Just two hours from Atlanta is the city of Augusta. Those in the endurance community know the city as the host of one of the South’s most popular triathlons, the Augusta 70.3 Ironman. Beyond its fame for triathlons, outdoor enthusiasts will find Augusta offers greenways for running and biking, flat trails for hiking and backpacking, rolling mountain bike courses, and the Savannah River to paddle. Here’s your guide to making the most of Augusta’s outdoor culture.
Mountain Biking at the Fork Area Trail System
These mountain bike trails are a hidden gem nestled in the Sumter National Forest in South Carolina, just 20 minutes from Augusta. The Fork Area Trail System , or F.A.T.S., has been awarded IMBA Epic status in 2010 and was even the host trail for the World Mountain Bike Summit. With few technical features, F.A.T.S. offers beginners plenty of easy trails to pick up the sport. More than 37 miles of trails make up six distinct sections, each offering a different appeal to the mountain bikers. For a sampling of singletrack, whoop-de-doos, steep climbs and descents, the 7.5-mile Great Wall bares all. The easiest trail in F.A.T.S. is The Skinny. If you want a killer quad workout, test them on the hilly 5-mile Deep Step trail. A description of the trails is available through SORBA of Central Savannah River Area .
Backpacking at Bartram Trail
It's tough to beat the Bartram Trail for a scenic hike. Throughout the trails 27 miles, you’ll outline the edge of J. Strom Thurmond Lake. This 71,000-acre lake, also known as Clarks Hill Lake, is the third largest lake east of the Mississippi. The reservoir borders Georgia and South Carolina in the Savannah River Basin. The trail is entirely flat and laden with pine needles. Break up your weekend by hiking from Keg Creek to Wildwood Park . Then journey to Petersburg campground on day two, and hike Lake Springs Road to West Dam on day three. Read our detailed trail review here.
Running on the Augusta Towpath
The Augusta Towpath is one of the city’s most popular running and biking trails. The 7.5-mile trail parallels the Augusta Canal from downtown to the headgates of the canal. Your run will feel industrial as you pass by the historical mills and warehouses of the city’s past, like the Enterprise, King and Sibley Mills. Much of the towpath is exposed to the heat of the sun, but shortly beyond the I-20 overpass, the trail dips into a winding, shaded path.
The Augusta Towpath includes a few narrow bridge crossings for added scenery. With entirely flat terrain, runners need to be aware of is the varying surface from packed dirt to pea gravel to asphalt. In nice weather, the path is populated with runners, walkers and even fat tire bikers, and you’ll often see kayakers or boat tours in the canal.
Paddling down the Savannah River
The Savannah River and Augusta Canal are the most popular paddling destinations here in Augusta. Put in at the Savannah Rapids Park and Pavilion and paddle to Lake Olmsted for a 5.3-mile journey that takes you along the Augusta Canal. If you’re looking to rent a kayak, check out Savannah Rapids Kayak Rentals ; the shop will even shuttle you back to the park if you paddle to Lake Olmsted. Launch downstream of the headgates and begin paddling upstream. Keep an eye out for runners and cyclists on the Towpath, high above the banks. Shortly after launch, a modest waterfall offers a great spot for photos. The Augusta Canal is rich in history, so just like the scenery you see while running the Towpath, you’ll pass by relics of the Confederate past, like the Bulkhead Gates, the PowderWorks Chimney, and Granite Flour Mills.
Another paddling option is to put-in at Riverside Parkand circle a linear island on Georgia’s side of the Savannah River. The 5.8-mile loop takes paddlers on the Little River, a channel between the island and Georgia’s shoreline. This loop takes you past old railroad bridges and lush, canopied banks, where heron and turtles lounge.
Cycling on the North Augusta Greeneway
Hop on the Greeneway just north of town on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River. This Rails-to-Trails project, the greenway is currently 13 paved miles, with the distance is increasing yearly. The trail begins at Buena Vista, passes Riverview Park and Brick Pond Park Park, and ends at Bergen Road. The beauty of the greenway is that the path cuts through thick, tree-lined forests, keeping you in the shade throughout most of the ride. The path makes for smooth, flat riding—perfect for logging steady miles. Tack on more distance and hilly terrain on the Palmetto Parkway from Ascuaga Lake Road to Atomic Road. You’ll find this addition much less crowded than the main trail. Regardless, it’s best to get out early before the crowds of runners and walkers. View the North Augusta Greeneway map here .
Dining in Augusta
The Bee’s Knees: When something is that good, it’s “the bee’s knees” right? With a modestly priced menu and a wide array of menu options, especially those suiting vegetarians, The Bee’s Knees is the perfect spot for healthy and flavorful food. The tapas-style menu allows for sharing, so bring a group and dip into specialties like buffalo tempeh (like chicken wings but with a vegetarian soy protein), avocado chop chop (a baked half avocado topped with shrimp), tempura tacos or sweet potato hummus.
New Moon Café: Before you hit the trails, swing by this breakfast spot for a satisfying “quinoa bowl” with vanilla yogurt, or a filling “lumberjack breakfast” with eggs, bacon or sausage, and toast. You can even order a Panini to-go for lunch on the trails.
Boll Weevil Café: Satisfy your sweet tooth with a slice of cake the size of your head at this award-winning café. Skip the main entrance and enter the sweetery, where you’ll find plates of mouth-watering cakes in the bakery case. Popular cakes are rooted in Southern tradition, like the Hummingbird Cake, Red Velvet Cake or Strawberry Cake with buttercream.