If you’re situated in Atlanta this semester, I’m sure you’d agree that finding safe but fun pastimes has been a challenge. In cities, many activities tend to be indoors and crowded, i.e. high-risk for COVID-19. However, if you’re willing to venture slightly outside of Atlanta, you’ll find that Georgia is full of amazing outdoor excursions. Until recently, I failed to take advantage of Northern Georgia’s natural wonders—despite having lived here for the past year—but since the onset of the pandemic, I’ve found a new appreciation for outdoor activities, particularly ones that allow me to maintain a safe distance from others. Here are some of my favorite hiking trails that I highly recommend you explore!
Only 20 minutes away from campus, Stone Mountain is an Emory favorite. You can purchase a yearly parking pass for $40, or park for the day for $20. The path is incredibly wide, so it’s easy to maintain plenty of distance between yourself and other hikers, and if you go early enough, the hike will be fairly empty. The trek to the top of the mountain is steep but rewarding, especially if you can make it in time to catch the beautiful sunrise!
East Palisades Trail
This hidden gem is located about 30 minutes from campus. The trails wind alongside the Chattahoochee river, with a site for cliff jumping, and it culminates in a large bamboo forest. There are about four miles of hiking trails at this park and you can even bring a paddleboard to explore the river!
Sweetwater Creek State Park
This state park is about 40 minutes from campus, and offers both natural and historic beauty. The trail encompasses the ruins of the New Manchester Mill, a structure destroyed during the Civil War, and is littered with colorful wildflowers. The trail runs alongside a creek, which you can paddle or kayak on. As a bonus, if you’re a Hunger Games fan, you might recognize the park as one of the filming locations from the first movie!
Providence Canyon State Park
This park is 2.5 hours from Emory but is well worth the drive! The canyons will leave you speechless and make you question whether or not you’re still in Georgia. This state park, also known as “the little Grand Canyon,” offers a distinctly different landscape from the rest of Georgia. Visitors can choose to hike a 2.5-mile trail or a 7-mile rugged loop. If you’re able to stay till the night, this park is an ideal stargazing location because of its distance from the city!
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and in need of a break this semester, consider taking a few hours to explore the outdoors; if you don’t have a car, even just going for walks near your home can be great for your mental and physical health. Happy hiking!