Sweetwater Creek Red Trail
Hike the two mile Sweetwater Creek Red Trail to historic Civil War mill ruins, rushing rapids and small waterfalls at Atlanta's Sweetwater Creek State Park.
The Sweetwater Red Trail is one of the most popular trails at Sweetwater Creek State Park, a rolling, scenic state park near Atlanta. traveling the banks of the rushing, whitewater-filled creek a half mile to Civil War-era mill ruins. The Sweetwater Red Trail departs the mill to explore the boulder-filled sandy shores of Sweetwater Creek, scrambling over tall rock outcrops on the creek’s banks. This moderately difficult 2 mile out-and-back hike or trail run catches incredible outdoor fun within quick driving distance of metro Atlanta. (Check out more of Sweetwater Creek’s most popular hiking and running trails at this beautiful Georgia State Park near Atlanta.)
Sweetwater Creek Red Trail: the hike
The trail departs the trailhead near the park’s modern, LEED-certified interpretive center (view maps and driving directions), hiking through a fern-filled, young deciduous forest. The trail dives elevation downhill, meandering in wide switchbacks in an approach of Sweetwater Creek’s banks. The trail reaches a junction at .15 mile, turning south to follow Sweetwater Creek downstream. Regularly-spaced red blazes mark the trail, tracing the wide, slow flow of the creek on trail left.
The Sweetwater Red Trail reaches the ruins of the New Manchester Mill at .55 mile. The mill’s red brick shell towers over four stories into the sky, a shell of the former building that was destroyed by Union troops during the Civil War.
The trail descends a series of wooden stairs and terraces south of the ruins, reaching the sandy shores of Sweetwater Creek at .6 mile and grabbing an up-close prospective of the mill from the creek shore. The Sweetwater Red Trail departs the mill, traveling south and following Sweetwater Creek downstream on the well-blazed red trail. The hike’s path here is sandy, traversing the creek’s floodplain as it crosses the banks of the increasingly more turbulent creek.
The trail courses through wide sections of forest bordering Sweetwater Creek, punctuated by outcrops of large boulders that rise sharply from the creek’s sandy shore and floodplain.
The terrain becomes increasingly rocky as the Sweetwater Red Trail hikes south, scrambling over large boulders and climbing elevation on steep rock outcrops, making the trail difficult in sections. The trail crosses a small bridge before climbing a large wooden staircase to an overlook at .75 mile, catching views of the tumbling, rushing, falling Sweetwater Creek valley below.
The Sweetwater Red Trail climbs a second overlook at 1.15 miles, grabbing expansive views of the whitewater and rapid-filled creek below. Sweetwater Creek is its most active here, churning and falling in elongated waterfalls and creating ribbons of white turbulence in the boulder-filled, rocky creek bed.
This overlook marks the red trail’s end; grab a mid-hike snack from your backpack before turning to hike the red trail in reverse to return to the visitor center trailhead. The hike retraces the red trail past the New Manchester ruins and reaches the Sweetwater Creek State Park visitor center at 2.3 miles, completing the trail.
Note: slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous! Please don’t climb, stand on, swim near, or jump from any waterfall.
More Sweetwater Creek adventures
Explore the park’s wildlife-filled, grassy lake shore by kayak or canoe. Paddle the glassy waters of Sweetwater Creek’s reservoir lake by stand-up paddleboard. Camp in the park’s brand new campground with modern facilities, or overnight in style in Sweetwater Creek’s new yurt village. Find more ideas for adventure in our Sweetwater Creek State Park destination guide.