The Chattahoochee River has been the lifeblood of North Georgia since time immemorial. Over time, its shape has changed, but its wild spirit has remained the same since it was first settled by Cherokee and Muscogee peoples hundreds of years ago. Visit the park today, and you’ll still experience the awe that has been drawing hikers, bikers, anglers, and paddlers ever since.
Now part of the U.S. national parks system, the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (NRA) encompasses 48 miles of river stretching from Metro Atlanta to Lake Lanier. It’s home to nearly 1,000 different types of plants and about 200 bird species, including ospreys and bald eagles, which fish for plentiful trout and nest along the Chattahoochee’s banks.
Here’s how to see all that and more—without ever going too far from home.
The Chattahoochee River NRA boasts dozens of miles of trails. But for easy access, deep shade, and consistent challenge, these three are tough to beat.
Vickery Creek Loop
Located right across the street from Roswell Park, the Vickery Creek trails are a popular training spot for local cross-country running teams in the summer—and popular among hikers year-round. To do a 3-mile loop of the whole unit, first park at either the Vickery Creek Trailhead or in Roswell Park. Head northeast to pick up the Vickery Creek Trail going clockwise. Be sure to stop at the famous Roswell Covered Bridge and adjacent waterfall along the way.
Island Ford Figure-Eight
At 6.4 miles, the Island Ford Trail is one of the longest in North Atlanta. The route encompasses two separate loops and starts right by the Chattahoochee River NRA visitor center. To do it, park at the trailhead parking area and head north. You’ll cross Summerbrook Creek as the trail starts to head uphill. Keep heading north to reach the unit’s northern extension and the trail’s terminus. Follow each loop clockwise to get back to your car.
East Palisades Trail Loop
This 3-mile loop winds through dense forest, tackles two big hills, and offers continuous views of the river for nearly a mile. Start at the East Palisades Trailhead area. Head toward the water, then follow the trail north along the riverbank. After about 0.6 mile, you’ll turn right to head uphill (at intersection EP5 on this map). Wrap your way around the loop clockwise before veering back south at intersection EP24.