Forget You're in Atlanta with a Hike Along the Chattahoochee River

Not far from the towering high rises in Atlanta, off the bustling I-75 interstate, down a residential street, is a secret hiking path that follows the Chattahoochee River. It’s the perfect place to escape to the woods, explore a bamboo forest, and exchange the busy sounds of the city for tweeting birds and rushing water.

Here’s what you can expect on a hike through the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area’s East Palisades trail.

Bamboo forest on the East Palisades Trail. Photo by @lifeofbrittanyadele

Getting There

There are two parking lots for the East Palisades trail: 

  • The Indian Trail Entrance at 1425 Indian Trail NW, Sandy Springs
  • The Whitewater Creek Entrance at 4058 Whitewater Creek Rd NW, Atlanta. The Whitewater entrance has more parking available.

What to Expect

In short, you’ll find sandy beaches where dogs splash around in the water, wooden and metal bridges that cross meandering creeks finding their way to the Chattahoochee River, a bamboo forest that would make the pandas at Zoo Atlanta salivate, an old-fashioned swimming hole where teens jump from jagged rocks into the refreshing water below, the ruins of a building foundation, and 4.9 miles of hiking trails with a grade between 14 and 38 percent.

East Palisades trail map

Download a PDF of the East Palisades Trail map

There are markers on the trails to help hikers navigate, so although the trails meander, it’s easy to find your way.

Here are a few places you don’t want to miss.

EP-1 – A watery dog park where the fur babies can swim and splash with each other as their parents chill out on the beach.

EP 5 – A beautiful rock outcropping overlooking the rushing Chattahoochee. This is a perfect spot for a picnic.

Between EP-10 & EP14 – Between these points, you’ll find beautiful views of Atlanta. Bring your camera (or your easel and paints) to capture the scene from Poppi’s Point, an overlook where you can see the tall buildings nearby, as well as a bird’s eye view of the rushing water below.

Bamboo forest on the East Palisades Trail by the Chattahoochee River. Photo by @pokkychoo

E-26 – This is where you’ll find the bamboo forest. One media outlet quoted two young girls who called this the “Enchanted Bamboo Forest of Planet River.” You’ll know exactly what they mean when you see this. The area could absolutely contain fairies, unicorns and other enchanted beings.

More Nearby Hikes

West Palisades Trail

One the other side of the Chattahoochee is the West Palisades Trail.

There are two entrances:

  • The Akers Mill Entrance is at 3700 Akers Drive, Atlanta.
  • The Paces Mill entrance is at 3444 Cobb Parkway, Atlanta. The Paces Mill entrance has the most parking, as well as restrooms and a boat ramp, perfect for launching a kayak.

In addition to hiking trails, the West Palisades also has out an out-and-back bike trail that starts at the Paces Mill entrance. This is a popular place to bring pets, and there is a large field at the beginning of the trail for dogs to play.

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Cochran Shoals Recreation Area

Head a bit north to Cochran Shoals Recreation Area, where you’ll find moderate hiking and biking paths. There are four entrances to this park, but the closest to the Palisades Trails is on Interstate North Parkway. You’ll find ample parking and restrooms before heading out on the trail.

Hiking on the East Palisades Trail in Atlanta

— Update: 21-03-2023 — found an additional article Hike to the Bamboo Forest In Sandy Springs, Georgia from the website for the keyword bamboo forest hike.

Nestled in the Atlanta suburbs, there is a small bamboo forest along the Chattahoochee River. Now I do not know if you would consider this a secret, but after 30 years of living in Metro Atlanta, I’ve never heard of this bamboo forest in Sandy Springs, located north of downtown Atlanta.

I am not even sure if the bamboo forest has been there for that long, but I just so happened to see it on a friend’s social media, and I knew we had to go. Who would have thought that we would have a bamboo forest in Atlanta? Plus, after the long quarantine, it felt amazing to get out of the house and practice film photography since I am new to shooting film.

What makes the bamboo hike in Sandy Springs perfect for hiking all year is that bamboo doesn’t really die with the change of seasons. Do you know that bamboo rarely dies in the winter and that it only stops growing?

That is why I love this hike: you can visit it year-round! It makes for a perfect day trip or morning hike. You can then hop on over to Atlanta for a late lunch or dinner at one of Atlanta’s many restaurants.

Bamboo forest hike

Location, Parking, and Fees

How to Find the Bamboo Forest in Sandy Springs

We got lost trying to locate the bamboo forest. The National Park Service has the address listed as Whitewater Creek Road, Atlanta, GA 30327. But we had difficulty finding the parking lot for this hike.

The best thing is to head to Whitewater Creek Road and look for the National Park Service sign indicating you are at the trail and parking lot.

Initially, I used an address from a hiking website and plugged it into Google Maps. That address took us inside a neighborhood into a forested area halfway between two houses. 

Since we were clearly in the wrong spot, I searched for the bamboo forest in Sandy Springs on Google Maps as East Palisades Trail since that is where the bamboo forest is located.

Google gave us 4432 Whitewater Creek Road NW Atlanta address, and we subsequently followed. The quickest route took us through the same neighborhood but down a different street. 

This route also ended up being a no-go. In late October, tropical storm Zeta came through this area, and winds knocked over some power lines and trees. I was not about to drive my car under a power line halfway hanging in the street. 

