Trail Running in … Atlanta

This is the first of a series trail running guides I am planning to write.  The plan is for these to live on and on and serve as a resource for trail runners living or traveling to a particular location.  I am just one person, so please add your thoughts, suggestions and resources in the comments section. As I’ll be posting this on Martin Luther King Day, I thought I’d start with Atlanta, GA. 

Atlanta trail

A typical trail in Atlanta in wintertime

Atlanta is known for many things.  ‘Gone with the Wind’, countless roads named “Peachtree [something]” and underperforming sports teams (sorry, but it’s true).  However, few outside the South think of Atlanta as a center of trail running culture.  That’s too bad, because it is.  I should know. I lived in Atlanta for almost ten years and transitioned from road to trail running in this Pearl of the South before moving west to California.

GUTS

guts logoYou can’t talk about Atlanta trail running without first talking about GUTS. GUTS stands for Georgia Ultra and Trail Running Society and is just about the best acronym I’ve come across.  This club is headed up by no other than local trail legend Janice Anderson, who has finished second to Ann Trason at Western States and even held the women’s 100 mile trail record at one point (click here for an interview I did with Janice a few years ago).

GUTS organizes several key races in and around Atlanta and has weekly trail runs for its members.

Best Trails

Kennesaw Mountain

Kennesaw Mountain, about 45 mins northwest of the city center, provides the most extensive trail system in the Atlanta area.  As such, it is particular popular for those weekend long runs (unless you have the time to head 2-3 hours north to the Appalachian Mountains)

The River

The River is technically called “Cochran Shoals”, but no one really calls it that.  Conveniently located near two major interstates (75 and 285) and much closer to most Atlanta offices, this trail network is popular for pre-/post-work runs.  On particularly nice days, this place can get really crowded.  I love running here in the early, early morning while fog is hovering on the Chattahoochee River.  Make sure to get off the main trail and explore the single tracks.  But watch out, the footing can get pretty technical.

East Palisades

This is actually my favorite trail ‘system’ in Atlanta, even though it’s a bit short (4-5 miles total).  It’s always quiet around here and you are likely to see all kinds of wildlife (I almost tripped over a fox once).

Finally, I put together an open source Google map of all Atlanta trail heads back in 2007 or 2008.  Many members of the community participated and the map is comprehensive.  As a matter of fact, it is still being updated.  Find it here:

Key Races

SweetH20 50k (and half-marathon)

SweetH20 50k River Crossing

This is what the race is famous for

This race has a river crossing that is so gnarly that they can’t even include it some years.  The year I ran the race (race report on my old blog), I was submerged up to my shoulders (I’m 6’0”) and my legs were swept away by the currents.  Only the rope I was desperately holding on to saved me from being swept away.  Oh, and that is half-way through the race.  Enjoy running the rest of the way in soggy shoes.

Hot 2 Trot

This event, put on by GUTS, is the only timed event in the area.  It’s also in August.  In Atlanta.  I was never tough enough to run it.

Atlanta-Based Trail Running Bloggers

Christian Griffith

Feel free to share additional info in the comments.

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7 Responses to Trail Running in … Atlanta

  1. Pingback: URP Daily News | UltraRunnerPodcast.com

  2. Shawn says:

    Enjoy your posts! I live in Dallas GA and run many of these trails! I run the Mt Tabor mountain bike trails same place Dirty Spokes have the trail races. I ran Sweetwater yesterday and I trying to beat a nasty case IT Band Syndrome! Any suggestions…that work!? I am so disgusted with the season about to kick off!

  3. John says:

    Damn nice work! This is a great resource for running trails…. I’ve got write-ups on several of these over at my blog: http://www.garunning.com

    I really want to get over to East Palisades now!

    Thanks!

  4. Appelooblibre says:

    Знакомый рассказал об одной фирме, слышал, что своё дело делают хорошо, может ктонить пользовался их услугами? Поделитесь инфой!
    сайт тут http://www.russkie-landshafty.ru

  5. Julie says:

    Great list! Sweetwater 50K was my first ultra and an awesome one! You should add the North Face Endurance Challenge in Pine Mountain. They have multiple race lengths over two days all the way up to a 50 miler. Great, very tough course.

  6. Annette says:

    Hello fellow trail runners, my husband and I will be in town for a weekend and looking for a trail run. It does not need to be an event but we only have the morning to do one trail, what is “the one we can’t miss?” We have some serious hills here so that’s not a problem. Maybe 5 miles or so

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