A woman in a hammock by a riverbank
Staying cool along the Chattahoochee River
Hollis Bennett

Six summer picks in Georgia’s Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

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The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area is metro Atlanta’s lifeline to the great outdoors. Stretching from Lake Lanier in the north to the western neighborhoods of Atlanta proper, this 48-mile-long string of parks and green spaces along the scenic Chattahoochee River offers endless opportunities to get outside—whether you want to hike, run, bike, paddle, fish, or climb.

Since the early 1990s, The Trust for Public Land has worked with the National Park Service and local partners to expand the national recreation area by nearly a thousand acres, adding trails, picnic areas, and boat launches as the metro population grows. We’ve had lots of time to get to know the river—and there’s so much to love! Here are our top six picks for exploring all that the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area has to offer.

Hiking at Bowman’s Island

At the northern end of the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area, the Bowman’s Island loop trail is a shady, 6-mile stroll through quiet forests on the river’s west bank. You’ll climb nearly 400 feet over rolling ridges that offer nice views of the river. If you have time, stop by the 200-foot-tall Buford Dam at Lower Pool Park at the north end of the Bowman’s Island loop—a pedestrian bridge spans the dam’s spillway, offering a safe but thrilling view of the Chattahoochee River as it charges out of Lake Lanier.

Fishing at Jones Bridge

Need an escape from the sweltering Georgia summer? Look no further than the Chattahoochee River. The swimming holes at Jones Bridge offer a welcome respite for people on hot days, and a year-round haven for trout, bass, and catfish. A series of rocks, riffles, and shoals along this section of the river provide particularly good habitat for trout—and easy access for anglers and fly-fishers when the water is low. Before you go, just be sure to check out the Fishing Rules and Regulations page for the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area. If you’d rather keep your feet dry, Jones Bridge also offers picnic areas, forested hiking trails, and a boat ramp.

The cool waters of the Chattahoochee River are home to trout, bass, and catfish.Photo credit: Hollis Bennett

Bouldering at Island Ford

Rock climbers in metro Atlanta looking for a quick vertical fix don’t need to venture too far afield. A cluster of hulking boulders on the riverbank at the park’s Island Ford unit has something for everyone: easier bouldering problems offer options for beginners, but overhanging routes on outcroppings with names like “the Sandman” will challenge more experienced climbers, too. If your climbing muscles give out, Island Ford also offers miles of scenic hiking trails through quiet hardwood forests along the riverbanks.

Living history at Hyde Farm

The Hyde family bought 135 acres along the Chattahoochee River in 1920. Throughout the 20th century, as the town of Marietta grew up around them, the family continued to cultivate a variety of fruits, vegetables, cotton, corn, and other staples in their farm’s rich riverside soil—with help from a stalwart mule named Nell. Thanks to supporters of The Trust for Public Land, the Hyde family was able to add their land to the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area in the early 2000s. Today, people can stroll through the historic farm and along the river, cast a lure in the pond, catch a cooking demonstration, or join a kid-friendly Saturday reading group. The National Park Service and Cobb County are working toward managing the Hyde’s homestead as a living history farm, where visitors will someday be able to draw water from a well, see demonstrations of historic farming methods, and stroll through historic barns and the expertly restored farmhouse.

The late J.C. Hyde and his mule, Nell, farmed this land through the 20th century. Now it's part of the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area.Photo credit: Nick Arroyo

Mountain biking at Cochran Shoals

The 9-mile Sopes Creek loop at the park’s Cochran Shoals unit takes cyclists on a broad gravel path along the creek, then climbs and drops along sections of flowing single-track trail through the forest. Mountain bikers who live or work on Atlanta’s north side are close enough to hit the trails here after work (or even over their lunch break!). The Sope Creek loop is also popular with hikers, trail runners, and history buffs—the trail passes old mill ruins and the spot where General Sherman’s troops first crossed the Chattahoochee River during the Civil War.

Whitewater paddling from Power Island to Palisades

Come see why the Chattahoochee River was the first to be recognized as a National Water Trail. At the southern end of the park, the 3.5-mile stretch of river between Powers Island and the Palisades features a series of whitewater rapids that range from mild to wild, depending on water levels. After making their way through “the Devil’s Racecourse,” kayakers and rafters can eddy out on the river’s west bank for an easy takeout, then relive the trip over lunch at a peaceful picnic area in the park’s Palisades section. Hiking trails on both sides of the river ascend the steep banks to scenic overlooks, and a few big boulders are popular for jumping into the cool water when temperatures soar. (Need to rent a boat? Check out this list of authorized outfitters from the National Park Service).

Whether you're looking for a placid float or a challenging paddle through rapids, the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area has a spot for you and your boat.Photo credit: Hollis Bennett

Have you had the chance to explore the Chattahoochee? Let us know in the comments, or head over to our Facebook page to share a picture of your adventures!

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