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The third try was a charm. Rerouting finally got us near the address listed above. The GPS directions take you through that neighborhood, but you will see a National Park Service sign indicating that you’ve arrived. Sounds confusing, right?

Bamboo forest hike
Bamboo plant at the bamboo forest in Sandy Springs. Image shot on a roll of Ektachrome E100.

Parking and Fees

My prior research indicated limited parking, so be sure to go early during nicer weather times to secure a parking spot.

There is another parking place (near EP 19 on the map) located on Indian Trail Road, but considering it took us three tries to get to where we were currently, we weren’t moving the car another inch.

The address for this alternative parking location is 1425 Indian Trail NW, Sandy Springs, GA 30327.

Parking is pretty cheap, only 5 dollars! I hardly ever carry cash on hand these days, so it was helpful that the National Park Service has a QR code listed at the parking lot to pay online.

Parking is free if you have the Chattahoochee River Annual Pass or America the Beautiful Annual Pass. Both can be purchased here.

The Hike to See Bamboo

It took us approximately 2 hours round trip to hike to the bamboo forest and back. If I had to rate the difficulty, it is easy to moderate, but this is all relative to my hiking level.

We took a steep elevation gain in two areas, but they are short paths. I can handle short, steep hikes, but it will not happen for me when it gets lengthy. I recommend wearing good hiking boots as many branches and rocks are scattered throughout the trail. You will cross over small bridges and maybe a few fallen tree logs.

Bamboo forest hike
Bamboo forest hike

There are maps at different locations along the trail that pinpoint where you are and which directions to go. For example, I read earlier that some people have difficulty finding the bamboo forest, but it is at EP 26 on the map, which happened to be the furthest point from our parking location. This was okay since I love a good hike on a cool fall day.

You can access a map online at the National Park Service website. Even though we had a cell signal on the trail, I recommended taking a screenshot on your phone just in case.

You can see the approximate route (in red) we took to get to the bamboo forest in the image below. It was a little over 3 miles roundtrip for us. Not too bad for a morning hike.

Bamboo forest hike
Our route is seen in red. Approximately two-hour hike roundtrip to see the bamboo forest from our parking spot. (Digital image)

Near EP 14, we took a wrong turn. The tropical storm covered up parts of the trail, and we couldn’t determine the course. We went with what we thought was the trail because it looked like one, but quickly learned it was not as it went steeply down and into many trees.

Luckily we saw some people a little further out above us, so we climbed over a river and up a small hill to get back on the trail. 

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Getting back on the actual trail and finding another map location, we laughed that our “detour” brought us closer to our bamboo destination. However, this was a complete accident, and I am fortunate I did not fall and break an arm. We always try to stay on trails and leave everything undisturbed.

The bamboo forest is at the end of a path that takes you right next to the Chattahoochee River and some historical ruins. You can go there to relax, take pictures, play music, and hang out by the river amongst the bamboo. There was a band setting up some guitars as we were leaving.

It is also possible to kayak the river’s rapids. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any that day, but I can imagine this is popular in the summer. There are some overlooks where you can climb to view the Chattahoochee River, but we chose not to.

Bamboo forest hike
The bamboo forest is located along the Chattahoochee River.
Bamboo forest hike

Final Thoughts on the Bamboo Forest in Sandy Springs

I admit that we had more fun with the actual hike to the bamboo forest than the forest itself. Don’t get me wrong, it is pretty, but it is a lot smaller than I imagined it to be. I was disappointed to see carvings on the bamboo; almost every bamboo had some initials or words on it.

Plus, the recent tropical storm destroyed a few of the bamboo. It was minimal but also noticeable. Perhaps in a few months, it will be cleared out.

Despite that, the hike is a unique adventure that you would not necessarily expect to be in Metro Atlanta. I frequently reminded myself that we were not hiking in the North Georgia mountains. It is truly a nice reprieve from the bustling city of Atlanta and the terrible traffic!

Will I return to this place? Sure. It’s close to home and great exercise. I am also curious how this trail looks in the spring. Oddly, we didn’t see any flowers the whole time on our hike. And, of course, I want to get more pictures!

Bamboo forest hike
Image shot on a roll of Ektachrome E100.
Bamboo forest hike
One of three small bridges on the path to the bamboo forest. Image shot on Ektachrome E100.

A Note on My Film

Most of the images above were shot on Ektachrome E100 with my Canon EOS-1. Ektachrome E100 was already loaded into my camera from a previous shoot; therefore, I went with it for the bamboo forest. After reviewing my images, it probably wasn’t the best choice for this type of scenery.

The scene was way too contrasty between the shadows on the forest floor and the sunlight coming through the leaves. Even though slide film can produce exposures with vivid colors, it is best not to use it in high contrast environments; my first lesson learned in using slide film.

As you can see in a few of my pictures, the shadows are very black, while the highlights are very white. I will probably go with color negative when I return to get better exposures, hopefully!

Have you been to the bamboo forest in Sandy Springs? What are your thoughts? Please comment below!

Bamboo forest hike
Looking at the bamboo. Digital photo.

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Bamboo forest hike
Bamboo forest hike


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About the Author: Tung Chi