With 20 miles of runnable trails, Fort Yargo State Park is worth the drive. The park is located just north of Highway 316 in Winder, Georgia northeast of Atlanta. Fort Yargo is a part of Georgia's extensive state park system. The park is a 25 minute drive from Suwanee and a one hour drive from downtown Atlanta. Regardless, once you lace-up and start running Fort Yargo's trails, you'll feel a world away from urban or suburban Atlanta.
The trails are shared by runners, mountain bikers, and hikers alike. The trailheads contain guidelines for the direction (clockwise vs. counter clockwise) that users should travel the trails on specific days of the week. This apparently helps to ensure user safety and prevent collisions. The trails travel around scenic 260-acre Marbury Creek Reservoir, which is almost always in view. While circling the reservoir, you'll cross a number of bridges over steams that feed into it. Inner and out loops around the reservoir exist within the park giving runners different options. Depending on the different options and spur trails that you run, one trip around the reservoir is anywhere from 10-14 miles. Mileage markers are provided on the primary trail around the reservoir. A number of switchbacks will take you away from the reservoir at times and challenge your leg strength. Many miles of the trail, however, parallel the reservoir, are pancake-flat, and beautiful. Different trails meet each other at junctions within the park. These intersections can be confusing so carry a carry trail map that is provided at the park's welcome office. Additionally, I did not find any water fountains available along the trail so bridge your own hydration pack. A $3 park fee is required to enter park premises.
While I would like to stake claim to the discovery of Fort Yargo's running trails, others made this discovery before me. In March the Thrills in the Hills 1/2 Marathon is held on the trails of Fort Yargo State Park. The 2008 race is scheduled for March 1st. This race is run almost entirely on trails and is part of the XTERRA Trail Race Series. More information about the Thrills in the Hills 1/2 Marathon can be found at www.dirtyspokes.com.
Additional information about Fort Yargo State Park (including directions and trail maps) can be found on the Georgia State Parks website. More information about the trails within the park can by found on the Yargo Area Mountain Biking Club's (YABA) website. While this information is designed for mountain bikers, the site contained a wealth of trail and elevation profile information.