Hike, walk or run the Johnson Ferry Trail, exploring the Chattahoochee River’s banks in metro Atlanta. This great beginner-friendly trail catches beautiful river views, visits a small waterfall and large cave outcropping, and explores a marshy, wildflower-filled wetland.
The Johnson Ferry Trail explores a particularly scenic stretch of the Chattahoochee River in metro Atlanta. The trail explores a beautiful riverine forest on the banks of the Chattahoochee, follows a tributary creek through a rocky hardwood forest, and winds through a marshy, wildflower-filled wetland. And a side trail follows the pebble-filled Mulberry Creek to a small waterfall and an impressively large rock outcrop overhanging the creek.
It’s not the most popular trail in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, or the longest, highest, or most strenuous trail. So is it worth a visit? For sure. This 1.8-mile loop runs nearly-level, making it a great, short, easy day hike on the Chattahoochee River or an equally great beginner-friendly trail run. And the trail’s abundant sights and diverse landscapes make it a great nature walk with kids, too.
Johnson Ferry Trail: the hike
The adventure begins at the North Johnson Ferry Trailhead (view maps and driving directions), following a gravel road from the northeast corner of the parking area. After passing a marshy wetland on the left, the trail splits into three; this hike turns right at the split, following the narrow trail eastbound toward the Chattahoochee River.
The trail reaches the river’s banks at .2 mile, arcing northeast to follow the wide-flowing river upstream. Views of the river occasionally break through the dense forest lining the river’s banks. The hike rises gently above the river’s banks, and several trailside benches offer views of the broad, glassy river.
The trail veers westbound at .35 mile and again at .55 mile, tracing the inlets of Arrowhead Creek and Owl Creek as they flow into the Chattahoochee River. At each of the inlets, the trail reaches a gravel road in a clearing; after crossing the channel, the hike veers right on a narrow singletrack trail to return to the river’s banks. (Sections of the trail have been rerouted here in a restoration effort, so follow signs for the latest trail course.)
The hike veers left at .75 mile, departing the river’s banks and following Mulberry Creek upstream to the northwest. Mulberry Creek flows and tumbles over a rocky bed, shaded by towering, leafy hardwood trees. It’s a great hike for a mid-hike swim and splash if you’re hiking with a four-legged hiking buddy; our dog loves to play in the shallow, pebble-lined creek.
The route follows a side trail at .9 mile, continuing to follow Mulberry Creek upstream toward a small waterfall. Opposite the waterfall, Mulberry Creek slices beneath a large rock overhang, creating a cave-like precipice above the creek. The stream follows a striated bed of rock as it arcs through the forest.
The hike backpacks to the main trail, turning right on the main loop and hiking southwest. The trail passes patches of marshy wetland, frequented by wildlife and spotted with wildflowers. The trail crosses a wooden bridge at 1.45 miles before veering southeast at 1.6 miles, crossing a wooden boardwalk and bridge over a boggy marsh. Frogs croak loudly in warm-weather months, and small fish swim in the sunlight-warmed shallows.
The hike reaches the trailhead spur trail at 1.65 miles, turning right to hike southbound to the trailhead. The hike reaches the Johnson Ferry Park trailhead at 1.8 miles, completing the adventure.
More adventures on the Chattahoochee River
Spanning over 40 miles, the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area offers some outstanding spots for hiking and trail running near Atlanta. The ultra-popular East Palisades Trail climbs several rocky bluffs to beautiful views over the river near Vinings, and visits a bamboo grove on the river’s banks. Hike the Sope Creek Trail to a tumbling creek, a glassy pond, and the ruins of a paper mill destroyed in the Civil War. For a great trail run, check out the 5k loop at Cochran Shoals, exploring the banks of the ‘Hooch, a sun-dappled forest, and scenic marshlands on the banks of the river. And check out our top ten favorite hikes on the Chattahoochee River for some of our all-time favorite trails on the river.
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