Stone Mountain Park is great for hiking. (📷: Joleen Pete)

Guide to Hiking and Backpacking in Atlanta

The best time of year to go hiking in Georgia is debatable. The official hiking season kicks off the first weekend in March with the first backpackers headed northbound on the Appalachian Trail. Hiking remains popular all through spring and even summer for those who can stand the heat. Arguably the most beautiful time of year for hiking in Atlanta and North Georgia is fall. Take advantage of longer days, fewer bugs and smaller crowds once school is back in session. Nights are still warm in September for those who are interested in backpacking over weekends and longer. And, of course, there is the opportunity to see fall colors, especially mid-October through November.

Explore Atlanta’s Outdoors

A dad hiking with his kids on Arabia Mountain.
Arabia Mountain, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, Panola Mountain State Park and Stone Mountain Park offer great Atlanta hikes for the entire 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 by foot. Take a walk or try trail running.

2022 marked the 10th annual Monadnock Madness, where participants can hike-as-you-like Arabia, Kennesaw and Panola mountains as part of a Triple Hike Challenge that takes place each year in March. Hikers submit a selfie from each location to earn a prize. The event has included Stone Mountain Park in years past.

Training on the Atlanta BeltLine

Two women on a walk on the Atlanta BeltLine.
Put your sneakers on and hit the Atlanta BeltLine with a friend.

A big part of hiking or preparing for a backpacking trip, is simply to get miles in. You can use a program like the Couch to 5K training program or put together your own plan for increasing mileage. The Atlanta BeltLine is the perfect place for walking, because the distance you cover is really up to you. To date, the BeltLine consists of a 22-mile network of multi-use trails. Use our ultimate guide to the Atlanta BeltLine to plan your next training walk.

Day Hiking in Atlanta

The back of a boy as he walks on a trail in Atlanta.
There are so many beautiful day hikes in Atlanta. (📷: Joleen Pete)

Any hiking that can be completed in a day is technically considered a day hike. Generally speaking, this encompasses anywhere from three to 10 miles but there are, all around Atlanta, shorter day hikes available for beginners, kids and hikers with dogs. Several of these easier trails are designed in a loop to conveniently leave you right back where you parked your car. Temperate weather makes day hiking enjoyable nearly year-round in Atlanta, and there are plenty of opportunities.

Here are the 10 best easy hikes in Atlanta, including The Palisades, a unique and popular destination for hikers of all levels. West Palisades is the easier section, without much incline over four miles of mostly paved trail. East Palisades is typically less crowded but more strenuous. However, you’ll be rewarded with a tall bamboo forest and an overlook 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 themed hikes and events each year.

The Peachtree Creek Greenway runs along North Fork Peachtree Creek and connects to PATH400 and the Atlanta BeltLine in Brookhaven. This paved trail runs for 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 during their hike.
Most hiking trails and parks in Atlanta 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 a little research before heading out to the trail with Fido, specifically for the leash rules, water availability, trail surface and difficulty. You will find lots of dogs on every kind of hike in Atlanta, but only you know what your own dog is capable of doing. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has a great tool for searching 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.
Hiking the 600 steps up Amicalola Falls is worth it for this view along the way. (📷: Joleen Pete)

Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville is located just short of a 90-minute drive from Atlanta. It makes for a beautiful day trip and hike, depending on your ability. Some people choose to park above the falls to enjoy the view before hiking one of the trails. Others, specifically those looking for a challenge, park below the falls and “hike the stairs” to the top. Be prepared for this strenuous climb of 600 stairsteps, especially if you’re backpacking as part of the Approach Trail to Springer Mountain. It’s a doozy. Amicalola Falls is home to just one of 11 great waterfalls with hikes in Georgia and it makes for a beautiful backdrop and hiking destination.

Blood Mountain Loop

The back of a woman standing on the summit of Blood Mountain.
You’ll want to celebrate when you summit 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 in the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail. It’s one of the more challenging hikes and also the most rewarding. Celebrate with an incomparable view, a snack and electrolyte water. Here are more Georgia Hikes With Amazing Views (Within 3 Hours of Atlanta).

Backpacking Near Atlanta

Backpacking is a multiday hike where you carry everything you’ll need to hike, eat and sleep. If you’re interested in backpacking, Atlanta is a great place to live and visit. Anyone of any age, shape or background can get into backpacking. One of the most appealing things about it (besides being in nature) are the diverse people you’ll meet along the way. It’s also a fun activity to do with family and friends.

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

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

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

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

Best Tips for Backpacking near Atlanta

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

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

A woman posing in the trees on her hike outside Atlanta.
You won’t regret the time you spend 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 Atlanta with her husband and their son. On the weekends they enjoy going into the city for family fun and exploration. Joleen is the family travel and lifestyle blogger behind Love, Joleen.

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