a short drive beyond).

From Civil War ruins to majestic mountaintops and a raucous, faux-Bavarian village, North Georgia has it all, and it never shines brighter than when the leaves start to turn. Beyond the cost of gas, most of these autumnal offerings can be done on the cheap, too.

So dust off the flannel, lace up the Timberlands, pour a pumpkin-flavored coffee, and set out to enjoy the pristine weather. Let this map help guide the way to eight of our favorite fall destinations within about two hours of downtown.

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Sweetwater Creek State Park

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Half an hour due west of downtown Atlanta, the two-mile roundtrip Red Trail beside gushing Sweetwater Creek is a hiker’s delight this time of year. It passes the beautiful, five-story ruins of the New Manchester mill, named for the town wiped out here during the Civil War.

Elsewhere, hikers can traipse across river rocks (mind the rapids) and behold a kaleidoscope of autumn foliage along the creek valley walls. Parking is $5.

Brasstown Bald

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The Big Kahuna of Georgia peaks is surprisingly easy to summit—and the spectacular, 360-degree views from the top encompass four states (Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and South Carolina) on clear days.

Visitors will find a large parking lot not far from the crest of 4,784-foot-tall Brasstown Bald, and the rest of the half-mile route is paved (and often crowed), but it certainly feels otherworldly for city folk. Admission is $3 per person.

Curbed Atlanta

Arabia Mountain

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For an uplifting experience in nature that doesn’t require much driving, head to Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, where you’ll find the relatively unsung, prehistoric sibling to Stone Mountain just south of Interstate 20 in Lithonia.

Explore a wandering PATH trail or hike up two granite outcrops that are moderate compared to that famous other rock. This rolling landscape took 400 million years to form, and it’s a quick getaway for idyllic autumn weather. On a clear day, you’ll spot Atlanta sky-rises in the distance. (Pro tip: A good place to begin is the nature center, 3787 Klondike Road).

Photo: Eric Bowles, courtesy of Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance

Raven Cliff Falls Trail

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Two hours from downtown, near Helen, find one of the Peach State’s more popular and scenic hikes in the Raven Cliff Falls Trail. Rated “moderate” and dog-friendly by Atlanta Trails, the roughly five-mile, forested path is packed with trout streams, wildlife, and cascading waterfalls.

Cascade Springs Nature Preserve

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The urban environment of southwest Atlanta yields a surprising natural treasure that spans 120 acres on Cascade Road and is dotted with remnants of Civil War battles (plus a historic springhouse and wee waterfall).

Not far from downtown, the Cascade Springs Nature Preserve Trail might be ITP’s most tranquil walking/running/hiking destination, with three trail options one TripAdvisor reviewer describes as “all great for even beginners.” Parking on site, but the lot can be locked early in late fall and winter.

Sope Creek Paper Mill Ruins

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Fancy Civil War-era ruins and short drives? Journey over to the Sope Creek Trail in Marietta, which has three miles of options that bring visitors to the stone remnants of a paper mill (destroyed by Union troops during the war) on the banks of a creek. Other highlights include a calming pond in a park near the Chattahoochee River. It’s rated “easy” and dog-friendly by Atlanta Trails.

Rabun Bald

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This hike is more serious (and somewhat harder to find), but it’s a chance to escape to absolute wilderness within a couple hours of Atlanta. On a windless day, the trek to Rabun Bald—Georgia’s second highest peak at 4,696 feet—is gloriously silent. At points, the trail can be steep and somewhat difficult to follow, but the payout that is the summit’s observation deck is worth it. For advice on getting there (and parking etiquette), head over here.

King Ludwig Biergarten to The Troll Tavern, Helen

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Call it campy, but Helen in Oktoberfest season is the epicenter of a different sort of hiking ... or crawling. Visitors might spy kiddos munching caramel apples, musicians in lederhosen getting their oom-pah on, and a cross-eyed undergrad ralphing into a plastic beer flute tied around his neck and then continuing to wear it (true story).

