The 8 Best Things to Do in the Atlanta Outdoors This Spring

Spring is a great time to explore the outdoors in Atlanta, like at the Dogwood Festival at Piedmont Park.
Spring is a great time to explore the outdoors in Atlanta, like at the Dogwood Festival at Piedmont Park. Photo courtesy of Atlanta Dogwood Festival
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Atlanta is a green-minded city, and in the springtime, that's especially evident. The array of outdoor activities within and around the city are extensive, from river floats to lush forest hikes and trails that, despite their location inside the bustling perimeter, still hold nature in the highest regard. Here are 8 outdoor adventures around Atlanta to take full advantage of the spring weather.

1. Shoot the 'Hooch

Cool off with all your friends at Shoot the Hooch.
Cool off with all your friends at Shoot the Hooch. Alan Cressler

There's more than one way to partake in this warm-weather tradition. Come March, all the rental spots are open, assigning rafts, inner tubes, stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes to visitors eager to hop in for a relaxing downstream float down the Chattahoochee River. (Bringing your own floatation device is OK, too. Just be sure to bring a life jacket also.) Situated directly on the river at Azalea Park is the eponymous Shoot the Hooch, where you can also grab a bite to eat. Nathan's hot dogs, pulled-pork sandwiches and ice cream are among the fare offered. A lot of folks opt for the shorter 1.5-mile trip from Don White Memorial Park; for longer runs, try the 3-mile stretch from Island Ford, or the all-day adventure from Garrard's Landing. Tip: Shoot the Hooch and a few others offer shuttles to drop points.

2. Trek Up Stone Mountain

Follow the yellow-painted line to the top of Stone Mountain, one of Georgia's most-visited attractions, for an incredible view of downtown Atlanta and the North Georgia mountains. The trail starts at Confederate Hall and the Environmental Education Center, and the summit is about a mile from there. In the sunny springtime, you can see for 60 miles when you reach the 1,686-feet high top. Bring a few pennies along for a nostalgic souvenir—at summit there are old-school penny press machines featuring park and Georgia-centric designs.

3. Stroll through Atlanta Botanical Garden

Springtime at the Atlanta Botanical Garden is full of little gems.
Springtime at the Atlanta Botanical Garden is full of little gems. Lee Coursey

The onset of spring brings a fresh crop of blooming flowers at the Atlanta Botanical Garden that you can't see year-round. In March, the lavender-blue Algerian Iris is in full swing; in April, apple trees show the first sign of maturing by sprouting tons of tiny pink and fluffy flowers. The season blooms tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths, too. Stroll along the 600-foot-long Kendeda Canopy Walk above the hardwood forest of Storza Woods, then end in the Cascades Garden, where you'll get a firsthand look at one of the garden's most colorful displays.

4. Follow the BeltLine Eastside Trail

Arguably the most celebrated of the seven BeltLine paths, the Eastside Trail runs from Piedmont Park to Inman Park and the Old Fourth Ward. Run, walk, bike or Rollerblade the two miles, which include leisurely green stretches, tunnels, and bridges, perfectly placed art installations and, just north of North Avenue, the Ponce City Market. Pop in for a refreshing drink, an energizing coffee, or a full meal at one of the many top-notch restaurants. Don't miss Skyline Park on the rooftop. The mini-carnival is open year-round, but spring means the sights from from Heege Tower, where riders hoist themselves up for a slow sky-high twirl, is at its most jaw-dropping.

5. Explore Arabia Mountain

Diamorpha smallii is a beautiful must-see experience.
Diamorpha smallii is a beautiful must-see experience. Alan Cressler

A lesser-known gem in Atlanta's outdoor offerings is the Arabia Mountain Natural Heritage Area, which spans more than 2,000 acres where people have lived for more than 10,000 years. Despite its long history, there are vast areas of wholly undisturbed land: rolling hills, peaceful streams and sharp ridges. Of course, you won't want to miss the two giant, exposed monadnocks, each of them hundreds of millions years old. They make Arabia Mountain feel otherworldly, yet beautiful and familiar—especially this time of year, as crimson-red succulents bloom atop the cratered moon-like summit. Located just 30 minutes from the city, the Arabia Lake, Boardwalk or Summit trails all promise a totally surreal outdoor experience.

6. Shop and Refuel at a Local Farmer’s Market

There are so many stellar farmers markets to choose from in Atlanta. The Community Farmers Market group is a reliable go-to, though: They organize markets in Grant Park, East Atlanta Village, the Westside Provisions district and more. But the Grant Park Farmers Market, held from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. every Sunday, is a consistently award-winning one—likely due to its extensive selection of Atlanta's best vendors, the ultra-green outdoor setting and weekly celebrity chef demos.

7. Hike to the Waterfalls at the Warwoman Dell Trail

Around every corner, adventure waits in the Warwoman Dell.
Around every corner, adventure waits in the Warwoman Dell. Brian Greer

A well-kept secret among Atlanta outdoor lovers, Warwoman Dell is a tucked-away spot about two hours northeast of Atlanta in Clayton, Georgia. The eponymous trail and the Bartram Trail travel along a pebble-lined stream, through densely green forests, and past a pastiche of wildflowers and ferns. The hike's best features, though, are the Becky Branch Falls at .3 mile, and the Rabun Bald, the second-tallest mountain summit in the state, which features a stunning panoramic view.

8. Visit Piedmont Park During the Annual Dogwood Festival

This three-day festival started more than 80 years ago—now, it's officially an Atlanta tradition. Held at Piedmont Park every spring, the Atlanta Dogwood Festival showcases artisans, food vendors, musicians and the Mimosa 5K, which starts in Midtown and ends at the Piedmont Park festival grounds with a champagne-and-OJ toast. Celebrate the long-standing Atlanta custom in April.

Originally written for Atlanta CVB.

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