Hike the two-mile Stone Mountain Walk-Up Trail to stunning mountaintop views of the Atlanta skyline, Stone Mountain Lake, and gorgeous sunrises and sunsets.
LOCATION:Stone Mountain Park near Atlanta, Georgia
Immense and iconic, Stone Mountain rises as an enormous gray monolith above Atlanta’s rolling, forested terrain. The mountain’s mega-sized presence is visible from many points in the city, a towering, gray dome that emerges from Atlanta’s dense tree canopy. The mountain offers some exceptionally stunning views from its expansive summit – and while a gondola ride offers the quickest route to the top, a hike on the mountain’s Walk-Up Trail offers the best workout and some simply exceptional views.
This hike explores Stone Mountain Park’s beloved mountaintop, scaling the mountain to score beautiful 360-degree panoramic views of the Atlanta skyline, Stone Mountain Lake, and Kennesaw Mountain on the far horizon. After summiting the massive 1,686 foot Monadnock mountain, the hike turns in reverse, hiking back down the mountain on the same route, a 2.1-mile round-trip.
It’s an adventure filled with tremendous views, historic carvings, abundant wildflowers and tall grasses that sway in Stone Mountain’s often-brisk winds. It’s a heart-thumping workout, climbing nearly 700 feet in a single mile. And it’s a hike (or challenging trail run) fully worth the workout, with those impressive views as a reward for the effort, and motivation to return again and again.
Stone Mountain Walk-Up Trail: the hike
The hike departs from a trailhead near Stone Mountain Park’s Confederate Hall (view maps and driving directions), crossing train tracks and passing the park’s flag display. The hike quickly grabs elevation, beginning a shallow climb through smooth swaths of rocky terrain.
Shallow pits of soil pepper the landscape, home to grasses, wildflowers and, in springtime, the tiny, crimson blooms of elf orpine diamorpha, a rare succulent plant.
The hike continues its ascent, following the Walk-Up Trail eastbound. The hike passes the trailhead of the Stone Mountain Cherokee Trail at .25 mile, the climb intensifying. Wide, level stone outcrops layer Stone Mountain’s surface, offering a great workout in the climb to the summit.
The hike passes a pavilion at .6 mile, the Stone Mountain ‘Halfway House’. The trail’s elevation gain intensifies as the Walk-Up Trail tunnels between two metal handrails at .75 mile. The mountain’s smooth, worn granite surface can be slippery, especially when wet.
The trail approaches Stone Mountain’s summit, the huge curve of the mountain’s dome opening ahead.
The trail summits Stone Mountain at just over one mile, catching stunning views from the lofty mountaintop. The Atlanta skyline is visible to the west, Buckhead’s skyline to the northwest and Kennesaw Mountain is visible on the far horizon. To the east, Stone Mountain Lake rings the mountain, surrounded by forest. The park’s cable car and summit visitor center stand tall, imposing structures on this otherwise barren, natural landscape.
It’s one of Atlanta’s most loved metro hikes, and the views are incredible. There’s no comparison, though, to hiking the mountain at dawn or dusk: the summit views at sunrise and sunset are nothing short of spectacular. The park’s gates open early (5 am) and close late (midnight), offering a fantastic pre-dawn or nighttime hike.
After soaking up the view, this hike on the Walk-Up Trail descends Stone Mountain, following its outbound steps to the trailhead. Up for more mileage? Add the Cherokee Trail to your adventure, circling the mountain’s base and adding five miles to your journey, catching reflective views of the mountain in the park’s trio of glassy lakes and visiting several historic attractions.
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33.811059, -84.161678 // N33 48.640 W84 09.702