October 20, 2015
When you need a break from the city, hop in your car and drive 30 minutes east of Atlanta to Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, home to the Davidson-Arabia Nature Preserve and a haven of exposed granite fields, wetlands and forests.
The preserve’s 2,550 acres are a playground for the outdoor enthusiast, offering miles of hiking and multi-use PATH bike trails. The mountain itself features a mostly a barren landscape dotted with rare, native plant species, including the signature red diamorpha in the winter and yellow daisies in autumn. It’s also home to multiple streams and two lakes. Industrial debris, abandoned structures and metal spikes embedded in the rocks also hint to the quarrying activities of the past.
Explore on your own or join a ranger-guided hike at 8 a.m. on Fridays and Sundays. Self-guided trips on trails marked with coloured blazes (or cairns on the bare granite) range in length and difficulty, but there is something suitable for a variety of abilities. Most of the hikes meander through rolling hills, woodlands and hidden lakes that surround the granite outcrops. The 1.1-mile Forest Trail travels under the forest canopy to scenic Arabia Lake, an ideal hike for families and beginners.
For a quick jaunt with a panoramic pay-off, head to the top of Arabia Mountain on the G Mountain Top Trail. Accessible from the nature centre via a paved trail and boardwalk, find your way on bare rock up the gradual rise to a view that showcases just how close you are to Atlanta. Another popular journey is on the Cascade Trail, where you’ll discover the gushing rapids of Pole Bridge Creek. Here, granite outcrops intersect the forest, creating a hotspot for a variety of wildlife species. You can also combine the Cascade Trail with the more challenging Wilburn Farm Trail. Just continue following the orange blaze for a 1.6-mile adventure through forests and a spring-fed pond. You’ll also score a unique view of Arabia Mountain’s bald dome, pass an old barn, historic homestead and farming terraces – links to the area’s agricultural past.
For some of the best landscape views in the Nature Preserve, the 1.8-mile Mountain View Trail is the way to go. Follow the blue blaze and skirt the base of Arabia Mountain, stopping at a lake to spot the migrating fowl.
There is no fee required for parking or use of the trail and leashed four-legged friends are welcome. So, pack up the entire family and hit the road for a therapeutic dose of the great outdoors.
Virgin Atlantic operates direct flights to Atlanta from London Heathrow, bringing the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area well within reach.
Written by Giannina Smith Bedford