The Red Trail at Sweetwater Creek State Park is a feature packed trail, hosting both the most scenic stretch of Sweetwater Creek and the 150+ year old New Manchester Mill Ruins in just two short miles.

Sweetwater Creek State Park lies just about 20 minutes West of Downtown Atlanta.  An easy drive along I-20 from the large city makes this park a very popular destination, especially on the weekends.  Out of the parks three main trails, the Red Trail is by far my favorite.  Scenic river views and a stop by the ruins of a burnt down civil war era manufacturing mill are the main highlights.  If you find yourself in the Atlanta area, this hike is a MUST!

The trail starts just SE of the interpretive center and park office.  At the trailhead, you will notice the White trail splits right, the Yellow trail splits left, and the Red trail goes straight before bending right.  The trail is really well marked, with red trail post and blazes about every 20-40 feet.  You will make your way down to the banks of the Sweetwater Creek, where you will find the water to be calm and more akin to a pond than a rushing river.  

Once down by the river, you will follow the straight and flat path all the way until you get to the New Manchester Mill Ruins, about half a mile into the hike.  This first quarter of the hike is very mild in terrain and difficulty, making the ruins a very accessible sight.  

For a super brief history lesson, the mill was built just a couple years before the civil war and played a crucial part in producing much of the yarn used to make clothing in the Confederate South.  Once the Union Army began to take over the area around Atlanta, the Union arrested the majority of the factory workers and set the 5-story mill on fire.  The mill is still a sight to see today, and even boasts an appearance as the ruins of District 13 in 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay'.

Just after the mill, you will follow a series of stairs back down to the banks of the creek.  Here, you will notice that the water starts moving much faster and many shoals and boulders create small yet beautiful rapids.  The next half mile section of river is simply spectacular, as the water keeps rushing faster the further into the trail you get.  The trail also gets significantly more difficult here, as exposed rock an tree roots make the terrain very uneven.  With that said, I would still consider this an easy hike due to its short length and lack of sustained elevation gain.  

Finally, at a mile in, you will come to a crossroads where you will find a blue blaze.  This signifies the end of the Red Trail.  I recommend not turning around just yet, but instead following the White path for about .1 miles along the river and back down a set of stairs to the bank of the water.  Here, you can navigate your way back upstream across some boulders to find yourself on a large boulder that sticks out well into the creek.  This is an awesome place to just sit, relax, and enjoy the views of the rapids and several small waterfalls.  

The way back is exactly the same as the way you came, so take your time and enjoy the beautiful scenery that this awesome trail has to offer.   

Pack List

  • Athletic Shoes (Hiking boots are ideal)
  • Camera
  • Water
  • Small Daypack
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RT Distance 2 Miles
Elevation Gain 120 Feet
Activities Fishing, Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
River
Scenic
Waterfall

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Busy But Beautiful

We completed this hike on a Saturday morning. The trail was beautiful and well kept. Took my 3 year old, who really enjoyed it; he loved finding side trails, climbing on rocks, and playing near the water. We were overcome with the amount of scout traps that were there. There were tons of kids, but we managed to escape the crowd by finding smaller trails along the way. Definitely a hike that I would do again on a weekday.

Awesome

This places is really great

Challenging and Educational

The red trail is a short but challenging trail along Sweetwater Creek. Navigating the rocks and narrow parts of the trail can be tricky for little ones at times, but it's a great and picturesque hike. Offers learning opportunities about the confederate mill works as well.


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