Sweetwater Creek State Park: destination & outdoor adventure guide

Hike, paddle, stay and play: there's a ton of great ways to explore and adventure at Sweetwater Creek State Park near Atlanta.

 

2500 acres of beautiful rolling forest, filled with wildflowers and wildlife. A wide, tumbling, boulder-filled creek, filled with whitewater and waterfalls. A glassy reservoir lake. Sweetwater Creek State Park is the kind of place you’d expect to find nestled in a remote corner of North Georgia. And when you’re there, it’s easy to forget that you’re remotely close to metro Atlanta.

Sweetwater Creek is a well-loved and ultra-popular state park near Atlanta, located just outside the city near Atlanta’s westside perimeter. It’s ruggedly beautiful, rolling and rocky, lush and green, and easily accessible but wild. And the park is steeped in history, too: it’s home to the towering brick ruins of the New Manchester Mill, an iconic and solemn shell of a structure that was destroyed in the Civil War, and a filming location for The Hunger Games.

Explore Sweetwater Creek State Park near Atlanta

The park’s visitor center is worth a visit: it’s one of the the most environmentally-responsible buildings in Georgia. The center’s LEED Platinum construction features many eco-friendly building components, including a vegetative roof, solar power, and rainwater capture and reuse. Inside, exhibits showcase Sweetwater Creek’s history, forest and ecosystems and with artifacts and interactive displays.

Find your adventure at Sweetwater Creek – and opt to stay for awhile, too. Hike or run the park’s exceptional, scenic trails. Kayak, canoe or paddleboard the park’s 215 acre reservoir lake. With so much to explore, you’ll want to consider staying the night in the park’s newly constructed yurt village and campground to extend your adventure.

Hike

With over nine miles of exceptional hiking and running trails, there’s a lot of ground to cover at Sweetwater Creek. Hike to boulder-lined, sandy shores along the creek’s rushing whitewater, to wide-open grassy meadows, to Sweetwater Creek’s New Manchester Mill Ruins, destroyed in the Civil War, or to serene creek banks perfect for spotting wildlife.

And Sweetwater Creek’s beautiful rolling terrain is beautiful in every season: tranquil in the winter, drenched in wildflower blooms in the spring, filled with wildlife in the summer and draped in gorgeous autumn leaf color in the fall. Hike Sweetwater Creek in every season to see the park’s beauty in a new light.

Hiking Sweetwater Creek's Red Trail to Civil War mill ruins near Atlanta

SWEETWATER CREEK RED TRAIL

Sweetwater Creek’s Red Trail hikes the shores of the boulder-lined creek, visiting the towering brick shell of the New Manchester Mill ruins. (Look familiar? The mill, destroyed in the Civil War, was recently featured in the filming of The Hunger Games.)

2 MILES

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Sweetwater Creek hiking trails: Sweetwater Red & Blue trail loop

SWEETWATER CREEK RED & WHITE TRAIL LOOP

Hike to the park’s Civil War mill ruins and along Sweetwater Creek’s tumbling cascades of whitewater and waterfalls on the Red Trail. Then climb a ridge on the White Trail, looping back to the trailhead through a rolling, scenic forest

3.1 MILES

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Hiking the Sweetwater Creek Yellow Trail near Atlanta

SWEETWATER CREEK YELLOW TRAIL

It’s a fantastic hike, or equally great trail run. Sweetwater Creek’s Yellow Trail crosses the creek via a large bridge, and explores the park’s opposite banks, catching cross-creek views of the mill ruins and visiting a cave once inhabited by Native Americans.

3.4 MILES

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Hiking the Sweetwater Creek White Trail through forest and waterfalls

SWEETWATER CREEK WHITE TRAIL

It’s one of the longest trails at Sweetwater Creek – but fully worth the distance. The White Trail follows Sweetwater Creek downstream, visiting the mill ruins and climbing several large bluffs overlooking the creek’s waterfalls and whitewater. You’ll visit a small lake and grassy meadows, and trail through a wildlife-filled forest.

4.1 MILES

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Hike the Sweetwater Creek Orange Trail to views of the Atlanta skyline

SWEETWATER CREEK ORANGE TRAIL

Hike this two-trail combo of Sweetwater’s Yellow and Orange Trails, exploring the eastern banks of the creek. Catching cross-creek views of the Civil War mill ruins filmed in The Hunger Games, and then climb a high-elevation ridge to catch through-the-trees views of the Atlanta skyline.

4.75 MILES

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What to Pack Hiking? Our hiking gear lists feature our favorite, trail-tested gear.

Our favorite hiking gear

WHAT TO PACK?

Ready to hit Sweetwater Creek’s trails, but wondering what to pack?

Our gear lists feature our favorite, trail-tested hiking gear for day hikes on local trails and in the Georgia backcountry.

hiking gear list: local hikes

Paddle

Sweetwater Creek State Park’s 215 acre reservoir lake pools north of the creek’s tumbling whitewater. The lake’s often-glassy waters reflect the park’s beauty, gently lapping the lake’s grassy shoreline and making a scenic venue for a paddling adventure.

Float the lake by kayak or canoe to explore the park from a new angle. Pause quietly at the shore for a chance to spot the wildlife, including turtles, waterfowl and deer, that frequent the lake shore. Bring your own equipment, or rent a kayak or canoe from the park (available seasonally).

Kayak, canoe or SUP the reservoir lake at Sweetwater Creek State Park near Atlanta

The lake’s often-calm surface and scenic shores make a great venue for stand-up paddleboarding, too. (A stand-up paddleboard, or SUP, is a hybrid of surfing and paddling on a large, stable board.) Sweetwater Creek offers SUP boards and equipment for rent, and offers SUP lessons for beginners in warm-weather months, too.

Stay

Hike. Run. Paddle. Learn. With miles of trails, tons of history and a glassy lake that’s perfect for an adventure by kayak or canoe, Sweetwater Creek State Park is a great destination for an overnight stay. And sunrises over the park’s scenic reservoir lake are breathtaking! Stay the night in one of the park’s new yurts to extend the adventure.

Stay in Sweetwater Creek State Park's yurts for an overnight adventure near Atlanta

SWEETWATER CREEK YURTS

Part tent, part cabin, Sweetwater Creek’s yurts sleep six and feature comfy beds, huge decks, electricity, fire pits, and charcoal grills. They’re nestled lakeside on Sweetwater Creek’s reservoir lake, with beautiful lake views. Yurts offer the fun of tent camping but with the comfort of real beds, furniture and hardwood floors.

READ OUR REVIEW

More ways to play

With two fishing docks, a bait shop, fishing boat rentals, picnic pavilions, geocaching, birding, stargazing and more, there’s a ton of ways to stay and play at Sweetwater Creek. Check the park’s website for more details and a calendar of events.

Get outside, Georgia! #atlantatrails

Find the best outdoor adventures in the southeast! Our Georgia trail map search highlights our favorite adventures on a searchable map. Or check out our favorite Atlanta hiking trails, our favorite North Georgia hiking trails, the best hikes to Georgia waterfalls, and our favorite Atlanta running trails for more great ideas on how to get outside.

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