Sweetwater Creek State Park Atlanta: destination guide

Sweetwater Creek: destination & outdoor adventure guide

Hike, paddle, stay and play: there's a ton of great ways to explore and adventure at Sweetwater Creek State Park near Atlanta.

2500 acres of beautiful rolling forest, filled with wildflowers and wildlife. A wide, tumbling, boulder-filled creek, filled with whitewater and waterfalls. A glassy reservoir lake. Sweetwater Creek is the kind of place you’d expect to find nestled in a remote corner of North Georgia. And when you’re there, it’s easy to forget that you’re remotely close to metro Atlanta.

Sweetwater Creek is a well-loved and ultra-popular state park near Atlanta, located just outside the city near Atlanta’s west side perimeter. It’s ruggedly beautiful, rolling and rocky, lush and green, and easily accessible but wild. And the park is steeped in history, too: it’s home to the towering brick ruins of the New Manchester Mill, an iconic and solemn shell of a structure that was destroyed in the Civil War, and a filming location for The Hunger Games.

Explore Sweetwater Creek State Park near Atlanta

The park’s visitor center is worth a visit: it’s one of the most environmentally-responsible buildings in Georgia. The center’s LEED Platinum construction features many eco-friendly building components, including a vegetative roof, solar power, and rainwater capture and reuse. Inside, exhibits showcase the park’s history, forest, and ecosystems and with artifacts and interactive displays.

Find your adventure at the park – and opt to stay for awhile, too. Hike or run the park’s exceptional, scenic trails. Kayak, canoe or paddleboard the park’s 215-acre reservoir lake. With so much to explore, you’ll want to consider staying the night in the park’s newly constructed yurt village and campground to extend your adventure.

Sweetwater Creek: our favorite adventures near Atlanta

With over nine miles of exceptional hiking and running trails, there’s a lot of ground to cover at the park. Hike to boulder-lined, sandy shores along the creek’s rushing whitewater, to wide-open grassy meadows, to the New Manchester Mill Ruins, destroyed in the Civil War, or to serene creek banks perfect for spotting wildlife.

The park’s beautiful rolling terrain is beautiful in every season: tranquil in the winter, drenched in wildflower blooms in the spring, filled with wildlife in the summer and draped in gorgeous autumn leaf color in the fall.

  • Hike Sweetwater Creek State Park in Atlanta to the towering ruins of a Civil War mill, a filming location for The Hunger Games

    Red Trail

    2 MILES

    Sweetwater Creek’s Red Trail hikes the shores of the boulder-lined creek, visiting the towering brick shell of the New Manchester Mill ruins. (Look familiar? The mill, destroyed in the Civil War, was recently featured in the filming of The Hunger Games.)
    VIEW TRAIL INFO & MAPS

  • Hike the Sweetwater Creek Yellow Trail across a large metal span bridge, catching cross-creek views of the park's Civil War mill ruins near Atlanta, GA

    Yellow Trail

    3.4 MILES

    It’s a fantastic hike, or equally great trail run. The Yellow Trail crosses the creek via a large bridge, and explores the park’s opposite banks, catching cross-creek views of the mill ruins and visiting a cave once inhabited by Native Americans.
    VIEW TRAIL INFO & MAPS

  • Hike the Sweetwater Creek White Trail to stunning views of whitewater and waterfalls at a state park near Atlanta, GA

    White Trail

    4.1 MILES

    It’s one of the longest trails at the park, and fully worth the distance. The White Trail follows Sweetwater Creek downstream, visiting the mill ruins and climbing several large bluffs overlooking the creek’s waterfalls and whitewater. You’ll visit a small lake and grassy meadows, and trail through a wildlife-filled forest.
    VIEW TRAIL INFO & MAPS

  • Hike the Sweetwater Creek Orange Trail to views of the Atlanta skyline

    Orange Trail

    4.75 MILES

    Hike this two-trail combo of Sweetwater’s Yellow and Orange Trails, exploring the eastern banks of the creek. Catching cross-creek views of the Civil War mill ruins filmed in The Hunger Games, and then climb a high-elevation ridge to catch through-the-trees views of the Atlanta skyline.
    VIEW TRAIL INFO & MAPS

  • Hiking gear list: our favorite, trail-tested gear and apparel for trail adventures in the South

    Our favorite hiking gear

    What to pack for a Sweetwater Creek hiking adventure?

    Ready to hit the trail, but wondering what to pack? Our hiking gear list features our favorite, trail-tested hiking gear for day hikes on local trails and in the Georgia backcountry. Our outdoor apparel reviews feature our favorite trail-worthy hiking boots, running shoes, jackets, and layering essentials for the South. And no matter what you pack in, pack it all back out. Please leave no trace and help preserve Georgia’s beauty.
    OUR HIKING GEAR LIST

Sweetwater Creek: paddling and boating

The park’s 215-acre reservoir lake pools north of the creek’s tumbling whitewater. The lake’s often-glassy waters reflect the park’s beauty, gently lapping the lake’s grassy shoreline. It’s a beautiful place for a paddling adventure.

Float the lake by kayak or canoe to explore the park from a new angle. Pause quietly at the shore for a chance to spot the wildlife, including turtles, waterfowl, and deer, that frequent the lake shore. Bring your own equipment, or rent a kayak or canoe from the park (available seasonally).

Kayak, canoe or SUP the reservoir lake at Sweetwater Creek State Park near Atlanta

The lake’s often-calm surface and scenic shores make a great venue for stand-up paddleboarding, too. (A stand-up paddleboard, or SUP, is a hybrid of surfing and paddling on a large, stable board.) The park offers SUP boards and equipment for rent and offers SUP lessons for beginners in warm-weather months, too.

Sweetwater Creek: yurt camping

Hike. Run. Paddle. Learn. With miles of trails, tons of history and a glassy lake that’s perfect for an adventure by kayak or canoe, the park is a great destination for an overnight stay. And sunrises over the park’s scenic reservoir lake are breathtaking! Stay the night in one of the park’s new yurts to extend the adventure.

  • Stay in Sweetwater Creek State Park's yurts for an overnight adventure near Atlanta

    Extend the adventure

    Sweetwater Creek Yurt Camping

    Part tent, part cabin, the park’s yurts sleep six and feature comfy beds, huge decks, electricity, fire pits, and charcoal grills. They’re nestled lakeside on the park’s reservoir lake, with beautiful lake views. Yurts offer the fun of tent camping but with the comfort of real beds, furniture, and hardwood floors.
    Read our Yurt Review

More ways to play

With two fishing docks, a bait shop, fishing boat rentals, picnic pavilions, geocaching, birding, stargazing and more, there’s a ton of ways to stay and play at Sweetwater Creek. Check the park’s website for more details and a calendar of events.

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