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Kids Outdoors

Best Hiking in Atlanta With Dogs And Kids

March 23, 2016
best hiking in atlanta with kids and dogs

Can you FEEL it? Spring, y’all!

We love being outdoors when the weather’s nice. Luckily, so does our little diva. When I ask her, “What should we do this weekend,” she’ll usually say “Go on an adventure!” That’s what we call going on a hike.

The past few years, we have been trying to check out as many new hiking trails in Atlanta as possible. It’s hard to believe there are so many cool trails to explore, so close to home. Here are our picks for hiking trails around Atlanta that are great for both dogs and kids.

East Palisades Trail

east palisades trail hiking in atlanta

The dogs’ favorite spot to hang out at East Palisades

This network of trails just Northeast of Atlanta runs alongside beautiful Whitewater Creek. The views are pretty spectacular and there are lots of critters for the kiddos to spot, like beavers, turtles, and ducks.

There is plenty of shallow water for wading, which both humans and dogs are sure to love (just bring your water shoes.) The boat launch area is a popular place for folks to gather with their water-loving pups and picnic.

There are 2 entrance points here, both with ample parking. The Indian Trail trailhead is at the top of a hill, if you’re looking for a more challenging hike (especially on the way back up.)

The Whitewater Creek entrance it at the bottom of the hill, near the “boat launch,” and closer to the more leisurely trails that run alongside the river.

Note: both entrances require a $3 parking fee, and neither of them have restrooms.

Cochran Shoals Trail

Try to spot the infamous “Chattahoochee Alligator” at Cochran Shoals! Located off 285 just outside the perimeter, it feels like a world away. The scenic (and relatively level) trails offer beautiful views of the Chattahoochee — and sometimes, playful river otters (though we’ve never managed to catch a glimpse of the gator.) Along the way, you can learn all about the Chattahoochee (via educational stations) and the ongoing clean-up efforts.

There is a wide, paved trail that is great for biking or trail running, and a series of smaller trails close to the water.

Conveniently, the parking lot (which requires a $3 fee) also has restrooms. It connects to Sope Creek trail (below.)

Sope Creek Trail

sope creek trail hiking in atlanta

This isn’t too far from Cochran Shoals (also off New Northside), but tends to be less crowded. The trails are also more hilly and challenging, but you can choose your own adventure. Take a more leisurely stroll around a large pond, or venture through the woods and down to the creek (where our dog loves to hop across the boulders.) You can also spot ruins from an old paper mill.

We also love the drive to Sope Creek, winding up Paper Mill road and past some gorgeous and HUGE houses (one can dream.) On the way back, we like to also hit up the Abernathy Greenway and “art” playground. See our post about other best playgrounds in Atlanta here.

Parking at Sope Creek is $3, and there are no restrooms.

Murphey Candler Trail

murphey candler park ducklings hiking in atlanta

New ducklings at Murphey Candler

This is our go-to, close-to-home hiking spot. We affectionately call it the “duck pond.” I can’t wait until it gets a little warmer out – this is when we love to visit, and see all the little fluffy baby ducks and geese.

The trail is a moderate, 2-mile loop encircling a pond — great for trail running. Along the way, you can spot ducks, geese, turtles, herons, and more. Just don’t feed the ducks, or approach the geese (mean little things!) There’s also a small playground (with equipment for different age ranges), and plenty of picnic areas.

There is no charge for parking here, though the parking lot is pretty small. There is lots of street parking available in the neighborhoods. It’s also very close to a public pool (Murphey Candler pool), for those hot summer days where you need to cool off.

Arabia Mountain Trail

arabia mountain hiking in atlanta

Top of Arabia Mountain, during winter

You don’t have to venture far from Atlanta to feel like you’re far away. Arabia Mountain trail is one of our newer discoveries, and it’s breathtaking. We visited in winter, but during warmer months the “mountain” (actually a monadnock, similar in geology to Stone Mountain) is covered in gorgeous red diamorpha blooms.

There is so much to discover as a family here, that we didn’t even scratch the surface. There is a geocaching program, tons of free educational events, and a wild animal rehabilitation center that offers free tours on Saturdays and Sundays.

But the hikes alone are worth the drive – especially the unique plant growth and views of the city. Conveniently, there are restrooms at many points along the trail (we parked at the nature center, and there was a public restroom there.)

Dunwoody Nature Center

Ok, this isn’t so much a hardcore hiking spot as it is a fun place to explore. I think it would be perfect if you had really little ones, and didn’t feel like doing a ton of difficult hiking, but wanted to give the older kids hours of outdoor entertainment.

Among the things to explore on the outdoor trails:

  • Wildcat creek & boardwalk
  • A bird-watching treehouse
  • A teepee
  • Gardens
  • One of the coolest playgrounds EVER
  • A really chill spot with a bunch of hammocks
  • Bee hives (from a distance, of course)

There are even more things to explore inside the nature center. We actually signed our daughter up for a week of summer camp there, starting in a few months. More on that later!

So, those are our favorite family hiking spots close to Atlanta…for now. Tell us: what are your favorites?

