“A great loop highlighting some of Chattahoochee River's best trails.”
— Heather Pruner
River/Creek · Spring · Views · Wildflowers
Easy trail access/short distances to several river overlooks where families can enjoy picnics, etc.
This route offers an easy to intermediate outing for the more actively inclined, as well as features access points for families and leisure-seekers. Either way you decide to take the loop, your group will enjoy views along the Chattahoochee River as well as several distinctive rock formations that were possibly used as shelters by primitive people.
Need to Know
The visitor center will accept credit cards for parking permits when they are open. However, is is highly advisable to bring $3.00 cash in exact change for the self-service pay stations in the parking lot, as they have no way of giving change. More information can be found at the park's website
From the parking lot at Hewlett Lodge Visitor Center, start at IF 1 and follow the trail through IF 7 and IF 13, to IF 12. This section can be bypassed by starting at IF 2, which is closer to the visitor center building, and going straight to IF 13. However, the section between IF 1 and IF 13 is a lovely introduction, setting the tone for the trail system as it lingers along Pond Creek: an easy woodland stroll near a trickling creek bed.
At IF 12, take an immediate left across a wooden footbridge over Pond Creek to follow along the river, heading north. The trail continues to hug the river for the next quarter mile, opening up into easy, mostly flat sections through the woods. Along this section, visitors are treated to the first of several large shelter-like rock formations. These are, in fact, thought to have been used by primitive peoples for shelter. In the early mornings, a thick silver-grey mist hangs over the river on the right (east) and swirls in the branches of the trees that linger between the trail and riverbank. Listen for the calls of geese and other waterfowl out on the river.
At IF 14, take a left to head west away from the river and climb some mild elevation ridges through the forest, crossing the occasional trickling stream.
At IF 19, take a right to continue clockwise around the loop. At IF 17, the trail makes a 4-way intersection. Head straight north to loop around east and then south to IF 22 and IF 16. At this point, the trail joins back up with the river, heading south.
When the mist has lifted, the trail treats visitors to views across the river through the trees. One can now see the geese, ducks, cormorant, and blue heron mingling with the occasional human fishermen wading patiently out on the rocky shoals that spread across the river. The section between IF 16 and IF 14 also revels more of the distinctive rock formations which make for unique rest stops and photo opts. Continue south to IF 14, joining up to the original section back to IF 11.
If you wish, you can continue straight through IF 11, 12, and 4 to a picnic area below the visitors center (also along the river), or turn right at IF 12 after the bridge to come back the way you started towards the visitor center parking lot.
Flora & Fauna
The proximity to the river provides excellent areas for birding, and you're likely to see ducks, geese, blue heron and comorant.
History & Background
The Island Ford visitor center building (Hewlett Lodge) dates back to the late 1930's, originally built as the summer home of Atlanta attorney Samuel Hewlett. It was sold in the 1950's to the Buckhead Country Club and then to the Atlanta Baptist Assembly. In 1979, it was purchased along with the surrounding land by the NPS.