Ready to start hiking Georgia’s trails? Here are 4 tips for beginners.

For Atlantans, some of the state’s best trails are close by. Here's how to get out there.

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Ready to start hiking Georgia's trails? Here are 4 tips for beginners.

Illustration by Brian Paul Nelson

More than 11 million people visited Georgia’s parks in 2020, an increase of more than half a million over 2019. Among the most popular draws? Hiking. For Atlantans, some of the state’s best trails are close by. Dan Ryan, director of conservation for the Nature Conservancy in Georgia, notes, “You don’t need to go to the mountains or get in a car to hike in the metro area.” Many trails are accessible via MARTA. Here’s how to get started:

Tips for beginning hikers

1. Do your homework
Tammy Shakur, who leads hikes for REI’s Outdoor School, recommends starting with a wide-open, relatively flat trail, such as the Cochran Shoals Trail at the Chattahoochee River. Marquette Johnson, an avid backpacker and member of Girls Who Hike GA, suggests searching AllTrails or Instagram for hiking routes and messaging other users to ask about terrain, distance, difficulty, and recent conditions.

2. Buddy up
Johnson acknowledges that one of the biggest barriers for beginners—particularly women and people of color—is the fear of feeling unwelcome in remote outdoor spaces. Join a Meetup group, find a class, or team up with a more experienced hiker.

3. Dress for success
Footwear is key. Shakur opts for sturdy athletic shoes with a good tread to help maintain balance and grip on uneven or slippery surfaces. Ryan prefers a light, breathable long-sleeved shirt to protect against sun and bugs.

4. Pack up
Stash some snacks, a phone, and a map (especially if you may stray out of cell service), plus a full, reusable water bottle in a small, ergonomically sound day pack that allows you to walk without restriction.

This article appears in our June 2021 issue.

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