City Guide / Atlanta

Your Guide to the 15 Best Outdoor Activities in Atlanta, Georgia

By Lauren Finney Harden | Oct 6, 2022
A man standing in front of a lake and Stone Mountain in Atlanta, Georgia

One of the best parts of being a digital nomad is taking advantage of some of the country’s most spectacular outdoor activities. Who doesn’t love an impromptu afternoon hike with your pooch or a weekend picnic? That is especially true in Atlanta, where you have access to some pretty amazing green spaces and nature, even within the city limits. (Atlanta is often described as a city within a forest due to its extensive tree canopy.)

If you’re looking for outdoor things to do in Atlanta—most of which can be found only about 20 to 30 minutes away from downtown—we’ve compiled a list below, including:

  • The best hiking trails in Atlanta, Georgia
  • The best biking trails in Atlanta, Georgia
  • The best parks in Atlanta, Georgia
  • The best outdoor restaurants in Atlanta, Georgia
  • The best picnic spots in Atlanta, Georgia

Let’s get started!

The best hiking trails in Atlanta, Georgia

Sope Creek Trail - Marietta, GA

While it isn’t impossible to find hiking trails inside the perimeter—that is, within the I-285 limits that loosely define “inside the perimeter” and “outside the perimeter”—you will need to plan a bit in advance. Atlanta is just a short car ride away from the North Georgia mountains, where a bevy of scenic hiking trails can be found. If you’re looking to get a short, relatively flat hike in and spend some time in the great outdoors, try these three amazing hiking trails within Metro Atlanta.

1. Sope Creek Trail

Sope Creek Trail is part of Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area just outside the perimeter, about 20 minutes away from Buckhead. The 3.6-mile loop is categorized on the National Parks website as moderate, with some “very strenuous” inclines. You’ll be rewarded with rivers, creeks, ponds, and even historic ruins of the Marietta Paper Mill along your path. If biking is more your thing, there is a bike path as well. Day passes are $5 and can be purchased in advance or onsite.

2. Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield National Park

The most visited battlefield within the National Park System, Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield National Park is a quick ride to Kennesaw, about 30 minutes from Atlanta city limits. It is the only battlefield located within the metropolitan area of a large city, and visitors come to check it out, Civil War buffs and otherwise.

Twenty miles of trails will keep hikers happy, especially in the unrelenting summer heat, where temperatures on the mountain can be 10 to 15 degrees below normal temperatures thanks to the wooded canopies protecting you.

There’s a five-mile trek that is the most popular, so start with that if you’re looking to get in a day hike. Day passes are $5 and can be purchased in advance or onsite.

3. Cascade Springs Nature Preserve

Located in Southwest Atlanta, Cascade Springs Nature Preserve has several attractions, such as Cascade Falls, a popular 15-foot waterfall, and Utoy Creek, the site of a Civil War battle. It’s one of the largest and oldest parks within city limits. The trails are hilly and can get quite muddy after one of Atlanta’s soaking thunderstorms, so come prepared with appropriate footwear.

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The best biking trails in Atlanta, Georgia

Bridge at Big Creek Greenway, Roswell Geordia.

Atlanta drivers are infamous for being…erratic, which makes cycling on main roads nearly impossible. Bikers tend to stick to designated bike trails, many of which fall outside the city limits. Check out our three favorites below:

1. Silver Comet Trail

Over 60 miles of trails greet adventurers at Silver Comet Trail, which stretches over three counties in northwest Metro Atlanta. While anyone—walkers, dog walkers, runners, hikers, and more—can enjoy the trail, bikers seem to have a particular affinity for the trail given its length and relative flatness.

You can choose to go just a short distance into the trail, which begins in Smyrna just outside the perimeter, or you can go the entire way, which stretches to the Alabama state line. Along the way, cyclists can enjoy towns like Cedartown, Hiram, and Powder Springs.

2. Big Creek Greenway

Big Creek Greenway in Alpharetta, a suburb just north of Atlanta on Georgia-400, is an easy day trip for bikers looking to get a little farther away from the city and spend some time in the great outdoors. You’ll be able to enjoy eight miles of relatively flat trails as you look out for native wildlife. The trail is also 12 feet wide, which will help you keep pace as you cruise the shaded paths.

There are several access points along the trail such as Haynes Bridge Road, Marconi Drive, and Rock Mill Park, so you can choose how long you want the ride to be and what you pass along the way.

3. Stone Mountain Trail

Stone Mountain is an Atlanta attraction with a complicated history, but its five-mile bike loop remains popular with tourists and locals alike. Admission to Stone Mountain Trail is complimentary to those who walk or bike into the park at the South Woods Gate. If you want to drive in, you’ll have to purchase a parking pass, but that includes free activity access such as hiking and nature trails, picnic areas, and the park’s 363-acre lake.

If you enjoy yourself, you can purchase season tickets to Stone Mountain Park, which includes a bevy of activities such as mini golf, live entertainment, and more.

The best parks in Atlanta, Georgia

Skyline and reflections of midtown Atlanta, in Lake from Piedmont Park, Early Evening sunset, with Geese

Atlanta enjoys greenspaces and parks sprinkled throughout both residential and commercial areas. Many are home to festivals, workshops, clubs, and more. For a day soaking up the sun or indulging in fun activities, check out these three top picks:

1. Chastain Park

Within Atlanta’s northwest city limits is Chastain Park, a 268-acre park known for its golf course, walking trails, horse park, and more. While the perimeter is only a three-mile loop, it gives you plenty of opportunities to ogle the nearby mansions and people-watch some of Buckhead’s most glamorous residents.

