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With COVID-19 seemingly going nowhere, we are all getting a little stir-crazy hanging out in our homes and neighborhoods. We are working/playing/eating/sleeping all within our own little kingdoms, and these castle walls are slowly closing in on many of us.
Fortunately, Atlanta has some amazing options for getting out of town to bask in nature’s majestic beauty without venturing too far from the city. To get outside and enjoy a good hike, a swim, or just some scenic vistas (other than the random trees outside of your apartment) – you should check out these destinations that are just day trips from the city and sure to appeal to any nature lover.
Sweetwater Creek State Park (Time to get there – 30 min)
Sweetwater Creek is a charming state park that has more than 2,500 acres with a huge 215-acre lake. This park is a dream for families with many picnic areas and trails that are accommodating to hikers of all skill levels and ages. The park features five main trails ranging from one to five miles in length, with striking views of the river running through the park as well as the wilderness, lake and even the ruins of an abandoned mill (that was a shooting location visitors may remember from the movie “The Hunger Games”). This park can get busy on the weekends, so plan your trip accordingly.
Arabia Mountain & Panola Mountain (Time to get there – 30 min)
This area just east of Atlanta boasts seven trails and two granite mountains that are unique and picturesque. It is a great place for hiking, whether you want to climb for an elevated view or just get in a low-key hike on the lower trails. There are plenty of opportunities to photograph rare plant life as the trails weave through various spaces of rare vegetation. It is also a great place for those who want to be on the water – visitors can canoe, kayak, or standup paddleboard on Alexander Lake. Paved trails are also in the mix, and visitors are welcome to bring their pets along in certain areas. There is truly something for everyone here.
Tallulah Gorge State Park (Time to get there – 1 hr, 45 min)
Tallulah Gorge is the furthest destination on this list, but it is one of the most strikingly beautiful places to visit for a true wilderness experience near the city. The gorge itself is nearly two miles long and 1,000 feet deep. The state park is more than 2,500 acres with a 63-acre lake and many trails that hikers will love – and even some designed for mountain biking enthusiasts. One of the most exciting and unique features in the park is a massive suspension bridge that spans the gorge. It’s a breathtaking spot to take in the natural beauty of this park with varied terrain and a spectacular waterfall. This park is one of the most photogenic in the state and highly recommended to visit at least once while you’re in Georgia – and most definitely if you live in Atlanta.
Lake Lanier (Time to get there – 30-45 min)
Lake Lanier is a human-made lake just northeast of Atlanta, and also many Atlantans’ favorite spot to spend some time on the water without going too far from home. Its official moniker is Lake Sydney Lanier, and it was created in the 1950s by the Army Corps of Engineers. There are 76 recreational areas and nearly 690 miles of shoreline around Lake Lanier.
It was made by the building of Buford Dam on the Chattahoochee River, and that also happens to be a great starting point for exploring the natural offerings around this nearly 58 square mile body of water. From the Buford Dam area, visitors have access to four parks featuring two main trails that explore the area near and around the lake. Visitors can bring or rent a kayak and explore the lake or can check out the Lake Lanier Olympic Park in nearby Gainesville and traverse the same paths as the 1996 Olympic rowers.
If you’re looking for a swankier getaway, Lake Lanier won’t disappoint here either. Spend some time at the resort, visit Margaritaville for the lakeside beach (complete with refreshing island cocktails and beachside restaurant) or have a blast on the waterslides or in the huge wave pool.
Whether you love to hike, bike, kayak, swim or just walk your dog, there are so many great ways to leave the city behind for a day and enjoy the fresh air by spending time in the beautiful outdoors. These are just four of the many choices near Atlanta, and you would be remiss not to give them a try – especially while we are all tied down a bit closer to home these days. So pack up your lunch, your sunscreen and maybe even a companion, and head out to one of these prime destinations for nature lovers.
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