Georgia Hikes: Sweetwater Creek Yellow and Orange Trails

Sweetwater Creek State Park

Spring means perfect weather for hiking! It’s clearly been a while since we did a substantial hike because this nearly-6 mile hike was way harder on me than it should have been. But it did give off views of the mill ruins and skyline. 

Sweetwater Creek State Park

Sweetwater Creek State Park in Lithia Springs, GA is home to 15 miles of hiking trails, camp sites, and a set for The Hunger Games movies. The ruins of the New Manchester Mill were used in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 as part of the ruins for District 13. The short and easy hike to this film set coupled with the park’s close proximity to Atlanta makes the state park a popular hiking destination.

We’ve previously hiked Sweetwater Creek State Park’s White and Red Trails, but this time we opted for the Yellow and newer Orange Trails.

Sweetwater Creek Yellow Trail

The hike on the Yellow Trail starts at the Interpretive Center. You really start on the Red Trail, but the access to the Yellow Trail isn’t too far down. In the spring, you can see the yellow marker through the trees from the beginning of the trail. The Yellow Trail follows Sweetwater Creek upstream reaching a steel bridge at .65 miles. Across the bridge, the trail meets the Orange Trail, but instead of getting on that trail now, we continue following the Yellow Trail downstream. Where the trail forks, we continue straight, taking the loop counterclockwise, to the toughest part of the hike – but first, we take in a little scenery.

At about 1.2 miles, there is a small offshoot trail to the right that follows along the creek, through blooming pink and white mountain laurels, to a cross-creek view of the New Manchester Mill. On our cloudy hike, the mill ruins sat like a castle on a stormy shore.

Sweetwater Creek State Park

The trail retraces back to the Yellow Trail and continues up, up, up through 350 feet of elevation. (Taking the trail clockwise is supposed to make this ascent much more gradual than our counterclockwise approach.)  As we go up, there is a large rock overhang that the Native Americans used as shelter for thousands of years.

Once we’re finally up the hill, the Yellow Trail meets the “lollipop” loop of the Orange Trail at about 1.5 miles.

Sweetwater Creek Orange Trail

The Orange Trail branches off to the right of the Yellow Trail, following south and counterclockwise for about 1.3 miles. The trail ambles through a lesser-used area of the forest. We even saw three deer leaping across the path further ahead of us. Just over three miles, the forest opens up, with much fewer trees overhead. The red dirt and young forest surrounding start to look more like South Georgia than North Georgia.

At the intersection of the Orange Trail’s lollipop stem and the rest of the loop, you can branch off to the right through the baby pine trees to catch a glimpse of the skyline through the trees.

Sweetwater Creek State Park

Back on the trail, we continue left to finish off the last little bit of the Orange Trail loop and hop back on the Yellow Trail.

Back on the Yellow Trail

The Yellow Trail continues north and this time gradually descends the 350 feet. The hike down is obviously much more pleasant than the hike up. The trail ends its loop at about 3.9 miles where we turn right and continue back the way we came over the bridge and this time downstream along the river. Continuing back to the Interpretive Center would make this about a 4.5 mile hike, but instead of doing this, we decided to stop off to see the mill ruins up close and personal.

Bonus: Red Trail

To get to the Red Trail from the Yellow Trail, we just continued to follow the creek downstream at a fork. On the map, this fork is marked by a black trail connector. Once connected with the Red Trail, the hike continues for about .5 miles past the ruins of the mill town and the man-made channel to the New Manchester Mill. This 5-story mill was burned down by Union troops during the Civil War in 1864 and has stood as picturesque ruins ever since.

Sweetwater Creek State Park

We sat by the ruins and ate a second lunch and rested a bit before hiking the .5 miles back to the Interpretive Center, ending our hike at about 5.5 miles.

Cheers!

Paige

What’s your favorite Georgia hike? Let me know in the comments!

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