Chattahoochee River Hikes: Island Ford

Atlanta is well known for traffic, a massive airport, CNN, Coca-Cola, conventions, and Gone with the Wind.  It seems almost cliche-ish when defined in these terms and I can certainly understand that these form or inform people’s image of the South’s “Gate City,” as it was known in the mid 19th century.  What local residents and frequent visitors know, though, is that the city is a vibrant and diverse collection of areas.  The international farmer’s market by I-285 is a great example of this diversity that visitors don’t often get to see.

Another fact that may be surprising is how this city, so built up and loaded with cars, is actually in the midst of the great outdoors.  I shared already about how close Sweetwater Creek State Park is to the city (only 15 miles).  Here I want to shared another great nature spot, right within and right outside the city’s ring road (I-285):  the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, part of the U.S. National Park Service.Chattahoochee River, National Recreation Area, National Park Service, hiking, Atlanta, Georgia, photo

The lay of the Chattahoochee River

The Chattahoochee River, or the “Hootch“, starts up in the North Georgia mountains where the Buford Dam was established to control its flow and accumulate water to provide for the city.  It then makes its way to the Gulf of Mexico via western Atlanta then Alabama, then Florida.  The river does not cross the modern city center as rivers tend to do in other cities.  The city’s location was driven by railroad lines connecting the Gulf, the Atlantic ports and the Midwest back in the first half of the 19th century.  So, we did not end up with a river going through the city center (a shame!).

However, it does go through urban areas right outside the city of Atlanta proper and we were lucky that it became a protected area in the 1970s so we could enjoy this bit of nature.  All along the river, as it courses through metro Atlanta, there are parks and trails, offering great walking, running, mountain biking, hiking, picnicking, etc.  Here I want to share with you about one of them and hope to continue sharing other spots in the future.

Island Ford, Chattahoochee river, hiking, outdoors, nature, photo, Olympus, woods, National Park Service

Island Ford, Chattahoochee river, hiking, outdoors, nature, photo, Olympus, woods, National Park Service

I bet it looks very different in the middle of summer!

Island Ford

A few miles outside of I-285, as you head up on GA-400, you reach the headquarters of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area’s headquarters.  As with many parks, friendly staff and rangers are a phenomenal source of information and advice, both of which we enjoyed getting.

Island Ford, Chattahoochee river, hiking, outdoors, nature, photo, Olympus, woods, National Park Service

Park rangers are a great source of information to those visiting the park

Again, as with other parks like scene, they park service charges a nominal fee for use of the park in the form of a parking permit that costs only $3.  Bring singles as you make payment by putting the three dollars in an envelope and drop it in a box!

Island Ford, Chattahoochee river, hiking, outdoors, nature, photo, Olympus, woods, National Park Service

Incredible stones everywhere in the area, including in the river!

The trails around Island Ford provide both flat areas as well as steep hills to challenge hikers.  The circuit of trails here could take around 1.5-2.5 hours (depending on how many of the trails you hit and your speed!) and they are suitable for beginners.  Apparently, it is also a good spot for trout fishing – who knew!

trout, fishing, Chattahoochee River, Island Ford, Atlanta, Olympus, photo, hiking

Trout fishing fun

The trails ford a couple of creeks that feed the river and offer great views of the river but also of rock formations that natives are said to have used for shelter as far back as 1,000 years ago!Chattahoochee River, rock shelters, hiking, National Park Service, Olympus, photo, nature, outdoors Chattahoochee River, rock shelters, hiking, National Park Service, Olympus, photo, nature, outdoors

Island Ford, Chattahoochee river, hiking, outdoors, nature, photo, Olympus, woods, National Park Service

The star of the show working his way over a log

The Chattahoochee Parks Conservancy supports parks along the river in many ways to ensure our enjoyment of these natural areas.  Visit their site and become a member or supporter!   

 

Read about these other great hikes in Georgia:

Sope Creek

Panther Creek

Sweetwater Creek

Tallulah Gorge

… and more to come!

Comments

  1. If we’d ever visit Atlanta for more than a short weekend I’d like to get out and explore more. Atlanta is in such a beautiful region, especially if we drive down from Chattanooga, although the drive over from Alabama isn’t bad either.
    Lance | Trips By Lance recently posted..Memphis Grizzlies Feed Fans’ PassionMy Profile

  2. Trout fishing?! I’m there!

    Thanks for the great info and history. You know how I feel about supporting the National Park Service, so I’ll definitely visit if I travel down that way!
    Francesca recently posted..Why I let my five-year-old have her own travel blogMy Profile

  3. I never knew this was a national park (or recreation area)… I am a huge supporter, thanks for writing this up… it is on my to-see list next time in the Hot-lanta area.

    stay supporting America’s best idea, Craig
    craig zabransky (@StayAdventurous) recently posted..My 200th Sunset Sunday – Reflecting on the Series from Islamorada, FloridaMy Profile

    • Craig, thanks for stopping by. Yes, there are quite a few of these hidden gems in Atlanta! I hope to share a few more in this series about hikes near town.

  4. On my way down to Florida, I stopped at Chickamagua National Battlefield. It was a great place to stretch out the legs and walk around after being in the car for 12+ hours. Good to know this place is so close to Atlanta. This could be another place to break up the long drive next time I am down that way.
    Traveling Ted recently posted..Big Bend Chisos Mountains hikeMy Profile

  5. That’s it, I’m coming to visit! I would love hiking here, as you know how much I love hiking. Will you take me?!
    Erin at The World Wanderer recently posted..A Stylish Solution to a Rainy Day: GoGoGolosh.My Profile

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