Destination Hike: The Paper Mill Ruins at Sope Creek

Wintertime in Atlanta is fairly mild and a great time to explore the many hiking trails around the city. Sope Creek in Marietta is one of our favorite metro Atlanta family friendly hikes. Not only is it a great place to get outside, but it offers a bit of history that you can actually touch.

Sope Creek is part of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area – a system of parks and hiking trails on the Chattahoochee River in metro Atlanta. Along the Sope Creek Trail is a pond for fishing and lots of great trails for hiking or mountain biking.

Sope Creek Trail - Hiking to the Ruins

Sope Creek Hiking Trail

From the parking lot there is a three mile loop that includes the Sope Creek Mill. It’s not too difficult, but there are some steep spots. It’s a great place to bring the dog too. We used to take our basset hound; he probably loved it even more than the kids.

Sope Creek is an easy trail for the kids with much to explore.  There is a man made lake called Sibley Pond, named for the people who owned the property before it became a National Recreation area, at the beginning of the sope creek trail, but don’t let the kids spend too much time here, there is a lot more to explore and even better water features farther down the trail.

One of the best parts of the hike is the Sope Creek Paper Mill ruins. My kids had a blast playing army as we walked along the trail, but they were thrilled when we “discovered” the stacked stone mill ruins.

The Sope Creek Paper Mill produced much of the South’s paper from 1855 to 1902. The original was burned by Union troops during the Civil War. The ruins you see now are from the rebuilt Mill.

My kids didn’t really hear when I explained the history, they were too busy walking around the ruins, climbing on top, posing in the windows and contemplating how old the stacked stone structure could be.

Playing in the Creek

It wasn’t until they realized the creek was close by that they were drawn away from the castle like ruins. The creek has gorgeous rocks along the water and we had fun hiking the boulders. The boys tried skipping stones but it ended up that we just threw rocks into the water.

There are places along the water where you can try crossing the creek on the rocks, but I wouldn’t recommend it with small kids.

Events at Sope Creek

Check the National Park Service page for information on cool upcoming events. The day we looked they had scheduled a Ranger Hike, Run with a Ranger, and kids programs like a Ranger led night hike around Sibley Lake called a Frog Frolic. The evening started with marshmellows and songs around the campfire then kids proceeded on a ranger led hike around the lake listening for frogs.

Mountain Biking and Trail Running at Sope Creek

In addition to the hiking trails, there are also several mountain biking trails. My husband used to bring his mountain bike here to ride pre-kids and it’s a favorite spot for many, especially on the weekends.

Most of the mountain bike trails here are easy, but there area  few more difficult spots. One nice advantage is the Sope Creek mountain bike trails link up with the Cochran Shoals trails to the south for even more adventure. In total, there are 6.7 miles of designated miountain biking trails from the Sope Creek Parking area on Paper Mill road to the paved Cochran Shoals loop to the South.

Watch out on the dual trails, especially if you have kids with you. Sometimes the mountain bikers are going quite fast and you don’t always see them until they are right on top of you.

The Story of Sope Creek

Legend has it that Sope Creek got it’s name from an Cherokee Indian chief who lived along the Chattahoochee River between Roswell and Marietta. He was a favorite with the locals because he spoke English and was kind to the local children. When the Indians were rounded up for the Trail of Tears, locals came to Chief Sope’s defense asking the Guard to let him stay.

During the Civil War, the Union Army referred to the area as Soap Creek and it was a prime target during the Atlanta Campaign because it manufactured cartridge paper for Rebel guns. General Sherman’s troops captured the Mill in July of 1860 and burned it to the ground.

The mill was rebuilt after the Civil War, but succumbed to fire again in 1870 destroying the main building.

John Addams Sibley owned the property before it became part of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. He is best remembered as chairman of the Sibley Commission, which advised Governor Ernest Vandiver on potential solutions to the federal rulings against Georgia’s segregated schools. Although about 60% of the people appearing before the commission supported resisting integration, the commission supported the desegregation of schools. He is credited with saving public education in Georgia.

More Mill Ruin Hikes

If you enjoy hiking to mill ruins, you might also like Sweetwater Creek State Park.

Find more info here.

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