Panola Mountain PATH Trail to Alexander Lake
Run, walk or bike the 5 mile, paved Panola Mountain PATH Foundation trail through Panola Mountain State Park to the shores of the glassy Alexander Lake.
Filled with shady forests, lakes, and immense, exposed granite fields covered in lichen, moss and wildflowers, Arabia Mountain and Panola Mountain State Park are an other-worldly adventure just east of Atlanta. Rare plant life and wildlife thrive in these beautiful, natural ecosystems.
The park is well-loved for its hiking trails at Arabia Mountain and guided twilight hikes on Panola Mountain. The PATH Foundation has also paved more than 30 miles of paved trails that meander through the park’s most scenic forests, perfect for runners, walkers, and bikers.
The Panola Mountain / Alexander Lake PATH Trail
This fantastic run, walk or bike trails just over 5 miles on a paved segment of the 30-mile Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area PATH Trail. The Panola Mountain PATH Trail runs through the mountain’s scenic, granite-covered landscape to the still, reflective water of Alexander Lake. The trail’s rolling elevation catches views of the mountain’s unique natural ecosystems from a long wooden platform, arcs over the marshy shoreline of Alexander Lake on a raised boardwalk, runs a causeway between the Upper and Lower Alexander Lakes, and trails through a historic barn over the course of 5 miles. It’s a run – or fitness walk or bike trail – full of interest and beauty.
The adventure departs from Panola Mountain State Park’s main entrance (view maps and driving directions), meandering on a broad, concrete-paved trail and rolling elevation. The trail follows the contours of a road for the first quarter mile before darting into cleared forest, dropping elevation to cross two trickling streams at .4 mile. Pine and deciduous trees tower over the PATH, and lichen-covered rock outcrops bordered with colorful wildflowers dot the trail’s sides.
The trail reaches a trail junction at 1.15 miles. A left turn here trails an extended-length boardwalk over Panola Mountain’s fragile, lichen and moss-encrusted ecosystems. The boardwalk terminates in a wooden platform that offers excellent views of a huge expanse of exposed granite. The plant life that thrives on these rocky stretches at the park is fragile, rare, and slow-growing. So please stay on the boardwalk and paved trails throughout this run to help preserve the mountain’s natural beauty.
Alexander Lake Loop Trail
Departing the viewing platform, the PATH trail continues its eastbound run toward Alexander Lake, rolling elevation in a descent toward the lake. The trail meets a second intersection at 1.85 miles, turning right at the intersection run the Alexander Lake Loop Trail counter-clockwise. The trail dives through a forest filled with massive boulders at 2.1 miles before curving to reach the wooden Alexander Lake boardwalk at 2.2 miles. The boardwalk arcs over marshy wetland bordering the still, glassy water of Alexander Lake, providing beautiful mid-run views.
The Alexander Lake Trail loops eastward, rolling elevation on a small rise above the lake’s shore before turning northwest at 3 miles to cross a causeway. The PATH crosses the causeway, catching glassy lake views from both sides of the trail.
The PATH trail departs the lake, steadily gaining elevation. The run turns right at a trail intersection at 3.5 miles, following the trail through a large, historic barn – a great example of the PATH Foundation’s creative trail building throughout the Atlanta area.
Exiting the shady, historic barn, the run hangs a right at the intersection, following the Panola Mountain PATH Trail back to the trailhead. The run continues to climb elevation before cresting at 4 miles. The PATH trail rolls elevation for the remainder of the run, reaching the trailhead at 5.15 miles and completing the adventure.
The trail, in a word, is stunning. It’s a fantastic example of the incredible trail-building and conservation efforts achieved by a partnership between the PATH Foundation, Panola Mountain State Park, and Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area. The trail’s experience feels like a getaway in the North Georgia mountains, but within a shockingly close 30-minute drive from Atlanta. Worthy of a visit? Our enthusiastic vote: yes.
Panola Mountain PATH Trail to Alexander Lake Map, Directions & Details
$5 (daily), or included with a Georgia State Parks annual pass.
33.622517, -84.173183 // N33 37.351 W84 10.391