The Laurel Ridge Ridge Trail skirts the banks of Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River for 3.8 beautiful miles of prime trail running. Isolation, varied terrain, and outstanding views make this trail a must for any trail running enthusiast in the North Atlanta area.
The Laurel Ridge Trail is a loop trail beginning and ending at the Lower Overlook Park parking lot off of Buford Dam Road next to the Buford Dam Powerhouse. Parking is free but restricted to park hours. The trail first crosses Buford Dam Road and rises to an overlook of the Lake Lanier and Buford Dam. The trail quickly descends in a series of switch-backs and stone stairs to the Chattahoochee River where it releases from Buford Dam. From here runners can cross the river just south of the dam and run a mile or so on along the west bank of the Chattahoochee. This would add some distance to the 3.8 mile loop. Rejoining the main loop, the Laurel Ridge Trail travels south along the west bank of the Chattahoochee. The trail then quickly veers left and rises quickly. This half mile section of trail is steep and taxing. Small wooden bridges cross small streams that flow to the Chattahoochee. This is a prime area for spotting deer and snakes. Once you reach the top of this ridge, you'll cross back over Buford Dam Road and rejoin the trail. The Laurel Ridge Trail the winds north towards the shore of Lake Lanier. For the next half mile, the trail skirts the south shore of Lake Lanier providing some spectacular lake views. Departing the lake shore, the trail then winds west through woodlands and wetlands for the last half mile for a final climb back to the Lower Overlook Parking Area.
Several climbs on the Laurel Ridge Trail are sufficiently steep to warrant walking. The climbs, however, are brief. Overall, the trail provides an excellent trail running experience close to home. If you are training for a trail race or ultra, the 3.8 mile loop provides a great training ground. The parking area has a restroom and water fountain. You can also leave fluid and food at your vehicle and not worry about wearing a hydration pack. The loop is stressful but not a killer. Also, for some reason, the Laurel Ridge Trail has remained largely undiscovered by runners and hikers and you'll have solitude.
Additional details about the Laurel Ridge Trail, including a trail map, can be found at US Army Corps of Engineers website.