Three Trails, Three Ways 1

Within 20 minutes of the Perimeter, the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area is a recreational paradise with hiking, biking and running trails for any outdoor lover. With more than 50 miles of trails, how do you decide where to go? Print a trail map from the National Park Service website (NPS.org) and hit the trail. Share your happy trails on our Facebook page!

For Mountain Biking: Sope Creek Trail

The Sope Creek Trails are the closest mountain biking trails to the city and once you climb up into the woods, you’ve escaped into a dense tree canopy that hides fun and flowing singletrack. These trails cater to beginner and intermediate mountain bikers and make a figure-eight loop totaling about seven miles. The trails feature a few switchbacks and rollers that are easy to navigate, but require a solid level of fitness as the trails traverse the sloping valley forest to the Chattahoochee River. Sope Creek features an upper and lower loop; for heart-pumping climbs, start at the Paper Mill trailhead and ride counter-clockwise on the upper loop. You’ll catch views of the ravine and Sope Creek’s rapids along the ridgeline. For rolling hills, tackle the lower loop, where Sope Creek Trails connect to Cochran Shoals and its flat three mile gravel loop that parallels the Chattahoochee River.

As a part of the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area, there is a $3 parking fee.

3760 Paper Mill Road SE, Marietta

For Hiking: Gold Branch Trail

The highlight of hiking on Gold Branch Trail is that the trail meanders along Bull Sluice Lake, a reservoir of the Chattahoochee River. The trail begins with a gradual descent into the river’s valley before the path rises and falls in a roller coaster fashion alongside the lake. Sun glistens off its surface, and in warm months you’ll see an abundance of wildlife such as turtles sunbathing on logs to herons standing amongst the cattails. Bring your dog on this hike; the lake’s coves are shallow enough for them to frolic in the water. Gold Branch Trail is a little more than a 3.5 mile loop, and its trail markings make it easy to navigate. Be sure to make a detour off the main trail to visit the abandoned car, which is just after trail marker GB 11. Rotted out and rusted with bullet holes in the frame, the haunting sight suggests a troubling event happened here. Gold Branch’s name should be derived from the golden color that seems to radiate from the trees, for it is a solace teeming with natural beauty.

As a part of the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area, there is a $3 parking fee.

5690 Lower Roswell Road, Marietta

For Trail Running: Cochran Shoals Trail

The Cochran Shoals trailhead is one of the prime spots for trail running near the Metro Atlanta area. The gravel three-mile loop runs parallel to the Chattahoochee River and then loops away from the river to a stretch alongside forests and meadows. This is great for beginners who want to try out an alternate surface to road running. Once you’ve built up miles, run into the wooded sections where you can explore a confluence of well-marked trails weaving through the forests. These trails are more technical, with roots and rocks, so keep an eye on your feet. A fun section of the woods is the portion along Gunby Creek, where the trail dips and requires you to cross the pebbled creekbeds no wider than 5 feet. Trail runners are allowed on the mountain bike loop, where the trails roll up and down in sweeping curves, but its recommended to run the opposite direction of bike traffic. In July, these trails are well-shaded, and cool drafts of air drift in from the river.

As a part of the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area, there is a $3 parking fee.

5450 Interstate N Pkwy, Sandy Springs