4 Hikes Under the December Full Moon

Tim Archer
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Winter hikes under the full moon offer surreal beauty. The moon exudes an iridescent ring across the sky, and moonlight reaches through the bare branches to paint a milky white glow on the trail. The last full moon of 2014 is December 6, and it is known as the “Moon before the Yule.” Since winter darkness is longer, you can expect to see the full moon on the horizon for a longer period of time. Pack up your headlamp and flashlights (although you may not need them) and join these moonlight pilgrimages in the Atlanta area.

1. Full Moon Suspension Bridge Tour at Tallulah Gorge
Dates:  December 5-6
Time: Friday 5:45-7:45 pm, Saturday 6:15-8:15 pm

Tallulah Gorge's Suspension Bridge
Tallulah Gorge's Suspension Bridge Alexa Lampasona

Tallulah Gorge State Park is home to one of the Southeast’s largest canyons at 1,000 feet deep and two miles long. On this moonlight hike, you’ll be led across the suspension bridge just 80 feet above the gorge’s rushing waters to the its South Rim trail. On the bridge, take in views of Tempesta Falls to the west and Hurricane Falls to the east. If the night is clear, Tallulah River will shimmer in the moonlight. The hike is 1.5 miles long, and involves a lengthy stair descent and climb of 1,099 steps to the gorge floor.
The cost of the guided hike is $5 per person. And if you miss the December hike, the next event dates will be Tuesday February 3, Thursday March 5 and Friday March 6. Register in advance here.

2. Sunset Hike
Date: Saturday December 6
Time: 5-7 p.m.
The closest hike for those looking to stay in town is on the Atlanta Beltline’s Westside Trail. REI’s outdoor school leads the hike monthly on the night of the full moon. The level, paved terrain cuts through some of the emerging neighborhoods of southwest Atlanta, including Westview, Ashview Heights, and West End. During the sunset hike, you’ll detour to Westview Cemetery, one of the largest cemeteries in the southeast. Halloween might be well over, but there’s nothing eerier than wandering through the headstones under a full moon.

Another unique part of the trail is the Art on the Beltline series, with many continuing art exhibitions displayed on the Westside. Look out for brightly painted murals such as the blue Cyclops-type man wall graffiti (across from Gordon White Park), the yellow playful mice cartoon with the artist’s statement “You Won’t Step on Me” located under the bridge south of David Abernathy Boulevard, and the vibrant “Westside Remembers” depiction of the West End neighborhood, under the Lawton Street Bridge.

You’ll meet at Gordon White Park off David Abernathy Boulevard for a 5-6 mile hike. More details here.

3. Moonlight Hike- Panola Mountain State Park
Date: Saturday December 6
Time: 5-7 p.m.

Tim Archer

Panola Mountain is only 18 miles southeast of Atlanta off I-20. Consider Panola Mountain Stone Mountain’s little sister, a 100-acre granite bluff that is part of the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area. This area is rich in history, so expect to learn some background on the past Native American inhabitants. It’s a rare opportunity to climb the 3.5 mile route to the summit of Panola Mountain, as only guided hikes are allowed. From the top, Stone Mountain is visible to the northeast, and the pinpoint lights of the city of Atlanta are seen north. After the hike, gather around Alexander Lake for a lakeside campfire to roast s’mores- your reward for this chilly evening trek.

Register for the evening hike here. Additional hike dates for this moonlight hike are Saturday January 3 and Saturday January 31.

4. Red Top Mountain Full Moon Hike
Date: Saturday December 6
Time: 6-8:30 pm
With winter trees thinning out, this is the perfect time to see the pearl-white orb of the moon amongst naked trees. Red Top Mountain is located on Lake Allatoona, which makes for glistening reflections of moonlight. Trip leaders will leaded a guided hike along the wooded Sweet Gum Trail to the Homestead Trail, which leads parallel to Lake Allatoona. You’ll catch serene views of the moon reflecting off the water, specifically when you hike to the overlook on the White Tail Trail. Along the way, the group will stop to turn off their flashlights and enjoy the peaceful darkness.

The 6 mile hike is moderate, with a combination of paved and wooded trails. Membership to the Atlanta Outdoor Club is free, but you must sign a waiver and register for this hike to join. If the hike is filled, it’s worth trying the waiting list in case people drop off. Register for this event here.

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