Where to hike, bike, and nature watch along the ‘Hooch
Hiking and Running
The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area’s best riverside trails are both scenic and “truly moderate, with gently rolling elevation,” says Eric Champlin, editor of AtlantaTrails.com. Opt for bluffs and a bamboo grove on the popular four-mile East Palisades Trail or spying wildlife and 3.2 miles of solitude at Gold Branch Trail. For a workout, Atlanta Track Club coach and 2008 Olympian Amy Begley suggests the crushed gravel 3.1-mile Cochran Shoals Trail—the river’s most popular route—followed by an “ice bath” river plunge.
Designated mountain biking options within a stone’s throw of the Chattahoochee in metro Atlanta are limited to what’s known as the Sope Creek Trails, just north of I-285. Collectively, the figure-eight trail system is nearly seven miles long and classified as “intermediate” by the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association. They are also among the Southeast’s busiest, with 10-mile-per-hour speed limits. For a smoother ride, the paved Akers Mill Trail system dips under I-285 and links to the Cumberland business district.
As a critical habitat and migratory pathway, the Chattahoochee is a natural hotspot for watching sandhill cranes, summer tanagers, and more than 200 species and birds through the seasons, says Nikki Belmonte of the Atlanta Audubon Society. Key destinations in the recreation area include the Buford Trout Hatchery in Forsyth County (focus: migratory songbirds and waterfowl) and Morgan Falls Overlook Park (bald eagle, osprey, and wading birds).