Put the fun back in your run: 7 of Atlanta’s best running trails

Running is a great way to stay in shape and keep active. Sometimes, though, the daily grind of the treadmill or the all-too-familiar neighborhood route can make running a challenge.

Take a run on a trail for a break from the monotony of your everyday route. A trail run can make a great recovery run or weekly long run, too; a running trail’s softer surface makes a great break from hard-surface concrete or asphalt. Trail running can also give you a chance to breathe some clean air, escape traffic and put the fun back into your run.

Run one of these popular unpaved running trails in metro Atlanta for a great change of pace:

Cheatham Hill Loop

Run this 5.8-mile loop over gently rolling terrain north of Atlanta. You’ll run through beautiful, grassy meadows, over a creek, by a grove of bamboo, and through former Civil War battlefields at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. Songbirds sing and wildflowers bloom alongside the trail, making a great escape from the bustle of the suburbs.

Sweetwater Creek Yellow Trail

Run a moderately challenging, hilly 5k loop at Sweetwater Creek State Park. The trail begins at the visitors center and descends through a fern-filled forest before crossing the scenic Sweetwater Creek over a large steel bridge. On the creek’s opposite bank, you’ll catch a great hill workout as the trail gains 300 feet, rising to a small ridge. You’ll loop back to the creek, passing a small cave and catch views of Sweetwater’s mill ruins and whitewater shoals as the trail runs along the creek.

Credit: From atlantatrails.com

Credit: From atlantatrails.com

Sope Creek Trail

Enjoy a morning run on the quiet Sope Creek trails in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. The trail runs beside the ruins of a 19th-century paper mill, along the boulder-strewn Sope Creek and around the banks of tranquil Sibley Pond. You’ll run through cool, shady forest and trickling creek valleys before looping back to the parking area. In the mood for more mileage? Run Sope Creek’s connecting trails to the popular Cochran Shoals 5k running loop on the banks of the Chattahoochee River.

Iron Hill Trail

Run a beautiful, mostly level 3.8-mile loop near the shores of Allatoona Lake at Red Top Mountain State Park. The Iron Hill Trail meanders along the lake’s inlets on a small peninsula, and runs fairly level, thanks to a network of boardwalks and bridges. You’ll catch nearly constant views of the lake’s rolling shoreline reflecting in on its calm surface, making the run especially scenic.

Credit: Eric Champlin

Credit: Eric Champlin

24 Gun Trail and Environmental Loop

Run an easy 3.5 miler at Kennesaw Mountain on this combination of the park's 24 Gun and Environmental trails. You'll explore Kennesaw Mountain's lower elevations, crossing creeks and running around boulders as the trail rolls elevation through a shady forest.

Homestead Trail

Run a moderate 5.3-mile loop near the shore of Allatoona Lake at Red Top Mountain State Park. You’ll run through pine and deciduous forest before following the winding finger-like contours of the lake. After the run, grab a quick dip in the lake for a refreshing cool down.

Powers Island Trail

Explore a Chattahoochee River island and rolling forest on the Powers Island Trail. Run this 2.4-mile loop in Atlanta’s Chattahoochee National Recreation Area on the serene (and sometimes deserted) shore opposite the ultra-popular Cochran Shoals Trail. You’ll loop through a shady riverside forest, run over the bridge to Powers Island and catch beautiful views of the Chattahoochee River’s whitewater shoals.

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