Hike to the Bamboo Forest in Sandy Springs, Georgia

Do you know that there is a small bamboo forest located along the Chattahoochee River in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs? Despite living in metro Atlanta for 30 years, this was the first time I heard about this hidden gem. Some might consider it a secret due to its relative obscurity.

I’m not sure how long the bamboo forest has been around, but I stumbled upon it while browsing a friend’s social media and immediately knew we had to visit. It was surprising to discover a bamboo forest in Atlanta, and after being cooped up indoors for so long due to the long quarantine, it felt amazing to get out and practice film photography (since I was new to shooting film then).

What makes the bamboo hike in Sandy Springs ideal for hiking all year is that bamboo doesn’t really die with the change of seasons. That’s why I love this hike; you can visit it year-round. It’s also a great way to take a break from the fast-paced and hectic city of Atlanta!

Read below to find out how to find this unique hiking trail in Sandy Springs and what to expect on the hike. Additionally, if you are looking for another interesting hiking spot near Atlanta, check out my article Hike the Unusual Doll’s Head Trail in Atlanta!

Two Entrances to the Bamboo Forest in Sandy Springs

Whitewater Creek Entrance 

There are two ways entrances to the bamboo forest in Sandy Springs: the Whitewater Creek entrance and the Indian Trail entrance. We parked at the Whitewater Creek entrance but had trouble finding the parking lot despite the National Park Service listing the address as Whitewater Creek Road in Atlanta, GA.

I also tried using an address from a hiking website on Google Maps, but that took us to a forested area between two houses. Since we were clearly in the wrong spot, I searched for the bamboo forest in Sandy Springs, specifically on the East Palisades Trail, where it’s actually located. 

Google gave us a 4432 Whitewater Creek Road NW Atlanta address, and we subsequently followed. The quickest route took us through the same neighborhood but down a different street, which got us near the address that Google provided. 

Have I confused you yet? We discovered that the easiest way to locate the Whitewater Creek entrance is to head to Whitewater Creek Road and look for the National Park Service sign indicating you are at the trail and parking lot. Even though the GPS directions may take you through the neighborhood, you will see a National Park Service sign indicating that you’ve arrived at the correct location. 

The GPS address for the Whitewater Creek entrance is 4058 Whitewater Creek Rd NW, Atlanta, GA 30327.

Find it on the map here:

Indian Trail Entrance

The address for the other entrance is 1425 Indian Trail NW, Sandy Springs, GA 30327.

The road to this entrance also takes you through a neighborhood, which might make you feel lost (like we did)!

Find the Indian Trail entrance on the map here:

Bamboo stem
Bamboo plant at the bamboo forest in Sandy Springs. The image was shot on a roll of Ektachrome E100.

Know Before You Go: Cost to Visit and Parking

The fee to enter the East Palisades Trail and hike to the bamboo forest is $5, which includes parking. As I usually don’t carry cash, I found it helpful that the National Park Service has a QR code displayed at the parking lot to purchase a pass online. 

Parking is free if you have the Chattahoochee River Annual Pass or America the Beautiful Annual Pass. You can purchase an entrance pass or the annual passes here.

Visiting tip: Since the bamboo forest is part of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, you can get in free on the National Park Service Fee Free Days. These days include Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, National Public Lands Day, Veterans Day, Juneteenth, Great American Outdoors Act Day, and the First Day of National Park Week. However, keep in mind that these days are popular, so there may be more crowds.

Based on my research before we went, I discovered that limited parking is available at both entrances. As a result, we decided to arrive early in the morning to secure a parking spot. Both lots tend to fill up quickly, particularly on weekends or when the weather is gorgeous outside. You may have to circle around a few times or wait for a space to become available.

The Hike to See Bamboo

Trail Distance and Difficulty Level

It took us about 2 hours to hike to the bamboo forest and return. I rate the hike’s difficulty level as easy to moderate. But this is based on my hiking experience and the trail conditions. The bamboo forest is on the East Palisades Trail, and the entire trail loop is a little over 4 miles.

