Hike Atlanta’s Cascade Springs Nature Preserve to a beautiful waterfall, a moss-covered historic springhouse, and mounded earthworks from the Civil War battle of Utoy Creek.
LOCATION:in Atlanta, Georgia
Departing from a chain-link-fenced parking area, the Cascade Springs Nature Preserve seems an unlikely venue for the natural beauty that borders its trails. The preserve’s tranquility is surrounded by urban buzz in a southwest Atlanta neighborhood dotted with 1970s plazas and historic Craftsman houses.
But inside the park’s 120 acres of green space, a wide trail network explores a tumbling waterfall, a wildlife-filled forest, and trickling springs that feed the park’s many streams. The hilly forest is a retreat from the surrounding city, and home to wildlife including deer, birds, and turtles.
This trail packs in a whole lot of natural beauty into a short length, visiting the moss-covered remnants of a stone spring house, a beautiful waterfall, and a rocky, sunlight-dapped creek. There’s a whole lot to explore at this beautiful nature preserve in Atlanta – and with surroundings so beautiful, it’s easy to forget that you’re in the heart of a concrete-covered metropolis.
Cascade Springs Nature Preserve: the hike
The Cascade Springs Trail departs the parking area trailhead (view maps and driving directions). The trail meanders on a boardwalk to skirt earthworks dug by Civil War troops as a line of defense in the battle of Utoy Creek.
The trail meets a moss-covered, historic stone-and-mortar springhouse over a trickling spring, turning right to hike a paved trail to the east.
The hike departs the pavement, following a dirt trail through rolling forest westbound toward Utoy Creek and meeting the creek at .3 mile. The trail turns southbound, following the creek’s deeply-cut banks upstream along an old gravel roadbed. The hike reaches a side trail at .55 miles, turning left here to climb and wind through switchbacks in a boulder-studded forest.
The trail crests elevation on a ridge. Civil War earthworks are faintly visible on the rolling forest floor, covered in a dense blanket of ferns and ivy. The hike turns right at a trail intersection on the ridge’s crest, hiking due east before turning left onto the northbound Terrace Trail. English Ivy drapes the landscape in deep emerald as the trail descends, passing an old building at just under 1 mile.
The hike meets the Spring Trail junction at just over 1 mile, turning right and trailing beside several small streams. The trail approaches a boulder-strewn valley, the sound of falling water amplifying through the forest, before meeting the Cascade Springs waterfall at 1.3 miles. The waterfall cascades under an often-traffic-filled bridge, English ivy draping the large rock that terraces the falls’ three tumbling cascades.
Departing the waterfall, the trail runs a boardwalk and follows the meandering banks of the creek westbound toward the trailhead, reaching the stone springhouse and park entrance at 1.6 miles and completing the hike.
Note: Slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous! Do not climb, stand above, swim near, or jump from any waterfall. See more water safety tips.
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Free. The park's hours are limited, and gates are locked at closing time.
Summer: Mon-Fri 7:30a - 3:00p, Sat-Sun 7:30a - 7:30p
Winter: Mon-Fri 7:30a - 3:00p, Sat-Sun 7:30a - 6:00p
33.719350, -84.480733 // N33 43.161 W84 28.844