Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area | EAST PALISADES LOOP HIKE

East Palisades Loop Hike Map (click to enlarge)

East Palisades Loop Hike Map (click to enlarge)

Palisades Hiking Trails

Download the Palisades-East-Trail-Map (PDF)


Length: 4.3 miles
Time: 3 hours
Difficulty: Moderate, flat along the river, but hilly otherwise

Directions

A loop hike around the East Palisades section of Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area can begin at the parking lot on Whitewater Creek Road or the parking lot on Indian Trail. Because there is a canoe / kayak launch at the Whitewater Creek parking lot, on a nice, sunny weekend from spring through fall it is very likely to be full by late morning. The parking lot on Indian Trail is smaller, but not as popular, though on nice weekends it may be full as well. During the week it makes no difference where you begin.

If starting at Indian Trail, the most obvious trailhead is the one at the end of the parking lot (look for the information panels). This sets you off hiking in a clockwise direction towards the Whitewhite Creek parking lot. The second trailhead—the one to take if you want to hike in a counterclockwise direction—is located along Indian Trail (road) a quarter mile before the parking lot (you pass it on the way in).

Trailhead at the Indian Trail parking lot of East Palisades

I started the hike from the Whitewater Creek Road parking lot (EP 28 on the above trail map). As with the Indian Trail starting point, the trailhead is located at the end of the parking lot and marked with information panels. There is a short path to the left that takes you to the Whitewater Creek canoe launch, but to start the hike, take the trail that proceeds straight ahead. This leads to a bridge over Whitewater Creek and to the starting point at EP 1 where the trail forks. Being a loop, you can hike in either direction. I took the fork to the left and hiked in a clockwise manner, opting to see the river sooner than later. Within two minutes you will be at Long Island Shoals and will have a wide open view of the river. In fact, the trails along the Chattahoochee in the East Palisades section of the park offer some of the most accessible views of the river from any of the trails within Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.

Chattahoochee River at Long Island Shoals

Chattahoochee River at Long Island Shoals

While the interior sections of the park are often hilly, the trails along the river are flat, mainly smooth, and easy to hike. Up until intersection EP 4 (.6 mile from the parking lot), the trail follows closely to the river, though you might not have a clear view the entire way due to trees and brush between the trail and water. There are, however, plenty of short side trails that lead down to the riverbank.

Flat trails along the river at East Palisades

Flat trails along the river at East Palisades

The trail turns inland at EP 4, and just after passing the directional sign at the intersection, it forks. The trail to the left just dead ends at some rocks. The trail to the right, which is the actual trail, heads uphill. Look for a blue splotch painted on one of the trees. This is known as a blaze, and it marks the trail like Hansel and Gretel breadcrumbs. When in doubt as to which way to go, look for the blue blazes on the trees.

Blue Blazes mark the East Palisades hiking trails

Blue Blazes mark the East Palisades hiking trails

At EP 5 is a spur trail that leads to the river and comes out at Thornton Shoals (EP 30). If you just can’t get enough of the Chattahoochee River, the hike to the shoals and back only takes five minutes. It is a fairly steep hill down to the water, and the views aren’t any better or worse than anything you have already seen along the way, so if you feel like skipping this short detour, it’s not the end of the world.

Thornton Shoals

Thornton Shoals

Once back at intersection EP 5, go left towards EP 6, then take another left (almost straight) towards EP 8. This .4-mile stretch of trail turns inland and is no longer flat and easy. The area is very hilly, and the trail winds back and forth as it climbs to the top of the hill near EP 8. Though the hike is only moderate in difficulty, you’ll climb 250 feet in elevation, and at the top of the hill you will be at the highest point on the trail. The terrain does flatten out during the short hike between EP 8 and EP 10, but once you take a left towards EP 14, it’s back downhill to an observation deck that overlooks the Chattahoochee River. In fact, the trail to the observation deck is so steep that a series of fifty steps have been built into the hill to help hikers make their way down. (Note: the steps are made from railroad ties and are really meant to control erosion, but here they serve a dual purpose.)

Steps down to the observation deck

Steps down to the observation deck

When you reach the steps to the observation deck, there is a trail that continues straight. This may lead you to believe that the observation deck is just a detour, and that after visiting you must climb back up to continue the hike. Some of you may not feel like hiking down the steep hill, but as is it turns out, the actual trail continues at the observation deck, so you have no choice. I have no idea where the trail at the top of the steps leads to, but with the trail from EP 10 to EP 14 making a big U, perhaps this trail bypasses the observation deck by cutting from one side of the U to the other. If you’ve set out on a 4-mile hike to begin with, the steps probably aren’t going to be of any concern to you. Besides, from the observation deck you’ll get a great view of the Chattahoochee River and some high-rise condominiums and office buildings in the Cumberland area of Atlanta.

