A stacked-stone, Civil War-era paper mill can be found on the banks of a rocky creek at Sope Creek Trail. Photo by Brian Michael Walters, @bmwaltersnj
You can see so much on a walk through the woods. Most sights are natural and expected—from beautiful plants and frolicking animals to majestic mountains and powerful waterfalls, it’s a truly immersive experience.
But sometimes, Georgia’s many trails lead you to a surprise. Something truly unexpected, out of place, man-made and historical.
Ancient Native American carvings and stunning, yet sometimes spooky, ruins of buildings abandoned long ago, can only be visited on foot or by bike, hidden among the state’s forests, rivers and swamps.
In these preserved sites, you can see these reminders of Georgia’s fascinating past.
A trail in the Davidson-Arabia Nature Preserve leads to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, which has been a home to Cistercian monks for over 70 years.
A casualty of war awaits you along the Sope Creek Trail in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, just north of Atlanta. The Marietta Paper Mill was burned by Union troops as they approached the city in 1864, but the factory was rebuilt, only to be abandoned more than 100 years ago. The remaining stone walls appear as if a castle once protected the spot.
The Davidson-Arabia Nature Preserve is stunning in itself. It features a spectacular granite outcropping—not the more famous and nearby Stone Mountain—an array of natural features and miles of hiking and biking trails just 20 miles from downtown Atlanta. One trail leads not to ruins, but to a reminder of the past: the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, a community of monks established in the 1940s that welcomes visitors and features the picturesque Abbey Church. Nature combines with fine dining at Seven Gables Restaurant & Bar on a tree-filled 2.25-acre estate.