If you become parched along your biking, walking, or running adventure, stop at The Chastain, a popular restaurant and coffee bar within the park. You’ll be greeted by decadent pastries and coffee, and you can take a load off on the restaurant’s covered patio.

2. Chattahoochee River Park

A National Park Unit, Chattahoochee River Park has many access points stretching through Sandy Springs and Roswell on the north end of Metro Atlanta. The headwaters of the Chattahoochee River begin in North Georgia at the beginning of the Appalachian Trail and flow straight through Atlanta on its way south.

With over 48 miles of riverfront and 15 land units, this park gives plenty of options for visitors to start their outdoor adventure—though many people begin at the Chattahoochee River Nature Center, where you can learn about all sorts of native wildlife, the wetland and river habitat, and the surrounding forest for $15.

3. Piedmont Park

Founded in the mid-19th century, Piedmont Park is in the heart of Midtown Atlanta and boasts almost 200 acres of recreation offerings such as a pool, tennis courts, dog parks, walking clubs, art workshops, and more. The beating heart of the city, Piedmont Park is home to countless festivals, such as Atlanta Jazz Festival and Music Midtown, and is the starting point of the Eastside BeltLine. On any weekend you can see tons of Atlantans working out, spending time with friends, or using the park as a cut-through to many nearby attractions, such as the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and Colony Square.

The best outdoor restaurants in Atlanta, Georgia

Healthy restaurant lunch for vacation couple in summer

Atlantans enjoy al fresco dining weather many months out of the year, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bad experience on one of its many patios, especially off the ultra-popular Atlanta BeltLine. Here are three to try if you want to ditch indoor dining for the day:

1. Bold Monk Brewing Co

Relatively new to Atlanta’s Upper Westside neighborhood, Bold Monk Brewing Co is a multi-level brewery and restaurant with something for everyone—including an in-house bookstore featuring a curated selection of coffee table books and interesting titles. The real star of the show is the outdoor patio space. Nestled back behind the brewery, its fairy lights and pea gravel space feel magical, even if you’re just having a casual cocktail.

2. Fellows Cafe

Tucked onto a residential side street in Historic Downtown Roswell, Fellows Cafe will have you questioning why you’ve never had breakfast or brunch al fresco before. The charming butter yellow house converted into a restaurant makes a fine background for the exceptional food. Think seasonal toasts (peach, tomato!), expertly made pastries, and delectable coffee drinks, all beneath a 100-year-old oak tree.

3. Muchacho

The quintessential BeltLine spot, Muchacho has since expanded its interior to accommodate even more diners—that’s how popular their taco concept has proven to be! The restaurant’s retro ’70s vibes carry to the expansive patio, which is the unofficial welcome wagon of that part of the Eastside Trail. Enjoy tacos all day long, including at breakfast from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Looking for a place to dine outside with your pup in tow? Check out our blog post, “10 Dog-Friendly Restaurants in Atlanta.”

The best picnic spots in Atlanta, Georgia

Trail at Grant Park in Atlanta

While all of Atlanta’s green spaces and parks make excellent picnic post-ups, these spots can make your picnic feel extra special with scenic vistas and ample lawns:

1. Historic Fourth Ward Park

Smack in the middle of East Atlanta’s popular Old Fourth Ward neighborhood is Historic Fourth Ward Park. Picnic-ers will have the advantage of easy walking access to Ponce City Market to pick up provisions before finding a bench or grassy space to take a load off and enjoy this oasis in the middle of the city. For the hottest of days, there’s a nearby splash pad as well!

2. Whittier Mill Park

Tucked into a neighborhood that is over 120 years old right on the edge of I-285 near Vinings is Whittier Mill Village, home to Whittier Mill Park. At this site of a former cotton mill, you can picnic on greenspaces next to brick ruins for a touch of ambiance. There’s a bocce court, as well as enough flat grass to kick a soccer ball or two around. Grab something to eat from a nearby Vinings Village restaurant or a food stall at neighboring Chattahoochee Food Works.

3. Grant Park

Atlanta’s Grant Park is one of its most iconic parks, thanks to its long history (it’s been around since the mid 19th- century!). Adjacent to Zoo Atlanta and near several popular restaurants and coffee shops (The Little Tart Bakeshop is a standout), there’s plenty to do to take up a full day of exploring, including ogling the Victorian mansions that line the park.

Outdoor activities are fortunately a dime a dozen in Atlanta, so it’ll be hard narrowing down your options. Whatever you choose, you’ll experience part of the charm of Atlanta’s outdoor activities, many of which are less than 20 minutes from the city center.

Thinking about moving to ATL?

If you’re interested in heading south to explore all the amazing outdoor attractions the area has to offer, Landing offers fully furnished apartments in Atlanta with flexible leases that let members stay in town on their terms. Learn more about what a Landing membership can do for you today!

Lauren Finney Harden

Lauren Finney Harden is an Atlanta-based writer, specializing in lifestyle topics such as parenting, design, food, and style. She's written for publications including InStyle, Byrdie, Verywell Family, and more, and has served as editor-in-chief of several magazines, including Lonely Planet, and The Atlantan. She's an avid traveler—Uruguay has been her favorite destination so far!—and mom to a toddler.