Marble Mine Trail at James H. “Sloppy” Floyd State Park
Easy, 1.6 miles out-and-back
This family-friendly hike is a favorite of Adriana Garcia, cofounder of Atlanta-based LatinXhikers, who set a goal of hiking all of Georgia’s nearly 50 state parks this year. The trail coasts along a wide path passing mining ruins until it opens up to an enormous cave, with a boardwalk where you can peer into the abandoned mine. A waterfall trickles down the sheer face and into a pond of “the clearest blue water.” $5 parking
Difficult, 12 miles out-and-back
There’s the popular way to hike Brasstown Bald (Georgia’s highest peak at 4,784 feet)—by driving most of the way to the top and climbing the half-mile trail—and then there’s the Arkaquah Trail. Start at the base of Brasstown at Track Rock Gap, where you can view ancient Native American petroglyphs, and then you’ll head due up in a heart-pumping workout. “My favorite part is when it levels out on the ridgeline,” says Eric Champlin, founder of Atlanta Trails and owner of Hiawassee outfitter Trailful Outdoor Co. “It’s incredibly peaceful.” There, you can join the throngs up to the summit, with its 360-degree observation deck—or not. $5 parking
Raven Cliff Falls
Moderate, 5 miles out-and-back
Hit this mossy mountainside trail first thing in the morning—parking spots regularly fill up by 9 a.m. But it’s easy to understand why it’s so well-loved: Its shady, meandering roll along Dodd Creek is accompanied by a soundtrack of rushing waterfalls. The final 100 yards scramble through the boulders, where you’ll reach the falls, sluicing dramatically through a split in a rock outcropping. If you’re looking for a shorter but similar option, try the two-mile Duke’s Creek Falls Trail, just east. $5 parking
Easy, 1.6 miles out-and-back
This gentle wander on Pigeon Mountain leads to one of the state’s most fascinating geological formations, a “village” of peculiar, sculptural boulders—one of the best places in the Southeast for bouldering. There, you’ll have your pick of rock perches for a picnic, where you can watch the expert climbers tackle the sheer, ancient crags or carefully explore the climbs and squeezes yourself. $3.50 day pass, gooutdoorsgeorgia.com
Lula Lake Land Trust
Moderate, 3.5 or 6.1 miles
The nonprofit land trust opens this gem to the public just a few days a month and requires a reservation ($15, lulalake.org), keeping the crowds at bay and the trails pristine. Choose one of two routes, and either way, you’ll be rewarded with views of the Chattanooga Valley and the 120-foot Lula Falls, where you’ll be blanketed in mist and can splash in the pool at the bottom.
Pinnacle Knob on the Bartram Trail
Difficult, 8.1 miles out-and-back
“The Appalachian Trail is iconic,” says Champlin of Atlanta Trails, “but I love the Bartram Trail.” This trek begins down in the cool Warwoman Dell (thought to be named for a Cherokee woman) and follows the route taken by 18th-century naturalist William Bartram, one of the area’s first explorers. You’ll climb through rhododendron and old-growth forest past waterfalls until reaching an overlook with views of the Smokies in the distance. For a shorter, family-friendly hike, take the trail from Warwoman Dell to Becky Branch Falls, just 0.6 miles in.
This article appears in our September 2020 issue.