Running Atlanta’s Silver Comet

Photo: PATH Foundation

Here’s your trail guide to one the country’s longest continuous greenways.

Georgia’s Silver Comet Trail is impressive. The paved greenway stretches for 61 miles from Smyrna, in the heart of bustling metro Atlanta, to the Alabama border, where it meets the 33-mile Chief Ladiga Trail. Put them together and you have almost 100 miles of paved trail, making it one of the longest continuous greenways in the United States. And it’s not finished. Plans are underway to connect the eastern portion of the Silver Comet, in metro Atlanta, with a large network of greenways in Cobb County, just north of Atlanta. There’s already a 5-mile spur stretching from the eastern terminus. Eventually, the Silver Comet will connect with the Chattahoochee River and the Atlanta Beltline Trail system. Meanwhile, in Alabama, they’re working on a 6-mile connector that will bring the Chief Ladiga into downtown Anniston, where an Amtrak station offers the potential for a train ride back to Atlanta. 

But there’s no reason to wait for any new developments to pan out. The Silver Comet is already a destination for walkers, runners and cyclists right now. The trail has more than 30 established trailheads, many with restrooms and water, and passes through half a dozen small towns on its way to Alabama. The surface is a smooth, 12-foot-wide path of concrete and the terrain shifts from busy suburbs to bucolic farmland as it heads west. Not only is there no traffic to contend with, but the Silver Comet is relatively flat because it follows an old railroad grade. Here are the best destinations along the Silver Comet, whether you’re looking for a quick post-work run or a scenic getaway. 

Best Post-Work Run: Heritage Park Section

The Fontaine Road Trailhead doesn’t have bathrooms, but its location in the middle of metro Atlanta’s bustling suburbs makes it prime for a quick after-work run. Start at the trailhead (Mile Marker 1.2) and run west entering the 100-acre Heritage Park, where you can pick up the 1.7-mile Heritage Park Trail, which follows Nickajack Creek through the forest back to Fontaine Road. Connect a short section of Fontaine Road to complete the loop back to the Fontaine Road Trailhead. All in, it’s a 3.5-mile circuit that’s split evenly between the Silver Comet and Heritage Park Trail. 

A silhouette of runners on Atlanta’s Silver Comet Photo: PATH Foundation

Best Section for a Wild Escape: Paulding Wildlife Management Area

Starting at the Rambo Road Trailhead (MM 22.22), the Silver Comet crosses a 750-foot-long wooden train trestle that was built in 1901 (and restored in 1999) before heading into the 25,000-acre Paulding Wildlife Management Area. Here, a towering pine forest shelters wild trout streams and healthy populations of deer, bear and wild turkey. Continue through the forest, which is the most remote section of the Silver Comet, and you’ll eventually pass through the 800-foot-long Brushy Mountain Tunnel before ending at the Coot’s Lake Beach Trailhead, where a 25-acre lake (open for swimming in the summer) punctuates the end of the 11-mile journey. More info:

Best Section for a Trail to Tavern Experience: Rockmart 

At MM 37.6, the Silver Comet joins forces with Rockmart’s Riverwalk Park and passes through Rockmart, a small town named for its mining industry, with a thriving historic downtown. There are a handful of tasty restaurants close to the path, making it a real destination for a run with après activities. Try a burger and a beer from the new Rails at Rockmart

Cyclists take note; Rockmart is also roughly 40 miles from the eastern terminus of the Silver Comet, near Atlanta, making it the ideal spot for long-distance cyclists to grab a bite before turning around and heading back to the city. 

More Info

Check out SilverCometGa for added details about the trail as well as this interactive map with notes on each trailhead:

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.