Hike the Yellow River Trail to beautiful river vistas near Stone Mountain, GA

Yellow River Trail: hiking Yellow River Park

Hike 3.2 miles on the Yellow River Trail's scenic, forested riverside banks to a terraced waterfall at Yellow River Park near Stone Mountain.

trail info

Set in a beautiful rolling forest bordering a wide, smoothly-flowing river, Yellow River Park evokes the feeling of a North Georgia mountain adventure. But the Yellow River Trail complex is tucked in a residential neighborhood in the surburban, strip-mall-filled stretch between Stone Mountain and Snellville, just outside Atlanta’s perimeter highway. It’s a fantastic near-the-city destination for hiking, trail running and mountain biking in a beautiful forested landscape.

The Yellow River Trail hikes beside a scenic stretch of river near Stone Mountain

This 3.2-mile hike on the Yellow River Trail explores the most scenic stretches of the river’s sandy, meandering shores. The unpaved trail hugs the river for most of its length, exploring the park’s southwest riverine banks. And the trail’s elevation runs nearly level on this hike, making the trail equally suitable for trail running. (For a paved run from this same trailhead, check out the one-mile trail at Yellow River Park.)

The park’s forested 566 acres offer over 13 miles of hiking, running, equestrian and mountain biking trails. It’s an impressive trail complex, given its close proximity to downtown Atlanta. And there’s more on the way: a huge network of hiking trails on the river’s east side is being planned for future development.

Hiking the Yellow River Trail near Atlanta, Georgia

Yellow River Trail: the hike

The adventure starts at the park’s multi-use trail parking area (view maps and driving directions), venturing south on the paved loop trail before departing the pavement. The trail crosses a small wood bridge, diving under the forest canopy. The hike soon reaches a side trail, following the short spur to a wooden observation deck and catching beautiful elevated views of the Yellow River.

The Yellow River Park hiking trails follow the scenic banks of a meandering river

Leaving the observation deck, the hike continues its southbound journey. The park’s trail network is vast – and though the trails’ tangled web is often signed, navigation the intersections can be confusing. For simplicity, the outbound, southbound stretch of this hike follows the contours of the Yellow River’s banks, veering left at all trail junctions to stay on the path closest to the river.

(We recommend tracking the Yellow River Trail via GPS, like our Garmin Oregon 700, for the easiest wayfinding. There are many intersecting trails in the network – and many signs simply state the distance to the trailhead. But the signs don’t state which trailhead, and with multiple trailheads and weaving, looping trails, navigation can get tricky without GPS.)

The hike crosses a small stream at .9 miles before reaching the river’s shoals at 1 mile. The river spills sheet-like from the wide, flat rock terracing the riverbed, creating a stairway of shallow waterfalls.

The Yellow River spills along the hiking trail in a series of terraced waterfalls

Departing the shoals, the trail continues its southbound hike before looping northwest to follow the Yellow River’s wide meander. The trail departs the river’s shore at 1.6 miles, trailing northwest.

The trail treks through a shady, wildlife-filled forest near Snellville, Georgia

The hike turns here, doubling back on the riverside trail to retrace its steps to the multi-use trailhead. Opposite of the outbound hike, the return route veers right at all trail junctions to remain on the trail nearest the river. The hike reaches the trailhead at 3.2 miles, finishing the adventure.

(A loop hike is possible on the Yellow River Trail network – but even armed with a trail map and Garmin GPS, we found the navigation confusing. A more distinct blazing system for each trail, clearer signage or simply fewer trail intersections would vastly improve the Yellow River trail network for hikers. So, for simplicity, hike the riverside trail out and back.)

Yellow River Trail: Directions & Details

Parking

Free parking is available at the Yellow River Park trailhead.

Please Remember

Always leave no trace, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, don't rely on a cell phone signal to find your way, and follow these trail etiquette tips.

GPS Coordinates

33.791400, -84.071550     //     N33 47.484 W84 04.293

Driving Directions


Elevation Profile

Yellow River Trail: Hiking Yellow River Park near Stone Mountain - Elevation Profile

Yellow River Trail Map

Trail data and photos © Summit19 Studio LLC. This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.
 
Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, online magazines that cover the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.