Kids Outdoors Summertime

Ultimate Guide: Top Free Playgrounds in Atlanta

July 17, 2015
The Best Playgrounds in Atlanta

6. The Playground @ PDK (Peachtree Dekalb Airport)

What kid wouldn’t love a continuous show of planes taking off and landing

Why kids <3 it: What kid wouldn’t love a continuous show of planes taking off and landing, while enjoying a recently-constructed playground complete with swings, slides, monkey bars, & more?

Why parents <3 it: In the airport office park/hangar right next door, you’ll find a “dive” restaurant called Downwind Restaurant & Lounge that’s perfect for catching lunch (and maybe a drink), complete with a cool view of the PDK runway. There’s also a covered structure close by with picnic tables, perfect for gatherings or parties. If your kid (or you) is a total aviation geek, you’ll love that there is a speaker where you can hear communication between pilots and air traffic control.

Tip: Downwind doesn’t allow kids on Friday evenings after 7 p.m., and they’re closed on Sundays. For the full experience (lunch with a view + playground time), go on a Saturday.

Free Parking? Yes.

Restrooms? Yes, located inside the office building next door (same building as Downwind), on the second floor.

Get there: 2000 Airport Road, Atlanta, GA 30341

 

5. Riverside Park in Roswell

During peak months, there is always something going on here

Why kids <3 it: This is a sprawling park with tons of things to do, from the multiple playground structures to the huge splash pad area.

Why parents <3 it: During peak months, there is always something going on here during the weekends. Hit up this park on most weekends, and you can expect to find a festival, food trucks, and more. During the summer, Roswell hosts its free concert series here, and patrons are welcome to bring coolers with food and beverages (yes, adult beverages too).

Tip: Admission to the splash pad is $2 per person. It’s a closed off area, and pets/food/drinks aren’t allowed.

Restrooms: Yes.

Get there: 575 Riverside Road, Roswell, GA

 

4. Noguchi Playscape at Piedmont Park

The only playground in the WORLD designed by world-renowned artist and sculptor Isamu Noguchi

Why kids <3 it: Lots of funky shapes, colors, and textures to explore (and climb all over). And since it’s Piedmont Park, there are lots of doggies to see, too.

Why parents <3 it: The architecture. This is the only playground in the WORLD designed by world-renowned artist and sculptor Isamu Noguchi. Combined with the beautiful city skyline, it makes for wonderful scenery and photo ops.

Tip: The playground is also very close to The Nook, a kid-friendly and laid-back spot to grab some grub and perhaps a bloody Mary (trust me, you’ll want to try this one: it has all kinds of goodies).

Free Parking? Depends on how far you want to walk. You can park for free in some of the neighborhoods surrounding Piedmont, or pay about $5 to park in the paid lot adjacent to the Botanical Gardens, which is also a little bit of a walk.

Restrooms: Yes, but just warning you – they’re “squatty potty” style, not always the cleanest, and there isn’t always TP available. Be prepared with some wipes and hand sanitizer.

Get there: Piedmont Park, 1432 Worchester Dr NE, Atlanta, GA 30306


3. Abernathy Greenway Playable Art Park

The most whimsical, imaginative play structures you’ll ever see.

IMG_2342

Why kids <3 it: These are the most whimsical, imaginative play structures you’ll ever see. It’s technically art, but it only looks like you’re not supposed to touch it.

Why parents <3 it: The same reason the kids do!

Tip: For us, this playground is right on the way home from Sope Creek park. We like to do a little hike in the morning, and then stop by here to let our daughter play.

Free Parking? Yes.

Restrooms: Yes.

Get there: Abernathy Greenway, Abernathy Rd. NW, Sandy Springs

 

2. Brook Run Park

A concrete ‘stream’ encircles the park.

Why kids <3 it: This playground is huge. They have several different sections, with something for every age (from young toddlers to teens, who can enjoy the skate park next door). During the summer, they turn on the water feature – a concrete “stream” that encircles the park.

Why parents <3 it: This park will keep your kids busy for hours. Even if you have a younger kid (or one who’s timid, like ours), there are smaller structures that are more at their comfort level. There are also plenty of shaded areas.

Tip: There is an awesome dog park close by! Let Fido play for a while first, and then hit up the playground (your fur baby can join you here, too, on a leash).

Free Parking? Yes.

Restrooms: Yes.

Get there: Georgia Way South, Dunwoody, GA 30338

 

1. Historic Fourth Ward Park

This is a playground outing that you can really make an afternoon of.

Why kids <3 it: This park has so much going on! The playground offers new twists on play structures, including swings shaped like giant saucers. During warm months, kids of all ages can cool off at the free splash pad, with neat water features.

Why parents <3 it: This is a playground outing that you can really make an afternoon of.

Tip: When the kiddos are tuckered out from playing, take a stroll through a beautiful park and residential area to the new Ponce City Market, and grab lunch or a gelato at the food hall (opening soon).

Free Parking? Yes, but it’s street parking.

Restrooms? Yes.

Get there: 680 Dallas St NE, Atlanta, GA 30308