Sope Creek Park: hiking the Paper Mill & Creek Trail
Hike a one-mile trail at Sope Creek Park near Marietta, exploring Civil-War-era paper mill ruins near the shore of a rocky, tumbling Chattahoochee River tributary creek.
Nestled just north of the Chattahoochee River, Sope Creek Park is a beautiful urban escape set in a hardwood forest flanking Sope Creek, a tumbling tributary of the Chattahoochee River. The park’s multitude of hiking, walking and mountain biking trails weave and roll through a stream-filled forest, visiting the ruins of a paper mill destroyed in the Civil War and exploring the banks of the park’s rocky creek.
This one-mile (round trip) hike at Sope Creek Park is especially kid-friendly, trailing through a beautiful wooded forest and descending to the creek’s scenic, rocky banks. This hike’s highlight is a visit to the park’s towering stone ruins of a paper mill, destroyed by Union troops during the Civil War. (The nearby New Manchester Mill at Sweetwater Creek State Park, which was also a filming location for The Hunger Games, fell to the same fate).
This hike also explores the mill’s stacked-stone spillway waterfall and drops to the creek’s banks for some peaceful mid-hike relaxation. At just one mile, this trail’s relatively short length and moderately easy effort make it one of metro Atlanta’s most popular hikes for families hiking with kids.
Sope Creek Park one-mile hike: the details
The trail departs from the park’s trailhead (view maps and driving directions), hiking northeast on the left-most trail departing the pavement. The trail winds through a young hardwood forest, following the well-worn dirt path speckled in dappled sunlight from the tree canopy above. As the trail drops elevation to the banks of Sope Creek, the sounds of tumbling water begin to echo through the forest. In warm-weather months, green moss and vibrant wildflowers pepper the forest floor with color.
At just under a half mile, the trail curves sharply, making a final descent to the towering, stacked stone spires of the paper mill ruins.
The trail reaches the former site of the Marietta Paper Mill, following the well-worn paths around the edges of the moss and lichen-crusted stacks of stone. The paper mill was built in the 1850s and later destroyed by Union troops during the Battle of Atlanta. Following the Civil War, the mill was rebuilt, only to be later destroyed by fire, and today, only this shell remains. Grasses and trees now grow inside the structure’s walls, and its castle-like remnants tower precariously skyward.
At the northern edge of the mill, the hike descends rustic stone stairs to reach the mill’s former spillway. A small tributary creek cascades over a stacked stone wall, creating a small waterfall before flowing into Sope Creek just below the bridge.
The hike continues to Sope Creek, reaching the creek’s sandy, boulder-filled banks. Sope Creek flows southbound to the Chattahoochee River, reaching the banks of the ‘Hooch on the Cochran Shoals Trail, one of metro Atlanta’s most popular biking and running trails.
Below the mill ruins, Sope Creek flows through deep, calm pools punctuated by rushing, whitewater-filled cascades over enormous bedrock and boulders. The creek is stunning in every season, but it’s especially beautiful in springtime, when budding trees and spring wildflowers line its sandy, rocky shores.
Departing Sope Creek, the hike turns to retrace its route past the paper mill ruins to the trailhead and parking area. The trail reaches the Sope Creek trailhead at one mile, completing the adventure.
More adventure-worthy hikes at Sope Creek
Up for a slightly longer hike? Hike the Sope Creek Trail, a 1.5-mile loop that explores a second set of ruins downstream, and loops through a scenic forest to a glassy, reflective pond. Or catch an epic 8.5-mile in-town adventure on a hike from Cochran Shoals to Sope Creek, exploring the banks of the Chattahoochee River at Cochran Shoals and passing a small, historic cemetery before looping through Sope Creek Park.
And to explore even more outdoor’s beauty along Atlanta’s well-loved waterway, check out our top 10 hikes in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.
Sope Creek Paper Mill Ruins & Creek Trail: Directions & Details
$3 day pass, or included with a Chattahoochee River NRA annual pass.
33.937600, -84.44300 // N33 56.256 W84 26.580