I recently hiked Arabia Mountain! It'd been on my list for years. Had I known Arabia Mountain is part of the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area and protected as part of the Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve, and all the amazing experiences within those, I'd have visited a long time ago!
I've put on a few pounds in recent years, so hiking (during a pandemic which requires social distancing) is a fantastic option for burning a few calories! I recalled that I had, in the last couple of years, purchased Jonah McDonald's "Hiking Atlanta's Hidden Forests, Intown and Out", so it became my initial reference for this visit (Great book, by the way!). Some of the places in the book I'd visited in years past, some have been on my to-visit list, and others were complete surprises! I've been to few since writing this, so I'll be posting about some others soon.
I hiked the two highest summits at Arabia Mountain, both granite outcrops with unique aspects and vistas every few steps!
The views are truly spectacular! You can see for miles and miles! And, while watching your step, do look around frequently. There's so much you might miss if you hike with blinders on.
One of the cool things I enjoyed were all the rock "formations" visitors left. There was one that was large format "BLM"—creating peaceful awareness—and a giant heart wider than I am tall! There are also a starburst at least a dozen feet wide, and a few cairns throughout, although that practice seems to have fallen out of favor in national parks.
I used the address in the book to find the South Parking Lot where the AWARE Wildlife Center is located (they house and rehabilitate injured wildlife—I've had some enlightening discussion with representatives at local festivals). If you're traveling from Atlanta, you'll likely first pass the overflow parking lot and the Nature Preserve. It seems to me that the South Parking Lot is the beginning of hiking the mountain, if that's the experience you're wanting.
The pylons (pictured above) show you the way! Of course, look at a map before you start out, but climbing the mountain and getting back to where you started is pretty easy. And cell phone reception is excellent, so you can Instagram your photos right away—or enjoy the moment and share them later. Some of the pylons have signage alerting visitors to the rarity of the plants in the pools on the mountain...be sure to read these as you venture up!
This is a true escape to nature! You're going to hear lots of birds, see other animals, and at one point, I think it was the second summit, I heard a noise that I first thought was a concert, but that didn't compute—it was the middle of the day and we're in a pandemic! Got closer and it was a chicken farm! I'd been to large chicken farms when I was a kid, so I had the reference points. Can only imagine what people who've never heard such a ruckus imagined it to be!
Did you know? I didn't! Turns out that adding granite grit to chicken feed helps in the bird's digestion! Oh, the things you learn on a nature walk!
Social distancing is so easy here. It's a little tight at the entrance, but otherwise you can do wide, polite passes. I had a mask with me because I didn't know what to expect, but didn't get close enough to anyone to have to put it on. (Of course, take one with you!)
The photos of the Arabia Mountain with the bright red pools are what first attracted me to this destination. I had no idea what it was or that there are as many rare plants here as there are!
The rare Red Diamorpha plant makes a dramatic entrance each April before revealing pure white blossoms. When I went in June, you could tell which of the plants in the pools were Diamorpha, but it wasn't quite a red as it was in the photographs I've seen, but that's just another reason to go back next April!
Because these plants are so rare, the Heritage Area asks that visitors please not walk in the pools, so as to protect them.
This area was once quarried and you'll see telltale signs of that time, but they do not interfere with what a magical experience this mountain is. For me, it set the imagination to wandering. Did the quarry workers feel like today's nature seekers? They weren't buried in a quarry that dug "down", but instead were on a mountain top surrounded by a green canopy as far as the eye can see. Did that make their work environment more pleasant? Surely it was different for each worker, but I can imagine it was refreshing for a seasoned quarry worker.
My photos didn't capture the up-close, inner experience with the mountain. There's a lot to take in, so much of it fascinating! I was here only a couple of hours, but will definitely be going back to explore a lot farther!
After climbing the two tallest summits, I started walking down to the lake that I'd seen earlier, not knowing if it was part of the Heritage Area or even accessible, but I went anyway (obviously, I'd not studied the map as well as I should have) and it turned out it is! In fact, there was a shaded trail that goes along the base of the mountain and around the lake. The shade was a welcomed respite after spending so much time in the sun (remember your sunscreen!). This was such a fun expedition of discovery!
If you're looking to get out, get some exercise, commune with nature, see some rare plants, and soak up the sun, definitely put Arabia Mountain on your list!