Hike the Island Ford Trail to scenic views on the Chattahoochee River, exploring a wildlife-filled forest and several caves on the river’s banks near Roswell.
Island Ford Park doesn’t seem to attract the weekend crowds of some of the other Atlanta-area parks on the Chattahoochee River, like the ultra-popular trails at Cochran Shoals. But that’s a bonus, as far as we’re concerned: the Island Ford Trail packs in a ton of woodland beauty and scenic river views along its length, but with ample parking and some mid-forest serenity.
This park’s lack of crowds seem to draw more local wildlife alongside the trail, too: we’ve seen more deer, turtles, and geese at this park than any other of our favorite trails in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in metro Atlanta.
Island Ford Park hosts three miles of hiking trails following the broad, smooth-flowing Chattahoochee River just north of Atlanta. It’s a fantastic beginner-friendly and kid-friendly hike, exploring a wildlife and wildflower-filled forest, and visits several large cave-like rock outcrops on a wide loop.
Island Ford Park Trail: the hike
The adventure begins at the park’s historic log park headquarters built in the 1930s (view maps and driving directions), dropping elevation to the banks of the Chattahoochee River. The hike turns left at the river’s edge, crossing a wooden bridge and diving into the forest flanking the riverine shoreline.
The trail follows the contours of the river’s banks, hiking past large, cave-like overhanging rock outcrops. According to archeologists, these caves likely provided shelter to the early Native American tribes that lived and hunted in the wildlife-rich Chattahoochee River valley.
The route arcs westbound, gaining elevation, departing the widening river, and beginning the loop portion of this hike. Wildlife frequent the more remote stretches of the park; hike quietly for a chance to spot deer, geese, and turtles.
The trail crosses several trickling streams, rolling elevation through a young hardwood forest over several moderately elevated ridges. Ferns and native grasses stretch toward the dappled sunlight beneath the forest canopy. And native Georgia wildflowers, including the three-leafed trillium, thrive here in the springtime.
The loop descends back to the banks of the Chattahoochee River, dropping to reach the riverside trail. At the river’s banks, the hike turns south, retracing its outbound route to the Island Ford Park trailhead. Reaching the historic log park office, the hike completes the adventure at 2 miles.
More Chattahoochee River hiking adventures near Atlanta
Up for more scenic adventure on the banks of the Chattahoochee? Hit the trail at Jones Bridge Park to explore the remains of a historic bridge that was heisted by thieves in the 1940s. Hike to the ruins of a mill destroyed in the Civil War, and visit a tumbling spillway waterfall on the Vickery Creek Trail at Roswell Mill. And check out our all-time favorite hiking and running trails on Atlanta’s beloved river in our Chattahoochee River trail guide.
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.
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This trail is maintained thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and donations from supporters of the Chattahoochee Parks 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!
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$5 day pass, or included with a Chattahoochee River NRA annual pass.
33.987313,-84.325466 // N33 59.239 W84 19.528