Run Atlanta: Shootin’ the Hooch

August 1st, 2014 | In Local Running News, Run Reviews, Running Meets Life, Training

This first trail run of the series took me just northwest of the city to the Cochran Shoals Trail on the Chattahoochee River. The start of the trail is right at the 285 bridge over the river, so it’s an easy place to get to as long as you avoid rush hour. The trail itself is a 3.3-mile elongated loop of packed gravel dust running along the western shore of the Chattahoochee. You do have to pay for parking –$3.

I got started around 7:30 a.m., and it was gorgeous. The sun had just cleared the treetops on the opposite bank, and the light hit the mist coming off of the river at just the right angle to turn everything gold. The run was perfectly flat and perfectly quiet. The only sounds were chirping insects and my own shoes hitting the ground. It felt like I was far, far away from civilization.

The trail is definitely worth the trip for the scenery and the wildlife. However, as you head up the stretch closest to the river, the picturesque tunnel of trees which will provide you complete shade also obstructs what could be a spectacular view of the water. And coming down the other side of the loop, shade is scarce even at 8 a.m. – I’d guess it would be completely gone by 9 or 9:30. I recommend turning around and heading back down that first stretch again instead of circling over to run parallel to it in the heat.

While you might not get the best river views while you run, there are spots along the bank to sit and cool down afterward and watch the water slip by. I saw two blue herons gliding alongside each other and a family of ducklings being herded through the rocks in the span of 15 minutes. It really is a heavenly little escape.

Course Highlights:

  • You can’t beat the scenery.
  • For those without GPS watches, there are wooden markers every quarter mile to help you keep pace.
  • The flatness and serenity of the trail make for an easy short run.

Course Notes:

  • Total ascent: 95.03 ft.
  • Canopy: very shady on first leg, sparse shade on second
  • Pit stops: at least one water fountain on the trail with a dog-height fountain attached

Directions:

  1. Park in the Eugene Gunby Road lot
  2. Follow the gravel trail straight along the river all the way to its end at the Columns Drive parking lot, where it will U-turn left
  3. Keep running it until you intersect again with the riverbank stretch and then turn right to head back to your car OR turn around at the Columns Drive lot and go back the way you came.
    (Map can be found on the Atlanta Track Club Facebook page)

Add distance by:

  • There are several hiking trails that branch off this path, but since I didn’t take any of them I don’t know if they’re runner-friendly. I would suggest just doing this trail as a 5k.

Written by: Emily Overcarsh

One Person has left comments on this post

» Rob G.

Sep 15, 2014 at 09:09:47

I used to live in some condos off of Columns Drive, right next to the North parking lot to this same trail. The off-shoot trails mentioned are shown here http://www.nps.gov/chat/planyourvisit/upload/TrailMapColumnsDrive.pdf and are hard-pack dirt. Definitely worth the run if you are looking to add hills/intervals to your run.