Urban Oasis: Atlanta – Sweetwater Creek State Park

When the weather is nice in Atlanta, without being too humid, it’s the perfect time for a day hike!  While most great hikes are a “hike” to get to outside of the city, not many friends have heard of  Sweetwater Creek State Park.  So, I decided to check it out for myself.

Only a 20-30 minute drive west of the city, Sweetwater is easily accessible via I-20 West. The creek opens up into the reservoir, which is the big lake that you pass by before the entrance to the park. There is parking, a boat dock, and picnic tables.  Further down is an official entrance to the park, with a gatehouse that charges $5 per car. Continue along the road to the very end, and you’ll arrive at the Visitor’s Center.  The Center’s knowledgeable park rangers can provide maps & advice on the trails.  The park is located on the grounds of the old 19th-century mill town called New Manchester which met its demise during the Civil War.

The red trail is the shortest and easiest, at 1-mile each way.  Same way in & same way out, along the river.  It’s also the most scenic, taking you down to the section of river with rapids where the old mill is located.  The white trail is a 5-mile loop that continues where the red trail leaves off along the southern section of the river rapids, and loops back through open meadows & wooded areas.  The yellow trail is mainly on the other side of the river from the red & white trails.  It is a steeper 3-mile trek through the hardwood forests.

Starting from the visitor’s center, the red trail’s path is easy and winds down to the flat part of the river. There were people fishing & boating here.  A portion of this part is wooden boardwalk, with viewpoints to pull off the main trail & get a better view of the river.  I paused, enjoying the view….

Sweetwater 1

….until I saw this & continued quickly along my way.

Sweetwater 2

Once you reach the old mill, there’s a wooden staircase that leads down to the river.  Hang a right & continue – this is the red trail along the rocky river path!  Here the water starts to rush against the large boulders resting across the waterway.  Kids, adults & dogs alike venture out.  A hop, skip, & jump across the rocks comes naturally here.

Sweetwater 3

The red trail continues along the river, even when it looks like there’s no path to traverse – look for the red paint & go for it!

Sweetwater 4

At the end of the red trail, I hopped over to the white trail to loop back where I came from whilst taking a different route. Look for the wooden staircase to lead the way.

Sweetwater 5

Once into the canopied forest, the dirt trail winds up & away from the river.  It’s easy to get lost in your thoughts up there, but pay attention to your path!  You don’t want to run across this guy, like I did…

Sweetwater 6

Yes, there seems to be a recurring theme of snakes on this journey. I’m not happy about it either.

The white trail eventually dead ends back into the red trail at the old mill location.  Time to find a nice rock for a picnic lunch!!

Sweetwater 7



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