Panola Mtn. State Park, and the adjoining Alexander Lake trail are very nice places to hike. Good views of nature from the comfort of a paved trail. You might see deer, hares, turtles, squirrels (galore), a hawk, butterflies... you get the picture.
Some good hills along this route. One note, the South River trail was okay up until it cut through some nearby residential areas. There was a lot of graffiti, food wrappers, and even a little blue drug baggie. It's a shame because the rest of this trail and the connected PATH system, are very nice, and not sketchy at all.
See more info on the Arabia Mtn/ Rockdale County trail system here
If you park at Panola Mountian State park, there is a $5.00 fee. Yearly passes are also available at the Nature Center there (they will credit your $5.00 if you purchase a yearly pass, that day).
Park at Panola Mtn. State Park, right at the trailhead.
1.75 miles in, the trail splits into two paths which ultimately connect again to create the Alexander Lake Loop
. I recommend a loop, or two, around the lake to enjoy the view and get some practice on steep hills. There is also a restroom facility with a water spigot around back.
When ready, head north, up the Arabia Mountain Trail
(there is also a southern connecting path to Rockdale River Trail
on this route). Swampy wooded areas and pine forest line this section, which wraps around Panola Mtn. There is a clearing that allows for a good view of the large monadnock, as the path approaches the South River Trail South split.
At the split, there is a dilapidated house (Lyon's Farm). Next to the house is a portable restroom, and at the time of this writing, a functioning water spigot. Arabia Mountain Trail
continues north, 7-8 miles up toward the Arabia Mountain State Park from here.
South River Trail (South)
splits off westward and winds north roughly 2 miles, toward MLK High School. The namesake river, visible for only a small portion of the route, flows adjacent to much of this section. Some decent inclines and nice wood bridges on the route. Also, there is another portable restroom, and parking facility, near Snapfinger Rd. See Overview for possible safety considerations along South River Trail.
Once at MLK High School's parking lot, head back toward Panola Mtn.
Forest and wildflowers.