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5 hiking trails that are a quick drive from Atlanta

Atlanta's a rarity for big cities−there's plenty of green space ITP to explore when time is tight or the gas tank is low. But Georgia is a wealth of hiking and walking trails beyond the city limits, too, and Atlanta residents are always less than an hour away from more extensive views and challenging trails. Here are five hikes just outside of Atlanta worth adding to the bucket list.

Sawnee Mountain Preserve
 Cumming

Sawnee Mountain's Indian Seats Trail−named for its rock formations−spans four miles and will take you to the mountain's breathtaking summit, one of multiple destinations good for taking in the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Complete with remnants of area gold mines, the park spans over 900 acres and makes for a great day trip with friends and family.

A SCENIC VIEW--Amber Mercer (right) and Kristi Allen enjoyed a brisk hike to the top of Kennesaw mountain with "Layla", whose name was somewhat inspired by the Eric Clapton song. Cool weather and clear skys equal's great visibility from Kennesaw Mountain, with the Atlanta skyline clearly visible about 20 miles away, Mon, Jan. 3, 2011. (Bob Andres bandres@ajc.com)

Kennessaw Mountain
 Kennesaw

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Log miles while learning about Georgia's history on this expansive 11-mile trek through battlefields and trenches. You wouldn't know it from most of the mountain's rustic views, but the grounds were host to a long and raging battle during the Civil War. Now, though, you can find paths fit for shorter, 1.5 to 2 mile hikes, as well as longer routes for the more experienced outdoorsman. Your reward for reaching the top? A view of the Atlanta skyline−a distant beacon of how far you've come.

Vickery Creek Trail
 Roswell

Heading up the not-quite-ITP category, Vickery Creek is a reasonably short jaunt that packs a lot of perks. Check out the historic Roswell Mill, get a glimpse of tumbling waterfalls, or scout out wildlife in the area as you meander along the creek. Clocking in at just under five miles, this is a formidable afternoon outing that can be stretched into a whole day. Cochran ShoalsAnother path just outside of the perimeter, this path down the Chattahoochee River can be stretched to fit hikers of many levels--you'll finder longer, 11-mile options alongside 3 or 4 mile routes, too. Pet-friendly and in proximity to many residential neighborhoods on the north side the trail stretches north right the river holds multiple boardwalks as well as stretches through wide meadows.

The Cochran Shoals area is one of the key Atlanta Audubon sites for spring and fall migration walks, second only to Kennesaw Mountain. (Vino Wong), vwong@ajc.com (Vino Wong)

Cochran Shoals
 Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

Another path just outside of the perimeter, this path down the Chattahoochee River can be stretched to fit hikers of many levels−you'll finder longer, 11-mile options alongside 3 or 4 mile routes, too. Pet-friendly and in proximity to many residential neighborhoods on the north side the trail stretches north right the river holds multiple boardwalks as well as stretches through wide meadows.

Yellow River Park
 Stone Mountain

This Gwinnett destination holds more than 12 miles of different trails set sandy banks. Several sites within its grounds hold waterfalls and grand, scenic views, and there's even an observation deck to help wandering hikers catch a long look at their surroundings. Most breathtaking attraction is the thick greenery surrounding the trail, which crosses streams and water. Don't blink or you might miss the entrance−it's tucked away near strip malls and residential neighborhoods, which only makes it a more attractive and convenient option for plenty of Atlanta commuters and suburbanites.

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