If you have a free day to spend in DeKalb County doing something quintessentially local—and unique— Stone Mountain Park is the place to go. The centerpiece of the county’s largest and most popular attraction is the stone outcropping that rises 1,683 feet above sea level. The park itself covers 3,200 acres, and its myriad activities can easily fill a day. Plan your itinerary using our suggestions below and explore the history, fun, and adventure awaiting you at this internationally recognized landmark.
Beat the crowds and start your day with a hike. Stone Mountain Park draws droves of runners, birders, hikers, and tourists eager to explore its 15 miles of hiking and walking trails. For a gorgeous view of the lake, the mill, and the mountain, take a rigorous five mile walk on the Cherokee Trail. Given the distance, this walk can easily fill two hours or more (depending on your pace). If you still have energy— or prefer a shorter trek—hike the Walk-Up Trail to Stone Mountain’s summit. This is only a one-mile hike, but don’t be fooled by the low mileage. This is a tough climb. Once you reach the peak, stretch out on a rock and admire views as far as 60 miles away. Then, take the short—but thrilling—ride down the mountain aboard the high-speed Swiss cable car, the Summit Skyride.
Once you’ve refueled with a picnic or lunch at one of the on-site offerings like Base Camp BBQ or Waterside Restaurant (located at the park’s Atlanta Evergreen Marriott Conference Resort), get schooled on the mountain’s history at the Memorial Hall Museum. The museum brings together artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of the mountain’s 12,000- year history. Continue your quest for knowledge at the Confederate Hall Historical and Environmental Education Center. Located at the base of the Walk-Up Trail, this center focuses on the geological and ecological aspects of the mountain. It’s also home to the Confederate Hall Theater, which regularly airs the Hal Holbrook-narrated documentary, The Battle for Georgia–A History of the Civil War in Georgia. Once you’ve had your fill of museums, hop aboard the Scenic Railroad for a 30-minute ride around the mountain. The open-air train (meaning it’s fun even during those warm summer months) departs every 40 to 45 minutes from the Marketplace Depot from March through December.
MID-AFTERNOON TO EARLY EVENING
Those spending the day with kids would do well to commit the remaining daylight hours to one of the park’s numerous family-friendly attractions like Camp Highland Outpost (featuring a low ropes course and rock climbing), SkyHike (a treetop adventure course), Ride the Ducks (a guided land-and-water tour of the park aboard a 1940s-era Army DUKW), or Geyser Towers (an outdoor climbing and play area with regular blasts from a water feature). If you prefer spending the rest of your day on the lake, rent a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard from REI Boathouse. Or, sign up for a class—they offer everything from stand-up paddleboard yoga to backcountry skills. If your visit is in early spring or late fall when the blooms and leaves are their prettiest (and the water’s a touch cool), you may want to rent a bike or a Segway for an interesting vantage point from the park’s meandering roadways. Meanwhile, golf fans can sign up for tee times through Stone Mountain Golf Club where they can play 18 holes on two scenic championship courses.
After a day spent hiking, golfing, adventuring, and learning at Stone Mountain Park, settle in for Southern fare (dishes include shrimp and grits and fried chicken with hot pepper honey) at The Commons restaurant, located at Stone Mountain Golf Club. If you’re visiting from April through October,
stick around (or come back later) for the fun and kitschy Lasershow Spectacular in Mountainvision, featuring lasers and digital graphics spanning the face of the mountain, along with fi reworks and music. Stretch out on a blanket and relax as you enjoy the performance with friends and family. For a memorable lodging choice, reserve one of the lakeside yurts available at the onsite campground. These small accommodations are a mix between a cabin and a tent and provide a unique “glamping” experience. Additional camping options include trailer camping, safari tents, and pop-up tent camping. You also can opt for more traditional overnight accommodations at the Stone Mountain Inn or the Atlanta Evergreen Marriott Conference Resort.
If you’re visiting in the winter months, Stone Mountain Park transforms into a faux-snow winter wonderland. Among the seasonal fixtures at the park are a snow-filled play area (great for building a snowman) and a hill for snow tubing at “Snow Mountain.” The park twinkles with 2 million lights during the holidays, and its seasonal lineup includes musical performances, a nightly Christmas parade, Santa Claus visits, a ride on the Singalong Christmas Train, Rudolph’s Merry Little Meet and Greet (featuring costumed holiday characters), and the winter-themed Skylights Spectacular Lasershow.