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Laurel Ridge Trail
Georgia Trails

Trail Length: 3.8 miles Type of trail: Loop
County: Gwinnett County, GA, Forsyth County, GA Our rating: E
Features: swimming, scenic, picnicking, lake, fishing, family, canoeing, bathrooms, 60hikes Your rating:
Usage: Medium Added on: October 14, 2004
Last hiked: September 26, 2004 Updated on: November 27, 2010
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Additional Trails
Hiking trails in Gwinnett County, GA
Hiking trails in Forsyth County, GA

Directions
Directions to Laurel Ridge Trail

Buford Dam from Laurel Ridge Trail
This easy trail follows the ridge line east of Lake Lanier and Buford Dam. Along the way are a number of facilities including bathrooms, water fountains, swimming areas, scenic views and boat ramps, making this an excellent family hike. Our mileage differs from other sources because we include exploring Lanier Dam Park. This park is frequently, and erroneously, listed as the Bowman's Island Unit of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, which actually begins south of the park. This is one of three trails known as Laurel Ridge Trail. The others are in the Cooper Furnace area of Lake Allatoona and Smithgall Woods Conservation Area near Helen, Georgia
Beginning at the Lower Overlook between a rest room and Highway 20, the treadway bears left shortly after the end of the building across a small valley, then makes a brief climb to the road. Cross at the marked intersection and be careful as motorists in the area exceed the speed limit. As the path moves away from Buford Dam Road an intricate brown metal structure prohibits motorized vehicles while permitting hikers.

As with so many of these trails in the Lake Lanier area, dogs are not permitted. We encourage dog lovers to express their dissatisfaction with the Lake Lanier Authority directly. Please do not write GeorgiaTrails.com about this. The trail begins an easy descent, making a hard right into the first picnic area, skirting rest rooms on the left. Benches occasionally line the trail as it begins its descent into the Chattahoochee River Valley. At times during the descent the trail becomes hard to navigate thanks to tree roots and embedded rocks.

At .1 miles a viewing platform to the right has some good winter views. Return to the trail and continue the extended descent. At .4 miles there is an overlook with an excellent year-round view of Bowman's Island Unit. First of the parks in the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area, Bowman's Island encompasses the area beneath the dam that creates Lake Lanier. About 200 feet past a wooden walkway a trail on the right leads onto a wooden walkway that forms the entrance to Bowman's Island.


Sails unfurled on Lake Lanier
Overlook on Lake Lanier
The trail follows the level, river birch lined east bank of the Chattahoochee River south. In .3 miles turn on the trail to the left, which crosses a small flood plain then begins a moderate to difficult rise out of the Chattahoochee River Valley, climbing along the banks of a tributary of the mighty Chattahoochee River. The trail crosses the tributary a number of times, usually on a wooden bridge, but in one spot a boulder provides an easy crossing. During the ascent there is a pine blowdown, courtesy of the Southern Pine Beetle. Past the blowdown area a bench on a wooden bridge allows a peaceful moment watching the tributary flow easily down a near vertical wall.

As the ascent moderates the trail passes through a set of stone pillars, crosses busy Buford Dam Road and continues on the side through a set of the same stone pillars. During this short portion you are in full sun. After passing through the second set of stone pillars the trail quickly returns to the forest and is mostly to fully shaded. The halfway point in the hike is a powerline clearing at 2.4 miles. In full sun for about 0.1 mile, the trail winds through the open field as it descends at a fairly rapid rate. At the end of the clearing the path curves to the left, drops down a set of steps, crosses a land bridge, then makes a sharp right-hand turn.

At 2.7 miles the Laurel Ridge Trail crosses two park access roads. Less than 0.1 mile later is a small playground quickly followed by a pavilion with picnic tables and a grill, water spigot, garbage pails and rest rooms. In full sun, the trail follows a sidewalk, descending a set of steps and making a hard left-hand turn at the bottom. To get around a shelter, the path turns right, then left, returning to compacted soil. Look for a white blaze and brown hiker sign almost straight ahead to find the correct trail. Quickly, the path begins a descent to the first view of Lake Lanier since the start of the trail.


The trail makes a hard left turn, but continue on, bearing to the right to an overlook. Return to the Laurel Ridge Trail, turning right and bearing right on the white-blazed trail. Almost immediately the trail crosses a finger of Lake Lanier on a boardwalk, continuing to another dock overlook of Lanier. The path takes on a repetitive nature at this point, rising to climb a ridge, then returning to the lakeshore at a park.


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Laurel Ridge Trail
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Georgia Hikes
Your guide to hiking and walking trails in the state of Georgia

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Chattahoochee River
Lake Lanier
Smithgall Woods Conservation Area

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