If you’re reading this, chances are you’re an outdoor enthusiast. You live and breathe for leaf-laden trails, rushing water, or craggy cliffs. You are constantly testing your limits.
But do you find yourself actually putting yourself to the test? For runners, cyclists, and triathletes, it’s easy to find a race; it’s become as common as soccer games. And now outdoor sports have finally entered the competitive realm, and adventurers can showcase their skills with events ranging from climbing competitions to stand-up paddling races (as well as those easy-to-find road running races and triathlons).
Here in Atlanta, we’ve rounded up 10 of the best adventure happenings for runners, climbers, cyclists, and paddlers alike. Whether you want to compete or leave it to the pros, mark your calendar for these must-experience events.
February 28: Float the Boat
The passion of Atlanta’s climbing community is most notable through Boat Rock , an urban boulder field just 20 minutes south of the city. Southeastern Climber's Coalition saved Boat Rock’s 7.8-acre tract, and the Float the Boat bouldering competition directly benefits the organization and their efforts to save similar projects. Competition categories range from youth to beginner, intermediate, and advanced, as well as timed challenges such as Iron Man and Maiden, where boulderers complete as many boulder problems in the shortest amount of time. Friday night, February 27, the pre-party at local Atlanta brewery Red Brick will give you chance to mingle with other climbers and sip on six heavy pours of local booze.
March 7: Yeti NIGHTmare distance run
Running in the dark is invigorating. Running in the dark on trails, weaving through trees lit only by the narrow beam of a headlamp is even more surreal. The popular Yeti trail runner group hosts its 3 rd annual Yeti NIGHTmare distance race at Sweetwater Creek State Park. Consider this a journey in fun, where more of the competitors would rather sip on a beer before the race versus suck down a gel. The sun sets at 7:58 p.m. and the race takes off at 8 p.m. On your run through the woods the moonlight filters through the trees to guide you, and you’ll learn to let go of speed and focus on the experience. Choose from two race distances: one 5-mile loop and one 10-mile lollipop loop over rolling hills, old carriage roads, accompanied by the rushing waters of Sweetwater Creek. Still need convincing? Check out their promo video.
April & November: Tallulah Gorge Whitewater Release
Whitewater paddlers in Georgia wait for the Tallulah Gorge whitewater release the same way children wait for Christmas. The water from Tallulah Falls Dam is released only twice per year during the first three weekends in both April and November. Kayakers pack on waterproof gear and make the 600-foot stair descent to the river’s edge to paddle a 2-mile stretch. The water cascades through the gorge at an average of 500 cubic feet per second. Favorite rapids on this run include the Class V Oceana and the Class IV Bridal Falls. Spectating this event is almost just as rewarding, and hikers can view the paddlers from either the North Rim Trail or Inspiration Trail.
June 13: Back to the Chattahoochee River Race and Fest
One of Atlanta’s outdoor organizations that gives back is the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. In addition to their multitude of volunteer opportunities throughout the year, the Back to the Chattahoochee River Race kicks off with an 8-mile paddle race on the Chattahoochee River. The course starts at Garrands Landing Park and moves south to Roswell’s Riverside Park, across Class II and III rapids. Kayakers, canoeists, and stand-up paddlers will be gliding up the river in pursuit of category victories, where even your decorating skills could win “Best Boat Decoration” if you’re lacking in speed. The finish is marked with Atlanta’s local Sweetwater Brewery , who will have a floating Beer Barge. After the race, the festival continues throughout the day with live music and local vendors. Race registration opens April 24.
June 7-13: Bicycle Ride Across Georgia (BRAG)
Consider BRAG Georgia’s unofficial Tour de France, as this cycling event covers more than 390 miles in 7 days. Each day of the race, cyclists will cover distances ranging from 35 miles to 100 miles through southwest Georgia cities including Newnan, Carrolton, and LaGrange. These quaint towns will offer views of vast farmlands and low-traffic towns. The toughest portion of the race will be Wednesday’s century ride through Newnan, although shorter options will be available. Expect rolling hills, but no serious climbing on this route, and enjoy the historic views along the ride, such as the Colley Mansion and The Little White House.
July 4: AJC Peachtree Road Race
We’ve mentioned before that the AJC Peachtree Road Race is one of the best and world’s largest 10Ks. Need we say more? Sign up to be entered into the lottery, or register to become an Atlanta Track Club member for a guaranteed entry.
August: Toona SUP Challenge
Local Atlanta outfitter, High Country Outfitters, hosts their 3 rd annual Toona Challenge SUP race. This is one of the only races in Georgia with a beach start, giving paddlers an extra leg up as they sprint into the water to begin their journey. The date for this year’s event has not been announced, but you can expect a similar set-up to past years. Those looking to get into SUP racing can opt for the ½-mile fun race, recreational paddlers can do the 2-mile race, or if you’ve got what it takes, show off your skills in the 6-mile expert race. Lake Allatoona’s calm, open waters provide the perfect backdrop for this race. Afterwards, expect raffles and awards for sweet prizes such as Yeti Coolers and a Big Green Egg.
September 27: Ironman 70.3 Augusta
Triathletes in Atlanta flock to Augusta for this Ironman 70.3 , popular for its relatively flat course and short drive from the city. For those who fear the swim, this one couldn’t be easier—you swim with the current in the Savannah River. The one-loop bike course rolls through the hills of Georgia and South Carolina, as you pedal by open fields and farms. Just when your energy is wearing thin, the 13.1 mile run weaves through downtown, offering plenty of crowd support. Augusta is one of Georgia’s southern towns filled with rich history, so plan to stay after the race is over to enjoy historic sites and museums.
December 13: Jeff Galloway Half Marathon
There is no shortage of half marathons in Atlanta, and one race that has charged onto the scene is the Jeff Galloway 13.1, the first race by former Olympic runner and Atlanta native Jeff Galloway. The course couldn’t be more runner-friendly, as it avoids major hills in the city. You’ll run on some of Atlanta’s most beloved terrain such as the Atlanta Beltline and Piedmont Park. Plus, December weather in Atlanta is generally mild, which was all part of Galloway’s plan when he created the race.