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Categories: LIFE & STYLE, OCT/NOV 2023, Sports
Pam Pinkston of Southern Queer Folk Hikes leads a trek at Selma Irwin Nature Trail

Take a hike!

11 hiking escapes in Central Georgia

story by Rachelle Wilson

photos by Jessica Whitley


Discovering a place to reconnect with the earth beneath our feet does not require a trip to the North Georgia mountains. Dozens of walking trails sit within a 60-mile radius of Macon, just waiting to be explored. 

Daily, families and friends loop the trails at Amerson River Park, on foot and bike. The Ocmulgee Mounds are receiving national attention and offer trails that remind us just how ancient this land is – and whose land we walk on. The Arboretum Trails at Wesleyan College boast nearly three miles of hiking trails across 100 acres and a wide variety of plant and animal species, like the delightful Worm-Eating Warbler or the funky Southern Leopard Frog.

As these well-loved trails attest, hiking is a fun, healthy, and therapeutic way for many of us to spend our time. Exploring new trails often reignites a waning passion or inspires a new way to spend time with family and friends. Whether you’re hoping to begin hiking close to home, or you’re looking for your new favorite trail, this guide is a great place to start.


The Trails

The best trail for you depends on your motivation for taking a hike.  Luckily, there is a trail that can match just about any need. Whether you are looking for a family-friendly hike or training to hike the Appalachian Trail and need something challenging, there’s a trail for that. If you are a jogger and want something to mix up your routine, there’s a trail for that. If you are looking for something scenic and fun to explore with your friends, guess what? There’s a trail for that.


Best for the family 

Brown’s Mount

1 Joe Brown Dr · Macon, GA 

1.2 Miles, Easy

12 minutes away*


Best to Take Your Dog

Oconee River Greenway

Milledgeville, Georgia

2.5 Miles, Easy

45 minutes away


Best Wildlife

Allison Lake Wildlife Trail at Piedmont Wildlife Refuge

Hillsboro, Georgia

2.5 Miles, Moderate

35 minutes away


Best for a Day Trip

Tranquil Trails Loop at High Falls State Park

Jackson, Georgia

4.1 Miles, Easy

36 minutes away


Best Views

Widowmaker Trail at Sprewell Bluff Park

Thomaston, Georgia

4.1 Miles, Moderate

1 hour, 15 minutes away


Best Workout

Selma Erwin Nature Trail

Scottsboro, Georgia

4.9 Miles, Moderate

40 minutes away


Best for Trail Running

Multi-Use Trail at Indian Springs

Floville, Georgia

6.2 Miles, Moderate

45 minutes away


Best for Thru-Hike Training

Pig Trail at Georgia Industrial Children’s Home

4690 N Mumford Rd · Macon, GA

7.4 miles, Moderate

15 minutes away


Best for Birdwatching

Moonshine Trail/Bootlegger Trail/Lake Clark Loop at Dauset Trails

360 Mt. Vernon Ch. Rd, Jackson, GA 

2.5 Miles, Moderate

45 minutes away


Best History

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park, Main Trail (to Earth Lodge, the Trading Post site, and the Great and Lesser Temple Mounds)

1207 Emery Hwy, Macon, Georgia

0.5 miles, Easy

9 minutes away


Best for Mountain Biking

Thomson Mountain Bike Trails

Centerville, Georgia

4.6 Miles, Moderate

20 minutes away

*Minutes away are estimated drive times, with Downtown Macon as the intro or finale of your adventure. 


Local Hiking Groups

Walking a trail for the first time can be exciting, but also intimidating. It can be difficult to know what to expect. From parking to difficulty level, many questions accompany the decision to take a hike. Local hiking groups do a lot of the groundwork for you. Their experience and familiarity with the trails help you know what you’re getting into. 

“When I moved back to Macon in 2015,” Pam Pinkston said, “I wanted to find other people with whom to hike. I quickly found that a lot of Middle Georgians do not know about all the wonderful trails that are practically in our backyards. At the same time, I also found that there were a good number of people who did not feel safe on the trails, especially by themselves. Thus, Southern Queer Folk Hikes was born. Since then, I have also begun efforts to help relieve some of the obstacles our BIPOC communities face in accessing outdoor spaces.”

With Southern Queer Folk Hikes, Pam leads local hikes almost every weekend. She is committed to creating a hiking culture inclusive of all levels and motivations. 

“The outdoors is for everyone and everybody,” she said. “You do not need special gear or clothing to get started. If you aren’t sure about a trail or just need a little confidence boost to get started, that is where I come in. I love showing people a trail for the first time. Some people have fears associated with hiking. If I can just get them on a trail, I can alleviate a good number of those fears by ‘holding their hand’ while they face some of those fears.”

‘Hike’ can be a fearsome word. The image of an athletic-type comes to mind, scaling a mountain easier than I might scale one flight of stairs. But hiking isn’t just about getting there. By nature, it’s about the journey. Specifically, a ‘folk hike’ is one that pays close attention to what is happening in and around the group on the trail. Pam often invites other organizations – like Macon Mental Health Matters – to participate by leading mindfulness exercises alongside the hiking event. 



Another person building a community around hiking is Forsyth’s Glenn Watson. Founder of outdoor brand Red Dirt Vagabond, he’s devoted to sharing the natural, historical and cultural beauty of Middle Georgia with all who will listen. From detailing trails on his blog to leading a hiking ministry at Forsyth United Methodist Church, inspiring others to engage with the outdoors is his passion.

“When I began looking for places to hike without having to drive 3 hours to go to North Georgia, I began finding places in or near Middle Georgia that I didn’t know about or I had forgotten about,” he said. “Also, when researching these places, I found interesting historical sites and cool places nearby. This kind of reawakened my eyes to realize that we have much to be proud of right here in Middle Georgia. On our hikes, I like to talk about the history of the area, how Indian Springs was a resort area during the Gilded Age, the power generation at High Falls, the people that lived at Brown’s Mount, and especially the Indigenous people that lived along the creeks and rivers, that lived and traveled on this land for tens of thousands of years before the European settlers.”



Why hike?

Of course, there are the obvious reasons. Walking has indisputable health benefits and being in nature is proven to help with mental health. But perhaps most intriguing is how versatile it is. Hiking can be solitary or social. It can be challenging or relaxing. A trail can be familiar and at once full of newness. 

The longer the hike, the more important it is to home in on your “why.” Earlier this year, my partner, local hiker Trent Mosely, walked from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachian Trail – a feat that takes six months. For him, hiking has been a way to slow down today’s fast pace. He said, “In a time where our attention spans are becoming smaller and smaller due to short-form content and social media, hiking provides a remedy to that. It reminds us of the timelessness of mother nature and makes us focus on the grandeur and minute details found in the wild. Additionally, the physical connection with our body and the ground gratifies in a way that few things do in our treadmill-like day-to-day existence.”



Each hiker must find their own motivation. If you are just getting started, try an easy hike and look for the moments when you feel elated. Notice what it is about that moment that brought you joy –  remember it when the trail gets challenging.