My friend Rachel and I LOVE to hike, so when she made it her 2016 New Year’s resolution to do a hike a month for the year, I agreed to join her! You may think “how hard is it to do something you love once a month?” When you live a good distance from any decent hikes, need to coordinate two or more busy schedules and deal with finicky weather, it can be difficult. At times we had to plan our hikes several months in advance, but we made it work! And we had so much fun doing it that we’re going to try it again in 2017!

January: Arabia Mountain | 5.1 miles, easy, 20 miles east of Atlanta

We started out the year with a brand-new hike to us: Arabia Mountain. It’s near Stone Mountain and is very similar, just less steep. We hadn’t heard of it until recently, and were glad we discovered it! The hike starts out from the parking lot on a flat boardwalk that winds through the woods and along the base of the mountain. Then you climb for a bit before reaching the summit. The face of the mountain looks kind of like the moon, with craters and little vegetation, much like Stone Mountain.

Rachel and Melissa on Arabia Mountain

February: East Palisades | 3.4 miles, easy, ITP (inside the perimeter) Atlanta

Our busy schedules already got ahead of us by February, so we had to do a shorter hike inside Atlanta to save time. The East Palisades trail is beautiful and follows the Chattahoochee River. It is flat for the most part, but there is a hill that you climb at one point. We weren’t familiar with the Chattahoochee Recreation Area’s somewhat confusing posted maps. The “you are here” dot is a very similar color to the background of the map, so before we knew it, we had gotten turned around. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but we were hiking in the evening and it was starting to get dark. We ended up finishing this one in the complete dark with the flashlights on our phones.  

March: Yonah Mountain | 4.4 miles, moderate, 88 miles northeast of Atlanta

This was my favorite hike of the year. In my opinion, it was the perfect length and difficulty, with a rewarding view at the top. We started the hike late morning and packed a lunch to bring with us. The hike itself is pretty cool. You pass a US Army training camp along the way. At the very top of the mountain, there is a grassy meadow surrounded by trees. If it hadn’t been so cold, we probably would’ve hung out here for a while. The lookout spot is kind of hard to find. You have to walk through the trees before reaching a cliff with a great view.

Looking out on Yonah Mountain

April: Edmonds Backcountry Trail | 8 miles, difficult, 113 miles northeast of Atlanta

Rachel and I wanted to try something a little more strenuous this month, since our big hike in Yosemite was coming up in a couple months. We headed northeast to Edmonds Backcountry Trail. The trail didn’t seem to be used much, we only passed a few people the whole time we were there. We had to walk about a mile to the trailhead from the parking lot, making the trail a little longer than we were expecting. The trail increased and decreased in elevation repeatedly, unlike most trails in this area which go straight up to the summit, and then back down. The trail description says that there is a spur trail to get to the Lookoff Mountain overlook, but we didn’t find it. The lookout at the end of the trail wasn’t spectacular. I’d say it wasn’t worth it for the amount of work done to get there. Coming back was a challenge. We were exhausted from the hike there and it seemed like it would never end. I was thankful I had my Camelbak 100 oz Antidote Replacement Reservoir to keep me hydrated.

Looking out at Edmonds Backcountry Trail

May: Cochran Shoals Trail | 3.1 miles, easy, northwest Atlanta (right OTP)

Another busy month! We did this hike one evening, because it isn’t too far from us. I love this trail! I sometimes run down here. It’s pretty flat and goes along the Chattahoochee River, so there is always something to look at. This month we did the full trail and all of the little side trails to make the most out of our May hike.

Chattahoochee River

June: Taft Point & Sentinel Dome | About 4 miles, moderate, Yosemite, California

June was our most exciting month for hiking! We were in Yosemite for three days and did several short hikes. See my posts about Yosemite here. My favorite of all the hikes we did was the Taft Point trail. It was a pretty easy hike to get there and the views were absolutely amazing! We spent at least an hour taking pictures on the edge of the cliff and enjoying the scenery.

Looking out on Taft Point

July: Stone Mountain | 2 miles, moderate, 18 miles east of Atlanta

One of my favorites that is close to Atlanta, the Stone Mountain hike is a classic. It’s one mile straight up the side of the mountain, and the views of the Atlanta skyline at the top are great! I usually do this hike around sunset, bring a beer to enjoy the view with, and then stay for the laser show after dark. It costs $15 to park for the day or $40 for an annual pass, so I always try to make the most of my money and stay as long as possible.

August: Kennesaw Mountain | 2.1 miles, moderate, 23 miles northwest of Atlanta

Kennesaw Mountain is another hike that is close to Atlanta. It is a more gradual hill than Stone Mountain, but about the same length. This is where a battle in the Civil War was fought, and there are several canons you’ll see along the way that remind you of it. The summit is a bit touristy. There is a shuttle that runs from the Visitor’s Center to the top, so you’ll see a variety of people there. It’s a great option for those living in Atlanta who want to get outdoors.

September: Panther Creek Falls | 7 miles, moderate, 93 miles northeast of Atlanta

Panther Creek is a fun hike! You cross over the creek a few times and hike along the edge a good part of the way. Be careful though, we passed two women who had dropped their pack (along with their keys and phone) down the side of the cliff into the creek. They ended up finding a guy who climbed down there to get it, but I wouldn’t recommend it! It’s a moderate hike with a few challenging parts, but not too tough overall. When we got to the waterfall at the end, we decided to wade through the pool beneath the falls and climb up the falls. It is very slippery up there, so use caution. The water is freezing, but it feels great on a hot Georgia day!

October: West Palisades | 3.6 miles, easy, ITP Atlanta

This is another of my favorites inside the perimeter. The trail crosses under the huge I-75 and I-285 bridges. It is flat for the most part, with the exception of one large hill that you will see people training on with backpacking packs. The trail is clearly marked with the mileage you’ve traveled and a map of the trail. It is a very popular trail for the area. I usually see lots of families on their evening walks.   

November: Sawnee Mountain | 4 miles, easy, 46 miles north of Atlanta

Sawnee Mountain is an easy hike that is close to Atlanta. It also felt really short for 4 miles. It was a cold, but beautiful day and the sunshine felt amazing at the top. The views are great (seeing a pattern yet?). We packed a lunch and ate it at one of the picnic tables near a playground on the way back down the mountain.

December: Pine Mountain | 4.5 miles, moderate, 41 miles northwest of Atlanta

We ended 12 months 12 hikes with Pine Mountain, a trail near Lake Allatoona. The trail is in the shape of a figure 8, with the summit near the intersection of the loops. This makes it possible to just do one loop if you are short on time, or don’t want to do the full 4.5 miles. Maybe it was because of the cold, but we only saw a few people on the whole hike. The summit was empty while we were there, which gave us plenty of time to hang out and take pictures.

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