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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?