We encountered two steep elevation gains on the trail but were short sections. I can handle short, steep hikes but struggle if the incline goes on for too long (I have little endurance!). You’ll want to wear comfortable hiking shoes or boots as the trail as branches and rocks litter the trail. You’ll come across small bridges and may have to climb over a few fallen tree logs.

A wooden bridge on the East Palisades Trail
Metal bridge on East Palisades Trail

Trail Maps and Finding the Bamboo Forest

Maps located at various points along the trail indicate your current location and provide directions to follow. For instance, I learned beforehand that some hikers find it challenging to locate the bamboo forest, but it is at EP 26 on the map, which happened to be the farthest point from our parking spot. This was okay, though, since I love hiking on a breezy autumn day. 

You can access a map online at the National Park Service website. Even though we had a cell signal on the trail, I recommend taking a screenshot on your phone before you begin your hiking adventure. 

The red line in the image below shows our approximate route to the bamboo forest. It was a little over three miles roundtrip from where we parked, which was not too bad for a morning hike!

East Palisades Trail Map
Our route is seen in red. It is approximately a two-hour hike roundtrip to see the bamboo forest from our parking spot. (Digital image)

The trail was covered in parts due to the recent tropical storm, and we found it difficult to determine the correct course. We decided to follow what looked like a path but soon realized it was not the right one, as it went steeply down and was obstructed by many trees. 

Luckily, we spotted some hikers further up ahead, so we crossed the river and climbed a small hill to return to the trail.

As we returned to the actual trail and found another map, we couldn’t help but laugh that our “detour” brought us closer to our bamboo destination. However, this was a complete accident, and I am fortunate I did not fall and break an arm. We always try to stay on trails and leave everything undisturbed.

The bamboo forest is at the end of a path that takes you right next to the Chattahoochee River and some historical ruins. Once you reach the forest, you can relax, take pictures, play music, and hang out by the river amidst the bamboo. On our way out, we saw a band setting up some guitars. 

It is possible to kayak in the rapids of the Chattahoochee River. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any kayakers during our visit, but this activity is quite popular in the summer. Also, visitors can climb to various overlooks to view the river, but we chose not to.

Chattahoochee River
The bamboo forest is located along the Chattahoochee River.
Bamboo forest in Atlanta

Final Thoughts on the Bamboo Forest in Sandy Springs

I must confess that we enjoyed the hike to the bamboo forest more than the forest itself. Don’t get me wrong, the forest is beautiful but smaller than I had imagined. Also, I was disappointed to see carvings or initials on almost every bamboo. Besides, the recent tropical storm destroyed a few of the bamboo. Though it was minimal, it was also noticeable. I am hoping the debris is now cleared out.

Despite that, the hike is a unique adventure that you would not necessarily expect to be in Metro Atlanta. I frequently reminded myself that we were not hiking in the North Georgia mountains. It is truly a nice reprieve from the busy city of Atlanta and its terrible traffic!

Will I return to this place? Sure. It’s close to home and great exercise. I am particularly curious to see how the trail looks during the spring. Oddly, we didn’t see any flowers the whole time on our hike.

And, of course, I want to get more pictures!

Bamboo
Image shot on Ektachrome E100.
A wooden bridge on the East Palisades Trail in Georgia
One of three small bridges on the path to the bamboo forest. Image shot on Ektachrome E100.

A Note on My Film

Most of the images in this article were shot on Ektachrome E100 with my Canon EOS-1. Since I had already loaded Ektachrome E100 during my previous shoot, I continued using it to capture the bamboo forest. However, after reviewing the images, I realized it might not have been the best choice for this type of scenery.

The lighting conditions in the forest were highly contrasting, with dark shadows on the forest floor and bright sunlight filtering through the leaves. Although slide film can produce vibrant and colorful images, using it in such high-contrast environments is not ideal. This was my first lesson learned in using slide film!

As you can see in a few of my pictures, the shadows are very black, while the highlights are very white. I will switch to color-negative film for better exposures when I return!

Have you been to the bamboo forest in Sandy Springs? What are your thoughts? Please comment below!

Woman standing in the bamboo forest in Atlanta

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