This route highlights the best of Atlanta's parks, markets, and restaurants from one of the most popular sections of the Atlanta Beltline. Enjoy a balance of skyline views and green spaces along with an assortment of art displays right along the path! There are numerous ways one can approach and customize this urban hike. You can park and enter the route from a few different paces (or bike to it depending on where you are coming from), you can make your route through Piedmont Park longer or shorter (or skip it) to change the length of the hike, and take various side trips to places along the way. This featured route is a great template from which to start exploring this area.
Parking is $5.00 Friday through Sunday, and $3.00 Monday through Thursday. There is not always a parking attendant, so have exact change for the kiosks: they can be finicky with cards!
When you cross Monroe Dr. to the section heading towards Ponce City Market, be sure to stay to the right side of the trail; this section is very busy with both foot and cyclist traffic!
Park in the gravel lot behind Park Tavern and start at the back of the parking lot to follow the dirt trail through a lightly wooded area. You'll soon pass under the Park Drive Bridge (see "History/Background"). After passing the backside of Piedmont Park Dog Park (to the left) and crossing a service road, continue for another couple of minutes to a short section under tree cover with steep, rocky embankments on either side (looking to the right among the rocks for a hidden art gem). Cross the wooden footbridge over Clear Creek and take a left before you cross the service road (you'll see a blue gate on the other side and the continuation of the Beltline, but we are diverting here back into Piedmont Park).
Keep left again and follow the paved path (one of the Piedmont Park Path
) under the trees with the creek on your left. The trail hugs along the eastern edge of the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. In the early evening, one can see one of the illuminated glass sculptures by Chihuly through the trees (look for the tall, orange-colored glowing tower up to the right if it is within an hour or so before sunset). When you come out of the trees, take a right up the flight of stairs to the active ovals. There is a large splash pad (active in the summer months during the day) and grassy field surrounded by the path.
Heading left around the field provides a view overlooking the part of the Beltline you came in on, and there is a bathroom building to the right. Go up a short flight of stairs and past another small field, stay straight on the path, and then take the second left you can make (AFTER the first hard left that goes steeply downhill). You'll pass by some bocce courts and then cross a service street with a pond on the other side. Go left on the sidewalk and hug the pond on your right. You'll eventually see where you could turn right and cross over a small bridge bisecting the small lake with a gazebo attached to it. (This will not be part of this featured hike, but can be a nice place to stop or add on to the hike by taking a loop around that part of the lake. We will be turning left here instead, away from the bridge across the pond.)
Turn left away from the bridge, cross one sidewalk section, and turn right at the next to begin following a tree-covered path around the "Meadow" area. Continue around here until you get to Park Tavern at the corner of 10th Street and Monroe Drive. Take a right before Park Tavern and the sidewalk along 10th, then go across Monroe at the crosswalk/traffic light. The paved trail continues on the other side under the Virginia Avenue Bridge and southwest towards Ponce City Market.
After about 0.75 mile, you'll get a great view of the Ponce City Market building before crossing over Ponce de Leon on a footbridge. Just after this, you'll see the Beltline Entrance to PCM on the right, as well as the "Shed" where they have a Farmers Market at certain times/days (see third link in "History/Background"). Ponce City Market is a great place to explore, shop, and get some great food of many varieties (see fourth link in "History/Background").
After Ponce City Market, take in the view from the North Avenue Bridge (which is especially scenic around sunset/dusk). A little further down, you'll see the overpass of Freedom Parkway ahead, and 4th Ward Skatepark to your right. There is a large grassy field with the actual skatepark and bathroom building at the far end. Just after crossing under Freedom Parkway, you can make a left and go down into the Inman Park Neighborhood for more exploration (see last link in "History/Background"). You'll also see a path to the left (hard left just after the Freedom Pkwy Bridge) that climbs steeply up to the Freedom Trail
(see other Featured Hike: "Freedom Trail
Continuing on the Beltline, you'll come to a "dead end" at Irwin Street about half a mile further down. If you turn left here and cross the street at the crosswalk, you arrive at Krog Street Market: another great place to shop and get a meal or drink from one of the many vendors.
From this point, it's just a matter of retracing your way back until you cross Monroe Drive back to the Park Tavern parking lot.