This trail is one of the best in the Athens area. It connects the UGA campus and the downtown Athens area to Lakeside Trail
around Lake Chapman, six miles north of the Arch.
What makes this trail so special is that it has a little bit of everything to offer: the paved North Oconee Greenway
passing downtown, then the best section of the Sandy Creek Nature Center Loop
,( Claypit Pond Trail
), then onto fast singletrack and a bit of boardwalk for four miles on Cook's Trail
Eventually, this featured hike loops around Lake Chapman on Lakeside Trail
, then goes back the way you came. There are only about six crosswalks on the greenway, then the trail does not cross another street, which is certainly a rarity for a 23ish mile hike in the Athens Area.
This trail begins on the North Oconee Greenway
. It then follows Oconee Street for a fraction of a mile, then crosses Oconee Street onto S. Poplar St. (NOTE: Mama's Boy is located at this intersection, which is known for being the best breakfast restaurant in Athens). From here, the greenway goes through Dudley Park, where it will follow the North Oconee River for the next three miles. This is the fastest section of the trail, since it is paved and relatively flat.
The greenway then crosses a bridge over the river and enters Sandy Creek Nature Center. There will be a trail map about 30 yards past the bridge on the right. To the right of this map is a sign for the Levee Trail
. Take this trail and turn left at the intersection by the river, turning onto Claypit Pond Trail
. This trail is perhaps the best one in the nature center, following the river for the first section, then goes around a pond. About .3 miles past the pond will be an intersection. Keep right, and it will lead through a low-lying area, where the trees are less dense. This section of trails is well-maintained, although it is fairly rooty, due to the proximity of the river and pond, and all the trees around these water sources.
Turn right again at the next intersection. This is Cook's Trail
. Composed of about one mile of boardwalk and three miles of singletrack, this trail follows Sandy Creek through the woods north of Athens. Again, like the previous trails, this section is well-maintained and fairly rooty, along with being muddy, and even frequently flooded in sections after it rains. Ending at Sandy Creek Park, there is a water fountain straight ahead near the bathrooms. Follow the road downhill toward the dam, and there will be a sign on the right, marking a Lakeside TrailHead.
Once in the woods, the trail follows the edge of the lake. The first two or three miles from the dam are doubletrack, and once on the other side of the lake the trail narrows and becomes singletrack. This trail is very easy to follow and marked with white blazes.
Once the loop is complete, jump back on to Cook's Trail
, where you go back the way you came.