Editor’s note: to see the complete “Explore the Great Outdoors Feature,” visit pages 15-29 of the June issue.
We are fortunate to have many options for outdoor family activities right in our backyard, especially during this time of social distancing, when many indoor family activities aren’t available. Here is a list of parks that are open, as well as recommendations on times to visit, depending on the activity and your comfort level with being around other people.
Blankets Creek Mountain Bike Trails
2261 Sixes Road
Canton, GA 30114
Here you will find 15 miles of mountain bike-specific trails, including 2.5 miles of beginner trails suitable for kids or mountain bikers learning to ride. The trails are directional and a one way in/out has been established, so, once you are out on the trail, it is very spread out. While bikes have the right-of-way at this park, the trails also are open for hiking and running. Keep in mind that walkers and runners travel the opposite direction of bikes, so you will cross paths with many more people if you are on foot on these trails. If you plan to hike or run, the best times to avoid crowds are early in the morning, before 9 a.m. If you are riding, mornings to mid-afternoon are less busy. The trail does tend to get very busy, with a full parking lot after 5 p.m., as well as on weekends.
SORBA trail map link: www.sorbawoodstock.org/trails
Rope Mill Park
690 Olde Rope Mill Road
Woodstock, GA 30188
The park includes 15 miles of mountain bike-specific trails, as well as a 0.4-mile concrete path along Little River. Like Blankets Creek, the bike trails are directional and bikes have the right-of-way at this park. Those hiking and running travel the opposite direction of bikes and will cross paths with more people. The busy/less busy times are generally the same as at Blankets Creek. To prevent overcrowding at the park, all vehicles need to be in a marked parking spot, or they may be ticketed. If the parking lot is full, you will need to choose another time to visit.
You can launch kayaks and canoes from Rope Mill Park and explore Little River and Lake Allatoona. The Little River/Noonday Creek area of Lake Allatoona has less motorboat traffic, loads of open space and miles of waterways to explore. Most of the land immediately surrounding the lake is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, so you usually can find a quiet beach or breezy point to set up hammocks or have a picnic, even on weekends. The Toonigh Creek Waterfall is a popular destination. However, it is extremely crowded on weekends. Weekdays and evenings are much quieter and less busy. While the waterfall is a beautiful asset to our area, stay near the water when visiting, and respect the private property of nearby residents.
SORBA trail map link: www.sorbawoodstock.org/olde-rope-mill-park
Pine Log Wildlife Management Area (WMA)
Stamp Creek Road NE
White, GA 30184
For those looking for adventure and maximum social distancing, Pine Log WMA offers 14,000 secluded acres for recreation. The WMA has more than 20 miles of low-traffic gravel roads, as well as 15-plus miles of rugged advanced hiking and biking trails with major elevation gain. Horseback riding is allowed. Numerous streams are available for trout fishing, and primitive camping is allowed. There are opportunities for family backpacking or car-camping, with plenty of room to spread out. Even on the weekends, it is very easy to find a quiet spot, and the trails and roads are lightly used, due to their difficulty, remoteness, and lack of trail markings. Note that hunting is allowed on this property, so always check the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website for any special hunts or regulations before heading out. You will need a valid DNR license to use the property — either fishing, hunting or lands pass — all of which can be purchased online. I recommend the link below for a map of the property, as the one at the trailhead kiosk only shows the gravel roads.
DNR link: https://georgiawildlife.com/pine-log-wma
Mountain bike trails, project trail and road map link (this is the best map available): www.mtbproject.com/directory/8018887/pine-log-wildlife-management-area
– Lisa Randall is a mom, small business owner and athlete from Canton.