Yellow River Trail: Hiking Yellow River Park near Stone Mountain
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.
Set in beautiful rolling forest bordering a wide, smoothly-flowing river, Yellow River Park evokes a feeling of a North Georgia 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.
This 3.2 mile hike on the Yellow River Trail explores the most scenic stretches of the Yellow 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 paved, one mile Yellow River Park Trail.)
Yellow River Park’s mostly-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. But there’s more on the way: a huge network of hiking trails on the Yellow River’s east side is planned for future development.
Yellow River Trail: the hike
The hike departs the park’s multi-use trail parking area (view maps and driving directions), trailing south on the Yellow River paved loop before departing the pavement. The trail crosses a small wood bridge, diving under the forest canopy. A side trail departs at under .1 mile, trailing to a wooden observation deck offering elevated views of the Yellow River.
Leaving the observation deck, the Yellow River Trail continues its southbound journey. The park’s trail network is vast – and though the trails’ tangled web of intersections are often signed, navigation can be confusing. For simplicity, the outbound, southward stretch of this hike follows the contours of the Yellow River’s banks, veering left at all trail junctions to remain on the trail closest to the river.
(We recommend tracking the Yellow River Trail via GPS, like the Garmin Oregon 600, for the easiest wayfinding. There are many intersecting trails in the network – and many signs simply state 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 continues veering left at all riverside intersections, crossing a small stream at .9 miles before reaching the Yellow River shoals at 1 mile. The river spills sheet-like from the wide, flat rock terracing the riverbed, creating a stairway of shallow waterfalls.
Departing the shoals, the trail continues its southbound hike before looping northwest to follow the river’s wide meander. The trail departs the river’s shore at 1.6 miles, trailing northwest.
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 veers right at all trail junctions to remain on the trail nearest the river. The hike reaches the trailhead at 3.2 miles, completing the trail.
(A loop hike is possible on the Yellow River Trail network – but even armed with a trail map and Garmin GPS, we found 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. For simplicity, hike the riverside trail out and back.)