Hike, walk, run, or bike the level, scenic trails at Cochran Shoals park, catching stunning views of the Chattahoochee River and exploring scenic woodlands and marshes. It’s one of Atlanta’s all-time most popular trails, and equally great for a Sunday stroll or running a few 5k training loops.
Wide, abundant river views. Wildlife-filled marsh and grasslands. And broad, level gravel trails perfect for pounding out the miles in a pair of running shoes, and great for a scenic stroll on the banks of the wide-flowing Chattahoochee River. With mile after mile of photo-worthy sights and prime running trails, it’s no wonder that Cochran Shoals draws weekend crowds of runners, hikers and mountain bikers by the hundreds.
Cochran Shoals is one of the most popular parks in metro Atlanta’s Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. Located just north of Atlanta’s I-285 perimeter, this riverside park offers more than four miles of wide, level, gravel trails that fill with weekend packs of runners, walkers and mountain bikers. Along the trails, the Chattahoochee River flows wide and picturesque, punctuated by angular rock shoals and shadowed by abundant waterfowl soaring in the blue skies above.
This 5k run at the park follows the park’s outer loop trail, visiting wildlife-rich marshland habitats and catching fantastic Chattahoochee River views. Running nearly level throughout its entire length, it’s a great spot for beginning and veteran runners alike, and it’s our all-time favorite training venue for the Peachtree Road Race.
Cochran Shoals Trail: the run
The run departs from the park’s southern trailhead on Interstate North Parkway (view maps and driving directions). The trail travels through wonderfully varied terrain, including wetlands, river banks, grasslands and forest as it runs north along the western bank of the Chattahoochee River.
The trail follows the river, catching view after view of the river’s scenic, angular rock shoals throughout the run’s first half.
A boardwalk trail departs to the left at .6 mile; make a detour here to explore a grassy wetland, with prime spots along the boardwalk to view the wetland’s wildlife.
The run reaches the Columns Drive parking area at 1.6 miles, looping southwest and climbing a very gradual hill. A side trail departs trail right at 1.75 miles, offering a connection to the nearby hiking and biking trails and Civil War paper mill ruins at Sope Creek, a nearby park.
The trail continues southbound and crosses through a wide, cleared grassland and marsh. The trail crosses a Chattahoochee River tributary creek via a bridge at 2 miles. Veering southeast, the run explores a marshy grassland; watch for fish-hunting waterfowl along the sides of the trail, and groups of turtles basking on fallen logs in the marsh’s abundant sunlight.
Reaching the banks of the Chattahoochee River, the run finishes out the trail’s loop portion and hangs a right. The trail reaches the southern Cochran Shoals trailhead at 3.1 miles, completing the 5k run.
Nearby adventures on the Chattahoochee River
Up for a longer adventure? Hike from Cochran Shoals to Sope Creek Park, following the side trail near the Columns Drive trailhead to a paper mill destroyed in the Civil War, a glassy pond, and a small, historic cemetery.
The metro Atlanta stretch of the Chattahoochee River offers a number of other nearby fantastic hikes and running trails, too. Just across the river, the Powers Island Trail explores a historic island and the remains of an old homestead on a 2.5-mile scenic loop. The nearby Sope Creek Trail explores the towering, stacked-stone remains of a paper mill destroyed in the Civil War, and winds along a tumbling Chattahoochee River tributary to the shores of a placid pond. If you’re looking for a great, scenic trail run, the paved and gravel West Palisades Trails at Paces Mill Park make for a fantastic 3+ mile run. Search for a nearby trail with our interactive Chattahoochee River map. Or check out our favorite trails in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area for more adventures on Atlanta’s scenic river.
Always leave no trace, pack out everything you pack in, and if you see trash, pick it up and pack it out.
Stay on the marked trail, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, and don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way. Please always practice good trail etiquette. And before you go, always check the trailhead kiosk, official maps, and the park or ranger office for notices of changed routes, trail closures, safety information, and restrictions.
Love the trail?
This trail is maintained thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and donations from supporters of the Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy. Please support them by making a donation or joining a volunteer day. Let's work together to keep these fantastic trails maintained and open for use!
$5 day pass, or included with a Chattahoochee River NRA annual pass.
33.90257190900984, -84.4441364108914 // N33 54.228 W84 26.723