Options abound, but here’s a short, wobble-friendly trek: For giant pretzels, live music, and relatively cheap servings of large beers (in plastic steins), King Ludwig’s Beer Garden is on point. Still hungry? Down the street, the venerable Troll Tavern is right beside the gurgling Chattahoochee with good bar food and a patio environment that’s nothing short of schön.

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Sweetwater Creek State Park

Half an hour due west of downtown Atlanta, the two-mile roundtrip Red Trail beside gushing Sweetwater Creek is a hiker’s delight this time of year. It passes the beautiful, five-story ruins of the New Manchester mill, named for the town wiped out here during the Civil War.

Elsewhere, hikers can traipse across river rocks (mind the rapids) and behold a kaleidoscope of autumn foliage along the creek valley walls. Parking is $5.

Brasstown Bald

Curbed Atlanta

The Big Kahuna of Georgia peaks is surprisingly easy to summit—and the spectacular, 360-degree views from the top encompass four states (Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and South Carolina) on clear days.

Visitors will find a large parking lot not far from the crest of 4,784-foot-tall Brasstown Bald, and the rest of the half-mile route is paved (and often crowed), but it certainly feels otherworldly for city folk. Admission is $3 per person.

Curbed Atlanta

Arabia Mountain

Photo: Eric Bowles, courtesy of Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance

For an uplifting experience in nature that doesn’t require much driving, head to Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, where you’ll find the relatively unsung, prehistoric sibling to Stone Mountain just south of Interstate 20 in Lithonia.

Explore a wandering PATH trail or hike up two granite outcrops that are moderate compared to that famous other rock. This rolling landscape took 400 million years to form, and it’s a quick getaway for idyllic autumn weather. On a clear day, you’ll spot Atlanta sky-rises in the distance. (Pro tip: A good place to begin is the nature center, 3787 Klondike Road).

Photo: Eric Bowles, courtesy of Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance

Raven Cliff Falls Trail

Two hours from downtown, near Helen, find one of the Peach State’s more popular and scenic hikes in the Raven Cliff Falls Trail. Rated “moderate” and dog-friendly by Atlanta Trails, the roughly five-mile, forested path is packed with trout streams, wildlife, and cascading waterfalls.

Cascade Springs Nature Preserve

The urban environment of southwest Atlanta yields a surprising natural treasure that spans 120 acres on Cascade Road and is dotted with remnants of Civil War battles (plus a historic springhouse and wee waterfall).

Not far from downtown, the Cascade Springs Nature Preserve Trail might be ITP’s most tranquil walking/running/hiking destination, with three trail options one TripAdvisor reviewer describes as “all great for even beginners.” Parking on site, but the lot can be locked early in late fall and winter.

Sope Creek Paper Mill Ruins

Fancy Civil War-era ruins and short drives? Journey over to the Sope Creek Trail in Marietta, which has three miles of options that bring visitors to the stone remnants of a paper mill (destroyed by Union troops during the war) on the banks of a creek. Other highlights include a calming pond in a park near the Chattahoochee River. It’s rated “easy” and dog-friendly by Atlanta Trails.

Rabun Bald

This hike is more serious (and somewhat harder to find), but it’s a chance to escape to absolute wilderness within a couple hours of Atlanta. On a windless day, the trek to Rabun Bald—Georgia’s second highest peak at 4,696 feet—is gloriously silent. At points, the trail can be steep and somewhat difficult to follow, but the payout that is the summit’s observation deck is worth it. For advice on getting there (and parking etiquette), head over here.

King Ludwig Biergarten to The Troll Tavern, Helen

Google Maps

Call it campy, but Helen in Oktoberfest season is the epicenter of a different sort of hiking ... or crawling. Visitors might spy kiddos munching caramel apples, musicians in lederhosen getting their oom-pah on, and a cross-eyed undergrad ralphing into a plastic beer flute tied around his neck and then continuing to wear it (true story).

Options abound, but here’s a short, wobble-friendly trek: For giant pretzels, live music, and relatively cheap servings of large beers (in plastic steins), King Ludwig’s Beer Garden is on point. Still hungry? Down the street, the venerable Troll Tavern is right beside the gurgling Chattahoochee with good bar food and a patio environment that’s nothing short of schön.

Google Maps