It’s summer, and Hotlanta knows just how to make you yearn for the water. Come April, stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) season picks up, and paddlers head to many of Atlanta’s surrounding lakes. Paddle solo on lakes that feed into Georgia’s rivers, such as Bull Sluice Lake at Morgan Falls Overlook Park (Chattahoochee River) and Lake Allatoona (Etowah River). Both feel worlds away from city life.
Some of the smaller lakes in Atlanta, like Stone Mountain Park’s lake, are good for beginners who want to hone their skills and still keep the shore in sight. Those who are more experienced with SUP can navigate the Chattahoochee River’s waters. You can add in 6- to 8-mile paddles going with the flow of the river from Roswell toward Sandy Springs.
Coupled with SUP paddling is SUP yoga, where yoga instructors take to the water for a class that will pique your balance and strength as you perform Warrior poses and Downward Dog on a paddle board. Outdoor retailer, High Country Outfitters , leads classes weekly and there are other groups that meet for classes at Stone Mountain Park and Lake Lanier .
Many outdoor shops, including High Country Outfitters, also offer SUP demos so that potential buyers can try out recreational or racing boards. The experts at these demos are also happy to hand out tips for SUP success. And if you’re looking to buy a board check out BIC SUP boards as they’re durable and light, work great for newbies and experienced riders, and are reasonably priced. BIC SUP’s choose your board page will help you find the right board for you. See our list of recommended retailers that can help get you up and out.
Here are the top three spots for getting out for stand-up paddleboarding in Atlanta this summer:
Morgan Falls Overlook Park
Morgan Falls dam feeds into Bull Sluice Lake, making the Chattahoochee River’s waters turn to glass, perfect for smooth paddling. Launch from the park’s floating dock and paddle north for one of the most scenic SUP paddles you can get.
Paddling on the lake is basically the same as paddling the Chattahoochee River, minus the water flow. On either side of the banks, which are usually no further than 200 meters apart, wooded forests puff with lush green foliage. Canadian geese and ducks will often float beside you. Paddling to the left from the dock will take you north toward the Chattahoochee Nature Center. On weekends, you’ll pass by kayakers and sometimes motorized fishing boats.
For a less crowded paddle, head to the right edge of the lake (if you’re leaving from the dock) and follow the tributary. It will lead you into a narrow hidden alcove that’s shaded and serves as a good reprieve from the heat.
High Country Outfitters opened a Paddle Shack at Morgan Falls this season, where they rent out SUP boards every day of the week. There’s no quicker way to get on the water, and they’ll even carry your board to the water’s edge.
This 12,000 foot lake in Cartersville is a 45-minute drive from the city, but is a welcome retreat from the boat traffic of Atlanta’s more popular Lake Lanier. Allatoona borders Red Top Mountain State Park and feeds into the Etowah River. By putting in at Knox Bridge on the northeast section of the lake, you can paddle onto the Etowah. Early morning paddles make you feel disconnected from the world and you’ll catch glimpses of bald eagles, ospreys, hawks, and deer. Since the lake is owned by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, there are few houses on the shores, making the shoreline a good route for wildlife viewing. Plus, you’ll get some practice on turns as much of the shoreline follows narrow S-curves.
Kim Hillhouse, SUPer and race director for High Country’s popular SUP race Toona Challenge recommends Northern sections of the lake like Upper Stamp Creek, Cooper’s Branch, and Wilderness Camp Marina. Her favorite remote paddle is eight miles round-trip with a put-in at Little Marina and a four-mile paddle out to Toonigh Falls.
Stone Mountain Park
Paddling on Stone Mountain Lake offers a unique perspective of the granite man-made mountain that includes the rock-face etching of the Confederate mural, which often reflects against the lake. Just like the mountain, the lake is manmade as well. Only small fishing boats that don’t produce wake are allowed on the water, so much of your paddling will remain uninterrupted by boat traffic.
The only public boat ramp is located by the Evergreen Pavilion on Stonewall Jackson Drive, so put in here and paddle across the lake to the eastern shores to discover the park’s natural district. This alcove has a slice of history, including the Covered Bridge and the Grist Mill, both built in the late 1800s. As you carve a path alongside the shorelines and you’ll pass red cedars and Georgia oak. The entire lake is about 2.5 miles and the alcoves are a fun way to discover the quieter parts.
While paddling on Stone Mountain, remember that you cannot swim in the water. Therefore avoid paddling here during the heat of the day.
High Country Outfitters , 3906B Roswell Road, Atlanta (404) 814-0999
Rentals are available at the Buckhead location and on the Chattahoochee River at the Paddle Shack, just 100 yards from the water. SUP demos are held on Thursday evenings from 6:3o to 8 p.m. at Morgan Falls Overlook Park. Daily and weekly rates are available. From the Buckhead location, you can drive to any paddling destination, although the shop is not far from the Paces Mill put-in on the Chattahoochee River. If you’re renting at the Paddle Shack, you have to paddle from Morgan Falls.
Go with the Flow, 4 Elizabeth Way, Roswell (888) 245-3569
Rentals are available daily for a 24-hour period. Go With the Flow is a short drive to Riverside Landing Park and the Chattahoochee Nature Center, both of which have access to the Chattahoochee River.
L.L. Bean has a large selection of boards online that you can order. Call them today with any questions (800) 441-5713.
The Outside World, 471 Quills Road, Dawsonville (706) 265-4500;
1025 Broadway, Columbus (706) 322-4200
Rentals are available daily for pick-up from Dawsonville and Columbus shops. You’re one hour from Atlanta in Dawsonville, so go north with your rental and paddle the lakes around some of the state parks, like Lake Trahlyta in Vogel State Park. The Columbus location is a few blocks from the very south sections of the Chattahoochee River. Woodruff Riverfront Park is a good put-in, as the river is dammed by Eagle & Phenix Dam.
REI Atlanta, 1800 Northeast Expy NE, Atlanta (404) 633-6508
REI offers a great selection of paddleboards for sale as well as lessons on SUP. Check the REI Outdoor School schedule to see when their next SUP lessons are happening.