View of the Chattahoochee River from the observation deck on the East Palisades Loop Hike

View of the Chattahoochee River from the observation deck on the East Palisades Loop Hike

When you step off the deck to leave, take a left to continue to intersection EP 14. Once there, take the trail to the left, which heads downhill towards EP 23 where you will cross Cabin Creek by a footbridge. Just past the bridge are a few steps, and at the top you can go left or right. The trail to the left is much more pronounced, and this is the way to go. I don’t know where a right leads to, and it is not on the trail map.

Bridge over Cabin Creek

Bridge over Cabin Creek

Steps just past the Cabin Creek bridge

Steps just past the Cabin Creek bridge

Eventually this trail segment merges into another trail at EP 17. Keep going straight (a little left) and in about five minutes you will come to intersection EP 16, approximately two miles from the start of the hike. At EP 16 are the foundations of two old buildings that once sat on the bank of the Chattahoochee River. The only mention of these buildings that I found when doing some research was a claim that they are the ruins of an old mill, but I have no idea if this claim is true. Their purpose may be long lost to history.

Wall of main building foundation

Wall of main building foundation

Ground floor view of main building foundation

Ground floor view of main building foundation

Foundation of second building

Foundation of second building

At EP 16 you can take a .35-mile out-and-back trail to EP 26. The trail is flat, but there are plenty of rocks and roots on the surface, so you must watch your step. However, don’t let this deter you because this is one of the highlights of the hike. Not only are you back to hiking along the Chattahoochee River, but you will also pass through a forest of river cane (bamboo in my book) with some shoots as thick around as a person’s leg and as tall as many trees in the area. The only thing missing is a couple of panda bears. The shoots are so large in diameter that people actually have carved graffiti in them. (Note: there is a fork where the river cane forest begins, but the blue blazes are on the trail to the left, so head that way. I don’t know where the fork to the right goes, and it is not on the trail map.)

River cane forest along the East Palisades hiking trails

River cane forest along the East Palisades hiking trails

Carvings in the river cane shoots

Carvings in the river cane shoots

River cane as tall as trees

River cane as tall as trees

The end of the trail is just a couple minutes past the river cane forest, and you can get a good view of the river. In all, it takes about 20 minutes to hike to the end, take some photos, and return to EP 16.

View of the Chattahoochee River along the trail to EP 26

View of the Chattahoochee River along the trail to EP 26

End of the trail at intersection EP 26

End of the trail at intersection EP 26

Once back at EP 16, it’s time to return to the foot bridge at intersection EP 23. Take a left once you cross the bridge and head towards EP 22. This is a very narrow trail that passes through the dark of the forest. It follows Cabin Creek, and at one point there are so many rocks that it looks like the trail ends. However, just keep following the creek and a short ways ahead the trail once again becomes obvious. You’ll cross over the creek on stepping stones and then have to navigate a treacherous stretch along a deep gully where the trail is often so narrow that one wrong step and you’ll find yourself tumbling to the bottom.

Trail runs along the right bank of Cabin Creek

Trail runs along the right bank of Cabin Creek

Rock and roots along a stretch of trail that hugs a deep gully

Rock and roots along a stretch of trail that hugs a deep gully

Take a left at EP 22 and head towards EP 21, which is just a minute or so ahead. At this point the trail is wide, and while not flat, any hills are negligible.

Trail terrain along the East Palisades Loop Hike from intersection EP22 to EP 21

Trail terrain along the East Palisades Loop Hike from intersection EP 22 to EP 21

EP 21 is the last intersection before coming to EP 13 and the dirt road that leads to the Indian Trail parking lot (EP 19). Stay to the right at EP 21 and then turn right once you hit the road. The parking lot is a quarter mile away. The dirt road is a flat and easy hike.

Indian Trail road at the East Palisades unit of Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

Indian Trail road at the East Palisades unit of Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

From the Indian Trail Parking lot it is about .6 mile back to the parking lot at Whitewater Creek. You’ll be hiking downhill for a half mile before the trail flattens out at EP 25. Stay straight at the intersection, cross a creek via a footbridge, and in just a few minutes you’ll be back at your car.

Downhill hike from the Indian Trail parking lot to Whitewater Creek

Downhill hike from the Indian Trail parking lot to Whitewater Creek

The East Palisades Loop Hike is a great hike, and one of the better ones within Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. There are plenty of river views, plus the added bonus of a river cane forest and old building ruins. If you can handle the moderate hills and walk a little over 4 miles, I highly recommend it.

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Last updated on August 30, 2020
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