Posted May 25, 2016
By: Eric Champlin – Atlanta Journal-Constitution
More than 2,000 acres, two monadnock mountains, three lakes and many historic sites. The Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, located just outside I-285 perimeter on Atlanta’s east side, is full of opportunities for outdoor adventure close to the metro area.
Arabia Mountain, Panola Mountain State Park and the surrounding rivers, fields, forests and lakes at the Arabia Mountain NHA offer a variety of ways to enjoy the outdoors without breaking the bank on a tank of gas. Hike, bike, search, climb, float, paddle and camp Arabia Mountain and Panola Mountain for a weekend full of outdoor fun:
Hike Arabia Mountain. Many miles of trails meander the mountaintops, rivers and creeks of this ecologically diverse area. Hike Arabia Mountain to catch sweeping panoramic views from the nearly bald mountain summit, and smell the fragrance of sweet pine wafting in the wind. Hike to a historic homestead, barn and farmland. Explore wide expanses of rock in a former quarry. Visit two small, reflective lakes, one near the quarry and one near the base of Arabia Mountain. Arabia Mountain and its surrounding landscapes are stunningly diverse and different.
Bike the AMP. The Arabia Mountain PATH (AMP) spans more than 30 miles of paved trail, boardwalk and bridges built by the PATH Foundation. Explore the area’s history, visiting historic farm buildings and houses, rock quarry remains and buildings, a historic railroad bed from the 1880s, mill ruins and Flat Rock Community, one of the oldest African American communities in Georgia. Ride across several bridges, including a curved boardwalk on Alexander Lake, a serpentine bridge and a 500-foot bridge spanning the South River. The AMP offers a range of difficulty from mild to challenging.
Hike Panola Mountain at twilight. Panola Mountain’s summit is off limits to the public, due to the vast array of rare and fragile plants that cover the mountain’s surface. Get an exclusive glimpse of the mountain at twilight on a guided hike, exploring Panola Mountain as the moon rises. Check the park’s schedule for more details; reservations required.
Georgia Department of Natural Resources
Hunt for treasure. The Arabia Mountain Geo-Path is a widespread network of geocaches spread along the 30-mile Arabia Mountain PATH trail. Find one of 60 geocaches using a handheld GPS or smartphone app, and discover the small treasures hidden inside. Geocaching, a fun family activity, is not only about the thrill of discovery and joy of the hunt; it’s also the unique places you’ll explore while hunting each cache.
Climb a tree. Join Tree Top Excursions at Panola Mountain State Park to climb high into a tree canopy, aided by ropes and a harness. Learn the basics of climbingand catch some great views while climbing a 100-foot tree near Alexander Lake.
Run a mile. Or five. The paved Panola Mountain PATH trail curves and climbs through Panola Mountain State Park. Run the popular 5-mile loop to through pine forest and beside wide rock outcrops, over a long, curved boardwalk and over a causeway at Alexander Lake. You’ll even run through a historic livestock barn, catching a brief dose of shade. The trail is hilly, challenging and scenic— and an overall awesome run.
Improve your archery skills, or learn bow basics. Hone your accuracy and aim at the Panola State Park archery range with the guidance of a certified instructor.Beginner and intermediate classes are available and equipment is included. Then test your skills on one of two archery ranges, a static range and a 3-D trail with realistic targets.
Explore more. Rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard (SUP) and paddle the calm water of Alexander Lake. Pitch a tent, and stay the night: hike a half mile into one of five primitive campsites at Panola Mountain State Park. Visit AWARE, the Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort, near the base of Arabia Mountain to learn about wild animal rehabilitation and habitat preservation on a tour (1 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday, weather permitting). Run the inaugural Night Owl 5k Sept. 26 at Panola Mountain to help support AWARE’s rehabilitation and rescue efforts in metro Atlanta.
Check out the Arabia Mountain NHA events calendar for even more ideas for outdoor fun.