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North Oconee River Greenway Trail | Best Places To Run in Athens, GA

If you live in or around Athens, GA – you simply must explore the North Oconee Greenway – especially if you are a runner.

The Greenway is one of Athens’ best amenities, but it’s one of those things that you may have heard of…but never really tried out. So here’s what it’s like…

Facts

Distance – 3.5 miles from Dudley Park to Sandy Creek Nature Center building (officially 4.1 if you start at the Mill on Williams St.)

Directions (click here for Google Map)

Nuisance Factors – All concrete all the way. 3 intersections to cross at E. Broad St., North Ave., and College Ave. The occasional Lance Armstrong wannabe, off-leash dog, and Sewage Plant stink.

Bonus Factors – Not busy. Beautiful. Convenient. Off the road. Good distance. The trail is 90% flat. It ends at the beginning of Cook’s Trail – so you can put together a full 16 mile round trip run – all off road. Public bathrooms and water fountains are available inside and around the back of the Sandy Creek Nature Center building. It’s easy to mix up the route by detouring up various streets, like MLK, Hickory, Wilkerson, etc.

I can’t reiterate the fact enough that it connects to Cook’s Greenway Trail at Sandy Creek Nature Center. If you start over on the UGA Campus – you can put together a full 16 mile run (which I’ve done a couple times), completely out of traffic along a scenic river. It’s seriously incredible. There’s not that many cities with something like that.

In fact – I’ve never done it, but you really could add on the Lakeside Trail at Sandy Creek Park to make it 20+ miles (ie, great for marathon training).

Photos

 01 Dudley Park Bridge
Dudley Park Bridge – Southend of Greenway
02 Greenway Trail Through Dudley Park
Greenway Trail Through Dudley Park
Coursing Along The River
Coursing Along The River
04 Lookout Bluff Over The Oconee
Lookout Bluff Over The Oconee
A Hill Along Willow St.
A Hill Along Willow St.
06 Homeless Guys Under North Ave Bridge
Homeless Guys Under North Ave Bridge

Yes – I took that picture, not out of voyeurism – but to show exactly where some rumors about the Greenway get started. Whenever I tell anyone about the Greenway, I get 1 of 2 reactions. Either the person says “That sounds cool – never heard of it. I’ll check it out” or they say “it’s where? I bet it’s over-run with drug dealers and crime. I would never go on it.”

Ok, the bad rumors about the Greenway revolve around this spot on North Ave. – there’s a homeless shelter there, train tracks, and a big roomy bridge where Athens’ homeless people hangout. That’s it. Seriously.

In 9 years there has been 1 high profile assault on the Greenway which didn’t have anything to do with the Greenway being the Greenway – and had everything to do with an escaped convict on a tragic, awful 1 day crime spree.

So yeah, don’t be stupid. Don’t run at night (it’s closed at night anyway). Tell someone where you are headed. But don’t be freaked out by the homeless people on North Ave or any paranoid rumors. Flagpole Magazine had a great write up about safety on the Greenway if you are interested in more info.

Besides – the more people who use it – the safer it becomes. Now back to the pictures.

Curving Around Willow St.
Curving Around Willow St.
Shady Stretch
Shady Stretch
09 Long Straightaway
Long Straightaway
11 Water Treatment Plant
Water Treatment Plant
12 Going Under Loop 10 Athens Bypass
Going Under Loop 10 Athens Bypass
13 Shoals Under Bridge
Shoals Under Bridge
14 Bridge Into The Nature Center Park
Bridge Into The Nature Center Park
15 Road Approaching Nature Center
Trail Approaching Nature Center
16 Northend of Greenway. Southend of Cook's Trail
Northend of Greenway. Southend of Cook’s Trail. 4 More Miles?

You should totally go run the Athens Greenway. Here are directions to Dudley Park and to Sandy Creek Nature Center.

View North Oconee River Greenway in a larger map

By Nate

I'm Nate Shivar - I live in Atlanta and love exploring the city, outdoors, books & Internet. Read about me, my Now page, or my work.

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2 replies on “North Oconee River Greenway Trail | Best Places To Run in Athens, GA”

Thanks, Nate, for the great write up and photos. I’ve been in Athens for about three years and have always wondered about walking the Greenway but have stayed away because its proximity to “unsavory” neighborhoods in Athens. Seems like it needs a PR fix. I think I might have to give it a try while this cool weather continues and see what I think.

I just hiked the 7 mile Lakeside Trail around Lake Chapman today so I’m feeling adventurous (and a bit sore!).

Thanks again!

Thanks for the comment AC! Glad you enjoyed it – and found it useful! And yes, I agree the Greenway needs a PR fix. I know I went far too along before I took advantage of it. It’s such a great amenity, and I think the more people use it – the better and safer it becomes (plus there are plans to extend it south past College Station Rd). And actually, the areas around it are rapidly being redeveloped and are actually mostly student housing now. I hope you have a chance to check it out! Also – the Lakeside Trail is definitely a hidden gem as well, I need to get up there myself.

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