Johnson Ferry Trail is my 6th hike from the book 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta. I’ve set a personal goal to hike all 60 trails in the book, no time limit but at my current pace I’m on track to finish in about 2 1/2 years. Hiking through this book is introducing me to a lot of places in metro Atlanta I’d likely never have seen and also showing me what beautiful surroundings we have just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of the city.
My friend Brian and his wife Uma joined me for this hike and I took my dog Boo along as well. The trail was pretty deserted so I was able to let her off the leash for most of the hike. Brian quickly learned that Boo’s motto is not “Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way“, but simply, “Get the hell out of the way.” It’s interesting to see how dog’s act sometimes. She definitely made it known that she intended to lead and in the narrow parts of the trail she would dart left and right trying to pass anyone that got in front of her, at one point she was on Brian’s heels and pushing along as they came up to a spot where the trail split and quickly came back together, she wasted no time in entering the passing lane to regain the lead. However she paced herself in front of us and if we lagged back too much she’d stop and look back at us to make sure we were still following. She also stayed right on the trail except for the occasional detour to check out any movement in the leaves. She’s a pretty sharp pup.
Johnson Ferry Trail is a 2.1 mile loop (on the main trail) that follows the banks of the Chattahoochee River. The trailhead was once home to the Chattahoochee Outdoor Center where thousands of people each weekend would set off in rafts to be picked up at points further south. Sadly, pollution levels in the river caused the popularity of rafting trips to drop and the Center closed in 2002. You can still see the buildings and pavilion the enter at the trail’s entrance and there is still a boat ramp available. However the parking lots are grown over and the ruins of picnic shelters are other structures are scattered in the woods along the trail.
We set off to hike the trail as listed in the book but we ended up taking a left when we should have taken a right at a small sign on the trail and we ended up in some off the beaten path terrain. This was actually the most enjoyable part of the hike with the trail winding in and out of the riverbed and up and down some hills. Most of the riverbed is smooth rock scattered with larger chunks of rocks with small pools throughout. At a couple of bends in the stream there were larger pools and Boo took advantage of these to get in a quick swim. To check out this part of the trail take the left fork at the small sign located about 1 mile along the trail as measured from the parking fee collection box, there is a $3.00 per vehicle fee to park. The trail here is less worn but noticeable however the further back you go the more it becomes overgrown. After hiking about 3/4 mile up we decided to turn back as it wasn’t clear where the trail went from there.
The main part of the trail is enjoyable but nothing exciting. It’s a nice and very easy hike with some great views of the Chattahoochee River. There were a couple of benches on the trail on the return leg where you could sit and look out over the river. There were also a couple areas where you could get down to the banks of the river if you wanted to do some fishing. The water here moves along fairly quickly so this isn’t a place to toss a pole in and sit back, you’ll have to stay active to fish here. There were also a few people fishing along the river in small boats and canoes.
If you want a super easy hike with the option to add in a bit of interesting terrain then this would fit the bill. Total hike for us came to 3.62 miles but would have been 2.1 as stated in the book if we’d stayed on the marked path. Our total hiking time was right at 2 hours. As mentioned before there is a $3.00 parking fee at the facility, there is an upper parking lot just off Johnson Ferry and a lower parking lot closer to the trailhead, the fee collection box is in the upper parking lot. There are restrooms and a covered picnic area at the trailhead and if you want to drop in a canoe or even a larger boat there is a ramp available. That makes six down now, only 54 more to go!