If you’re looking for trails in Atlanta, you’re in luck; we have them in all shapes, sizes, and types. So, whether you want to go for a bike ride, walk, run, or stroll from eatery to bar to ice cream shop, Atlanta has just what you need. https://www.traillink.com/ lists 73 trails covering 417 miles of hard-surface, mixed-use trails in Metro Atlanta – we’ll save the over 100-miles of mountain bike trails for another article.
The Silver Comet is Atlanta’s most prominent trail, a 61-mile rails-to-trails system developed by the PATH Foundation starting in 1998. The Silver Comet gets its name from the luxury streamliner that traveled daily from Washington, D.C. to Birmingham. Today cyclists, walkers, and skaters alike can enjoy the same luxury provided back then on a modern, buttery smooth concrete trail that starts in Smryna and ends at the Georgia/Alabama state line. If you want, you can extend your trip to over 100 miles with the inclusion of Alabama’s Chief Ladiga trail system that will take you all the way to Anniston. So, if you’re feeling a little crazy – ok, a lot crazy – go for a double century and up your status with your friends to “living legend”. For most people, however, the Silver Comet is the perfect recipe of smooth, uncongested trails, with very few hills, set in a beautiful, wooded canopy, ideal for first dates and family fun. www.silvercometga.com
The list also includes the city’s most ambitious urban redevelopment program – The Beltline—a combination of mixed-use trails, affordable housing, public art, greenspace, and workforce development. The Beltline is quickly establishing itself as the social hub of Atlanta, with new housing, restaurants, breweries, shopping, and even concert venues popping up almost monthly. Check out their monthly calendar to take advantage of bike tours, running clubs, aerobic classes, study groups, and even a Lantern Parade. www.beltline.org/events/
Atlanta currently ranks 42 in bicycle infrastructure, a one-point gain from the previous year. However, with giant projects in the planning and development stages, this number will undoubtedly change quickly. The AeroATL Greenway Plan, for example, has identified 59 priority projects around the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport that will include a direct path to the airport from Atlanta. Some AeroATL projects are already underway, including model miles completed in East Point and Hapeville. When started, the Chattahoochee RiverLands project will span a whopping seven counties and 19 cities. It will include over 80-miles of mixed-use trails plus 18,000 acres of greenspace where Atlanteans and visitors alike will be able to ride, hike, fish, paddle, and enjoy Georgia’s most famous river. Check out www.aeroatl.org/special-projects and www.chattahoocheeriverlands.com to read more.
Until that time, enjoy some of our other favorites:
Phoenix Trail – College Park. It’s a 1.5-mile rails-to-trails adjacent to the airport that includes a cooling tunnel on those Hotlanta days and is a welcome retreat from your hotel room.
Arabia Mountain Trail – Lithonia. A 19.1 Mile trail system through the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area that meanders through Davidson-Arabia Nature Preserve and Panola Mountain State Park. You can easily extend your time in either park to include over 30-miles of hiking, walking, and running trails through wooded valleys, exposed granite outcroppings, grassy lakes, wetlands, creek crossings, and a few historic ruins. While extremely family-friendly, it does contain a few more hills than your typical PATH trail so bring along some extra water and an energy bar to keep everyone fueled up and hydrated. www.arabiaalliance.org/trail-maps
Stone Mountain Trail – Atlanta. This 18.4 trail system was the PATH Foundation’s first trail, created for the 1996 Olympic Games to connect venues from Georgia Tech to Stone Mountain. It’s now Atlanta’s most used trail starting at Centennial Olympic Park and traveling through Freedom Park, the neighborhoods of Old Fourth Ward, Little Five Points, Candler Park, Lake Claire, Decatur, Clarkston, and ending at Stone Mountain Village. This system is a true tour-de-force, hitting some of Atlanta’s best areas. There are plenty of parks and pocket parks along the way, making it the perfect picnic day trip. Or stop and any of the numerous eateries along the way. We recommend starting at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, where you can explore the fantastic grounds of the library while still having easy access to The King Center, Fernbank Museum, Centennial Olympic Park, Old Fourth Ward Skatepark, and the Beltline. www.pathfoundation.org/stone-mountain-trail
Don’t have a bike? Don’t worry; Atlanta has plenty of bike rentals too. The easiest is to use a bike-share program, like Relay, where you can pick up a bicycle for a fee using their app at any bike share docking station and return it to the same or another location. Additional dockless bike and scooter options from Bird, Lime, and Spin, are available. Check their apps for stations close by your area. Or rent bikes for a day or longer. In Atlanta, check out The Bike Barn, just off the Beltline. If you’re on the Southside of town near the airport, head over to Outback Bikes Hapeville hub for a well-stocked fleet of over 100 bike rentals ranging from mountain, road, and e-bikes. Or, if you’re heading for a day to explore the Silver Comet, both Smyrna bikes and Comet Trail Cycles can provide you with all the gear you could need. For more rental details, go to the Atlanta Bicycle Coalitions website: www.atlantabike.org/rentals
By Wayne Whitesides