Sarah Vanas, 1st-year Health Policy & Management
When I got accepted to Emory, I was ecstatic. However, a small part of me was worried and anxious about leaving behind the gorgeous state of Michigan for a hot, bustling metropolis in the south. I was spoiled and grew up surrounded by nature with the opportunity to go on an adventure at a moment’s notice and I was worried that I was leaving that behind for good. Thankfully, I almost immediately found out that was not true. For those of you who have visited Atlanta, you probably know what I am talking about. One moment you are surrounded by skyscrapers and the next you could be driving down a quaint street with azalea bushes and oak trees sweeping down onto a beautiful, landscaped yard. When I first realized this, my hopes for weekend outdoor adventures were re-invigorated and I became determined to find the best hiking spots in and around the city. Thanks to the great weather almost year-round, I have been able to explore a new spot whenever I felt like it. Below I will talk about some of my favorites and some must-do’s for anyone seeking some outdoors fun in a big city.
East/West Palisades Trail
This is a newfound gem and I love it. I was very surprised when I found it because it was ITP (inside the perimeter of I-285) and on the river. It is a gorgeous hike right along the river with the option to explore further trails that go up hills and into the woods. (FYI – every hike that I talk about is doable for almost anyone. Trust me, I am far from a skilled and athletic hike.) My boyfriend and I decided that it would be the perfect spot on a sunny day to bring some chairs and a cooler with drinks and just sit in the sun on the riverbanks. We came back a few weeks later and did exactly that and it was fantastic – albeit, a little redneck but it’s the south and everyone has to show their redneck side every once and awhile.
The Indian Seats
Most other hikes that aren’t along the hooch will require a little bit of driving. If you’re willing to spend 20-30 minutes in the car, the options for hikes are endless. This spot was about a 30-minute drive, but is well worth it. A 4-mile trail leads you to the top of a mountain where you can overlook all of Northern Georgia. It is breathtaking and worth the huffing and puffing to get to the top. At the top, there are carved depressions in the granite that look like “seats” and yes, you can actually sit in them! From there, you can see all the way out to the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are a popular destination for mountain cabin rentals on longer weekend trips.
Vickery Creek Trail
This trail is located just OTP in Roswell, GA. It also runs along the Chattahoochee River with many options to veer off a number of different trails. The group that I was with walked out to flat bedrock in the middle of the river to eat our sandwiches in the sun before hiking up into the hills. The trails also include covered bridges and an old mill, which makes you feel like you’re stepping back in time a little bit. We even stumbled upon a waterfall that we had no idea existed! Pick up a sub from Publix and head out here with a group of your new Emory friends.
Blue Ridge Mountains and beyond
I highly recommend taking a long weekend in the fall to drive up north to the Blue Ridge Mountains. The changing leaves are spectacular and the small, southern towns welcome visitors with open arms. If you decide to take anywhere from a 1.5-3 hour drive, you can explore the true beauty that is Georgia including the Tallulah Gorge and Falls (pictured below), Amicalola Falls, and Brasstown Bald (the highest point in Georgia)!
There are so many more places to go than what is listed here and if you are interested in exploring them either this summer or fall, I recommend visiting www.atlantatrails.com for some inspiration, directions, and helpful tips for some of the best places in Georgia!