Trail: East Palisades Trail
and Recreation Area Chattahoochee National River
Geographic Location: north side of
Atlanta, GA (33.88786, -84.43377)
Length: 2.5 miles
Difficulty: 6/10 (Moderate)
Last Hiked: April 2014
Overview: A loop hike through mature forest featuring a fantastic overlook of the
. Chattahoochee River
Park Information: http://www.nps.gov/chat/index.htm
Hike Route Map: https://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=720636
Directions to the trailhead: On the north side of
Atlanta, take I-285 to Northside Dr. (exit 22). Exit and go south. Take Northside Dr. 1.2 miles to Indian Trail and turn right on Indian Trail. The paved Indian Trail turns to gravel as you enter the park. 0.3 miles past this transition, the road ends at a large gravel parking lot. Park in this lot.
The hike: Established by an act of Congress in 1978, the
and Recreation Area protects land along 48 miles of river on the north side of Chattahoochee National River Atlanta. Looking at a satellite map of the region, the recreation area appears as a green island within metropolitan Atlanta. Indeed, even the drive into this area reveals the stark contrast with the surrounding area. 3 miles from the area you are zooming along congested I-285, 1 mile from the area you are admiring multi-million dollar homes along wide, quiet residential streets, and as you enter the area you roll carefully down a single-track gravel road. Try telling someone from out of town that you drove on a gravel road 10 miles from downtown Atlanta!
The recreation area is divided into 14 districts, each protecting a separate section of the river. All of these districts offer river access, either by people or boats, and many of the districts also offer other recreation opportunities such as picnicking and hiking. Of all of the recreation area’s many hiking trails, perhaps the finest can be found in the Indian Trail district, one of only two districts located inside the I-285 loop. This district contains the
East Palisades, a section of high, rocky bluffs offering spectacular views of the river. Fortunately, a well-developed trail system provides easy access to the bluffs as well as close-up, more intimate views of the river.
|Trailhead at Indian Trail parking area|
At 0.6 miles, just before reaching the river, a spur trail exits left, crossing a bridge and leading to the Whitewater Creek parking lot, an alternate starting point for this hike. Our trail curves to the right and begins traveling in sight of the river on the left, heading upstream. At first the area by the river is congested due to the close proximity to the parking area, but as you travel upstream, the crowds will thin out and solitude will prevail. In fact, this section of trail through the mature forest along the river is my favorite section of the preserve. The two interstates, I-75 to the south and I-285 to the north, are too far away to be heard, and the hilly terrain by the river gives the hike a Big South Fork, Smoky Mountains, or north Georgia mountains feel. Indeed, if not for the low buzz of a few airplanes overhead, you would have no idea you were only 10 miles from downtown
|Climbing away from the river|
Turn left here and descend 41 wooden steps to arrive at a spectacular wooden overlook that marks the highlight of this hike. From this point some 150 feet above the river, the river appears as a blue streak sprinkled with yellow patches of rocks. The river rustling over the rocks can still be heard; unfortunately, so can I-285 just to the north. Spend some time here to observe everything there is to observe, which will take awhile.
The wide combined trail maintains a ridgetop course offering nice views downhill into the mature forest on both sides. The trail drops moderately into a slight saddle then climbs moderately to intersect the gravel entrance road at 2.4 miles. Turn right on the gravel road and walk 0.1 miles along the narrow road, taking care to keep an eye and ear out for vehicle traffic, back to the parking area to complete the hike.