Hike the Gold Branch Trail on the banks of the Chattahoochee River near Roswell, exploring a wildlife-filled forest, visiting Bull Sluice Lake, and catching exceptionally beautiful river views.
The Gold Branch Trail explores the beautiful terrain on the banks of the Chattahoochee River and the shore of Bull Sluice Lake. Young hardwoods shade a forest floor that fills with mosses, ferns, and native Georgia wildflowers in warm-weather months. The tranquil lake and river are home to cattails, marsh grasses, and aquatic plants. And wildlife fills the banks, waters and air surrounding these lesser-traveled, often quiet trails: heron, geese, ducks, fish, turtles, and deer are frequent sights along the trail.
Gold Branch Park is the last of the parks in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area north of the Morgan Falls Dam. In contrast to the whitewater-filled, rocky sections along the river at Cochran Shoals and East Palisades, the river flows broad and serene here, in an almost imperceptible flow.
The river and adjacent Bull Sluice Lake are often glassy, offering beautiful cross-bank reflective views. And the park’s quiet, remote forests make for a great escape from the surrounding suburban sprawl of metro Atlanta and Roswell.
Gold Branch Trail on the Chattahoochee River: the hike
The adventure begins at the park’s trailhead (view maps and driving directions). The hike descends from the trailhead, crossing a wooden bridge over a marshy wetland. The trail climbs from the wetland, reaching an intersection with the main loop trail.
This hike turns left at the intersection, venturing toward Bull Sluice Lake, exploring a young hardwood forest, and rolling elevation through the forest. The lake becomes visible through the grassy lakeshore vegetation, and its tranquil surface reflects the tree line on the opposite shore.
Bull Sluice Lake was created when the Chattahoochee River was dammed downstream at Morgan Falls, and the lake spans over 600 shallow acres. It’s frequented by waterfowl and is one of the most popular birdwatching and fishing areas in the north metro Atlanta area. The trail follows the lake’s banks, hiking northeast before rounding a curve and veering to the south. The hike reaches the lake’s outlet at the Chattahoochee River, rolling elevation on the banks of the wide-flowing river. Large rock outcrops punctuate the forest floor’s mostly-dirt landscape, crusted in green mosses and silvery lichen.
The hike continues to follow the riverbank’s winding contours, opting for the riverside route at the next few trail intersections (GB8, GB9, and GB12 on the park’s official map). Reaching the southern end of Gold Branch Park at 2 miles, the trail ascends steeply, climbing far above the river, departing the river’s banks, and veering northbound. The route rolls elevation over several moderate inclines, continuing northbound through several signed trail intersections (GB11, GB10, and GB3). The outer loop trail meets the trailhead connector, turning left to return to the trailhead and parking area, and completing the adventure at 3.25 miles.
More Atlanta adventures on the Chattahoochee River
Many miles of trails explore the river’s beauty throughout metro Atlanta. Hike the river’s scenic banks to several rocky caves once used as shelter by Native Americans on the nearby Island Ford Trail. Hike to a tumbling spillway waterfall and visit the ruins of a mill destroyed in the Civil War on the Vickery Creek Trail at Roswell Mill. And explore more of the river’s beauty on our top ten favorite running, walking and hiking trails in the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area.
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$5 day pass, or included with a Chattahoochee River NRA annual pass
33.984898, -84.387020 // N33 59.061 W84 23.115