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 popular destination, for Atlanta locals and tourists alike. 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. We will make our way down to the banks of the Sweetwater Creek, where you will find the water to be calm and more resemblant of a pond than a rushing river.
Once down by the river, we will follow the straight and flat path all the way 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, we will follow a series of stairs back down to the banks of the creek. Here, 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 for uneven terrain.
At the end of the Red Trail, we will continue another .1 mile along the White trail for unbeatable views of the river. We will navigate our way back upstream across some boulders to reach 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. We will take a little break here to indulge in a snack which will be provided.
After we make our way back to the trailhead, we will drive over to the opposite side of the park, next to the bait shop on the George H. Sparks Reservoir. Here we will relax and enjoy a tasty lake-side BBQ lunch.