Powers Island Trail: Hiking the Chattahoochee River
Hike the Powers Island Trail on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, exploring Powers Island and the river's rocky, boulder-filled banks.
The Powers Island Trail is one of the lesser-traveled trails of Atlanta’s Chattahoochee National Recreation Area. Serene and sometimes deserted, this quiet hiking and running trail loops through beautiful riverside forest. The trail explores an island, an inlet, and the banks of the shoaling Chattahoochee River on a 2.5 mile trail loop near Vinings.
It’s the “other” trail at the Chattahoochee’s angular, whitewater-filled Cochran Shoals. And yes, it’s more than just overflow parking for its extremely popular trail neighbor, the Cochran Shoals Trail. Compared to Cochran Shoals, the width of the Powers Island Trail is comparatively tight – so it’s perfect for small hiking groups or single-file trail runs. And it’s arguably more scenic than the trail across the river – though it’s slightly more challenging, with a mid-trail climb to a riverside ridge.
Powers Island Trail: the hike
The Powers Island Trail departs from three signed trailheads on the perimeter of the park’s parking area (view maps and driving directions). This hike first explores Powers Island, grabbing the best Chattahoochee River views early in the hike. The Powers Ferry Trail accesses the island via a bridge near the park’s pay station and buildings.
The Powers Island Trail crosses the bridge, setting foot on the island and hiking west toward the wide, shoaling Chattahoochee River. The island’s name shares roots with the nearby Powers Ferry Road: James Powers operated a ferry from the island during the early 1800s, providing access across the wide, whitewater-filled Chattahoochee River. Meeting the river’s banks at a kayak and canoe takeout, the trail swings northwest, following the river’s banks and hiking through densely vegetated forest. The trail reaches the northern tip of Powers Island, looping southeast to trace a shallow, smooth flowing inlet back toward the bridge.
The trail’s island loop completes at .7 mile, reaching and crossing the bridge. The hike crosses the parking area, departing from the park’s northeast trailhead. The trail runs an old gravel roadbed, hiking through a forest studded with large rock outcrops and old stacked-stone walls.
The Powers Island Trail courses through a number of trails on the river’s shore. Two parallel trails follow the contours of the Chattahoochee River, offering wide-open river views after passing Powers Island at 1 mile. Hike side trails, departing trail left, for the best views.
The Powers Island Trail crosses through a bamboo thicket before reaching the park’s northern boundary at 1.3 miles, turning to retrace the hike southbound. The hike departs left on the return hike to explore side trails, grabbing elevation on a nearby ridge. The trail courses northeast on the ridge, hiking through an ivy and vine-filled deciduous forest. On the ridge’s crest, old stacked-stone retaining walls terrace the forest, now thickly covered in trails of emerald ivy.
Departing the ridge at 2 miles, the hike levels elevation and traces the shores of the Chattahoochee River on the Powers Island Trail, crossing several bridges and catching views of Powers Island across the inlet. The hike reaches the parking area trailhead at 2.5 miles, completing the hike.