Cochran Shoals to Sope Creek: hiking the Chattahoochee River
Hike this 8.5 mile trail connecting two popular Chattahoochee River parks near Atlanta: Cochran Shoals and Sope Creek. Explore marshland, forest, and Civil War paper mill ruins on this moderate hike.
Sope Creek and Cochran Shoals are two of the most popular Chattahoochee River trails near Atlanta, visited by hundreds of runners, walkers, hikers and bikers on fair-weather weekends. This hike visits both parks, grabbing some solitude and elevation on a lesser-traveled connecting trail that spans Cochran Shoals’ level running trails and Sope Creek’s rugged hiking trails.
The trail visits stunning landscape diversity on its 8.5 mile loop: the wildlife-filled banks of the Chattahoochee River, beautiful marshland, rolling forest, a tranquil pond, and Civil War paper mill ruins on Sope Creek’s banks.
Cochran Shoals to Sope Creek: the hike
The hike departs Cochran Shoals’ Interstate North Parkway trailhead (view maps and driving directions), hiking northbound on a groomed trail flanking the wide-flowing Chattahoochee River. The trail is nearly level – a major factor in its popularity among runners, along with its well-signed mileage markers and popular 5k length.
The trail passes an intersection at .6 miles, continuing its northeast trek along the Chattahoochee River. Just after looping southwest and passing a parking area at 1.6 miles, this hike departs the Cochran Shoals Trail via a dirt path on trail right, quickly gaining elevation as it dives northwest into the forest and crossing a mountain biking trail. The trail climbs a relatively steep incline, gaining over 150 feet elevation in the next quarter mile before reaching a small, secluded cemetery as it crests elevation.
The hike departs the cemetery’s weather-worn headstones, continuing its northbound trek toward Sope Creek. The trail descends elevation, switching back under the canopy of a primarily deciduous forest dotted with trickling streams, meeting the outer Sope Creek Loop Trail at 2.6 miles. The hike turns right at this intersection, following the Sope Creek Loop counterclockwise to the northeast, rolling elevation and remaining on the outer Sope Creek Loop through well-signed intersections. The hike departs the loop at 4 miles, descending a steep side trail to the Sope Creek paper mill ruins on the audibly rushing creek on trail right.
Departing the stacked-stone ruins on the banks of the boulder-filled Sope Creek, the trail ascends elevation near Paper Mill Road and approaches the Sope Creek trailhead and parking area. The hike follows signed intersections toward Sibley Pond, reaching the pond’s banks at just over 4.5 miles.
The trail skirts Sibley Ponds’ banks, catching reflective views in its still waters before diving back into forest cover on the outer Sope Creek Loop Trail. The trail rolls elevation as it loops southbound, turning south to hike the Cochran Shoals connector trail at 6 miles, passing the secluded cemetery and reaching the Cochran Shoals trail at 6.8 miles. The hike turns right on the Cochran Shoals trail, passing marshland on trail left and crossing a tributary stream via a large wood and metal bridge.
The Cochran Shoals Trail arcs southeast, passing through a grassy, amphibian-filled wetland at 7.7 miles before returning to the banks of the Chattahoochee River. The hike turns right at the Chattahoochee, retracing its outbound steps on the wide, graveled, groomed Cochran Shoals Trail and hiking south toward the Cochran Shoals trailhead. The trail reaches the Cochran Shoals southern parking area at 8.5 miles, completing the hike.
The Cochran Shoals to Sope Creek Trail is one of the longest and most difficult in the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area, a collection of parks on the banks of the Chattahoochee River north of Atlanta. Check out our full collection of Chattahoochee River hiking, walking and running trails.