DeKalb’s Arabia Mountain entices with granite, fall daisies

Q: I’m intrigued by Arabia Mountain in DeKalb County. What’s its history and what’s there to do there?

A: Arabia Mountain, a National Heritage Area in DeKalb County, is one of three granite outcroppings, or monadnocks, in metro Atlanta, along with Panola Mountain and the larger, well-known Stone Mountain.

But this monadnock is more than a simple isolated stone hill rising out of a flat plain. With a peak of over 900 feet above sea level, expansive biking trails, unique scenery, and endangered plant and animal species, Arabia Mountain “might be the best kept secret in DeKalb County,” said Robert Astrove, Davidson-Arabia Nature Preserve park ranger.

“This is an ancient rock that formed underground and basically got isolated and stuck,” Astrove said. “It was the surface of the planet that actually eroded to give way to this protruding rock that sticks out. That took a few million years, of course.”

During the 20th century, Arabia Mountain was one of several granite quarrying sites in Georgia. Quarrying was an important industry in the region, and granite from quarries in the Lithonia area, such as Arabia Mountain, have been used for buildings in the heritage area and throughout the country, including the U.S. Naval Academy and parts of the Brooklyn Bridge.

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Davidson Granite Enterprises owned and quarried Arabia Mountain for years. In the 1970s, the Davidson family donated 500 acres of Arabia Mountain to DeKalb County as a nature preserve. The park has been expanded multiple times since then and now includes over 2,500 acres of granite outcrops and two lakes. Mera Cardenas, executive director of Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, said the expansion of the Arabia Mountain preserve over time has made it into a unique park.

“It’s having the forests, and the rock and the granite outcrop and the wetlands all in this very compact area,” Cardenas said. “So even though 2,500 acres sounds large, that’s quite compact for an outdoor natural experience.”

Visitors can bike more than 30 miles of trails, hike, fish and see the landscape change during the seasons. In September, thousands of daisies sprout up along Arabia Mountain, coloring it in a sea of yellow during the annual Daisy Days.

“It’s sort of Atlanta’s big backyard,” Cardenas said. “You can, within 20 minutes of downtown, be transported to another world; take a mini vacation.”

Astrove suggests that one of the best features of Arabia Mountain is that it is free for visitors.

“I really consider it like the people’s park,” Astrove said.

If you’re new in town or have questions about this special place we call home, ask us! E-mail q& or call 404-222-2002.

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