Most Atlantans live within striking distance to one of the Chattahoochee’s neighboring city parks or National Recreation Areas. And while the rest of Atlanta continues to sizzle well into autumn, the Chattahoochee, with its icy cold water, never does in fact get “hotter than a hooch coochie,” despite what Alan Jackson might say. But enough splitting hairs. The singer recognized the wonder of a relatively wild vein running straight through our fair city, and we do too. Whether you’re looking for a playground with a water vista, a relatively easy hike, or a sandy river flat where you can kick off your shoes and splash with the littles, the Chattahoochee has it.
Places to Play
While there are no playgrounds within the National Recreational Area, many city parks are positioned perfectly to give you the feeling of being on the river, without needing a GORP guide. The two listed below are our favorites for view, ease of access, and playground equipment.
Morgan Falls Park in Sandy Springs: This park has the trifecta – clean bathrooms, great playground, and ample parking. Add to this a level green space, accessible hiking trails, and a floating dock for fishing, and vioila: River Park Nirvana. While not part of the official CNRA, Morgan Falls offers a beautiful overlook of the river, and you won’t find a cooler old hydroelectric dam south of Tennessee than the Morgan Falls Dam, built in 1904 to power the Atlanta streetcars of the era.
200 Morgan Falls Road, Sandy Springs, GA 30350
Roswell City Parks: Head north, young friends, to explore the seven miles along the banks of the Hooch in Roswell. Playgrounds, green spaces, canoe and kayak launches, and ample stroller-friendly trails can be found at Azalea Park on Azalea Drive, Don White Memorial Park on Riverside Road, and Riverside Park on Riverside Road.
Places to Hike
The Chattahoochee runs for forty-eight miles from the Buford Dam through the heart of the city, and there are more places to hike (both marked and unmarked) than you can shake a stick at. However, hiking with kids gets a little trickier when you factor in attention spans, gear, and snacks, so the following places get the thumbs-up from our test hikers. For more places to hike around Georgia, click here.
Paces Mill: This 3.5 mile, paved trail meanders along the Hooch for the first quarter mile, then turns to follow Rottenwood Creek to its waterfalls, meandering both under I-75 and through some of Atlanta’s most natural native surroundings. Just remember to wear your tennis shoes and not your flip flops, pack your bug spray, and bring a towel in case your kids decide to dip their toes in the icy cold water! 3444 Cobb Pkwy, Atlanta, GA 30339
Cochran Shoals: Flat, well-maintained, and with options for veering off the main route to explore marshes and wooded areas, Cochran Shoals Park just outside the Perimeter is an excellent option for enjoying the Hooch. Want to take your able-bodied little explorers on a real adventure? Follow the marked signs to the Sope Creek trail, which leads you to the ruins of a Civil War era mill.
Places to Splash
For some kids, if you lead them to water, you know they’re going to want to get wet. If you’re ready to turn them loose, pack a change of clothes (or swimsuits), a towel, and their favorite beach bucket, because the silty banks of the Hooch are begging for some kids’ toes to squish in them.
Akers Mill: Located just inside the Perimeter, the Akers Mill entrance to the CNRA leads you on about a mile decline to the banks of the river, where you’ll find Sandy Point, a small (depending on the height of the water in the river) beach area. An added bonus? Across the river are the jumping rocks on the East Palisades trail, and you can watch as people take the plunge. While a B.O.B. or jogging stroller could make the trip, this trail is not paved, and the hike back up to the parking area is steep. Located inside I-285 and just west of the Chattahoochee River; can be accessed by heading east on Akers Mill Road from Cobb Parkway, then turning right at the wooden “mill wheel” onto Akers Drive.
Whitewater Creek Entrance, East Palisades: Similar to the Akers Mill area, the Whitewater Creek entrance off Harris Trail Road is unpaved, but offers a shorter walk to the river. What it may lack in beaches it makes up for in ease of travel, and it still provides ample opportunities to kick off shoes and wade in the Hooch.
Whitewater Creek Road, Atlanta, GA 30327
Looking to acquaint yourself with the Hooch a less adventurous way? Reach out to the Chattahoochie National Recreation Area headquarters, located at Island Ford, for upcoming Ranger Programs, events, and night hikes. You can reach the visitor contact station at 678-538-1200 to ask questions about the stretch of the river you plan to explore, as well.
Have you gotten your feet wet in the ‘Hooch? Tell us about it below!
Photos courtesy of the author, Creative Commons via Flickr, and the City of Sandy Springs