Arabia Mountain // Atlanta, GA
We love all the fun inside the city of Atlanta, but I’m loving getting the boys out on the trails that surround GA’s capital city. We ventured to Arabia Mountain National Heritage Site, about 40 min east of the city. Arabia Mountain National Heritage Site is made up of a collection of places to visit. You can easily make a full day trip out of Arabia Mountain.
We started our visit at the Arabia Mountain Visitors Center, which is a treasure trove of activities. The ranger station has lots of gear you can check out from fishing poles to hiking sticks. The visitors center also has the Arabia Mountain Jr. Ranger booklet and the National Passport Cancellation stamp.
The Ranger Station has one of the best collections of children’s nature books we have ever seen. They had them neatly arranged and grouped by subject. The Littles really wanted to just stay here and look at all these great books. We finally lured them outside to the trails.
We opted for the Mile Rock Trail, which runs about 1 mile and focuses on Arabia Mountain’s quarry history. The boys loved the activities in the Jr. Ranger book that had them looking for the way nature has started to take back the quarry.
We found tons of evidence of the former work in the quarry. We walked along the edge markings where blocks had been removed. These blocks were used in buildings all over and many of the street curbs in Atlanta. You can still see the drill holes and metal wedges used in the removal of the stone.
The Mile Rock Trail is marked with stone cairns, which are arguably the most fun for kids to follow. (Our kids have been obsessed with trail marking ever since it was one of the assignments in the Wild Explorers Club.)
There are several places where polished, discarded pieces of rock remain. This really drove home for the boys that this rock was used for making buildings. Plus, you can climb on them which is always a win.
Some places on the hike even have little lakes that have formed in the stone indentations. Here we found a full ecosystem with tadpoles, dragonflies and even snakes.
Toward the end of the hike you leave the exposed rock and head into a forest. A picturesque lake was on our left. This is where we ran into a bit of trouble. The boys wanted to throw stones into the lake and walked off the path to do so. The Big Little stepped onto an underground wasp hive and he and Jeff were chased by the wasps down the path. The Middle Little, Little Little and I all escaped unscathed. The wasps chased us for quite some bit and we had to free them from Jeff’s shirt. Jeff suffered 14 stings from head to ankle.
When we finished the hike everyone was just done. We used our med-kit to treat the stings (and I got bit by a few red ants) and enjoyed lunch in the back of the minivan. No one was willing to venture out to a picnic table.
After our down time we opted to see a few more of the sites included in the Arabia Mountain National Heritage area. This included Panola Mountain State Park (which has its own Jr. Ranger program!)
The Panola Mountain Visitors Center area has more hiking trails, a great playground, picnic space and a lovely visitors center.
The Big Little (our bug lover) found some little lizards running around. He had to capture one for closer examination.
After examination he returned it to the shade of a bush.
Inside the visitors center there are plenty of creepy crawlies to look at. The Littles loved the snakes and turtles. The Ranger was happy to answer their questions and even brought out some snake eggs for them to examine.
There is also a large case of taxidermy animals complete with an I-spy game that the Littles loved.
The Littles took their pledges for the Arabia Mountain Jr. Ranger program. They will have to come back to complete their Panola Mountain program, since we just ran out of time.
We didn’t leave without finding a book in the amazing Little Free Library, located just outside the Visitors Center and filled to the brim with books.
We left the park just as a monster storm rolled in. We kept it in our rear-view mirror until we were back at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Then everyone was ready to cozy down with a book after a full day of outdoor exploration just outside the city.