Groups of walkers are pictured on Saturday, Aug. 22, 2020 along the Firefly trail in Athens, Georgia. The Firefly trail runs along a former railroad right-of-way. Upon completion, the trail is planned to be 39 miles. (Photo/Julian Alexander, jcaphotos.com)

For most of 2020, our daily lives have consisted of locked doors, jars of hand sanitizer, face masks and a general avoidance of the outside world. If you decide to open your front door, take in some fresh air and partake of the great outdoors, here are a few places that Athens has to offer. 

Bear Hollow Zoo

This zoo, which is located just south of Five Points within Memorial Park, is home to various kinds of wildlife that cannot survive in the wild due to medical or behavioral circumstances. The zoo offers free admission so visitors can educate themselves on these native species, including birds of prey, three black bears and a very friendly squirrel. 

Big Dogs on the River

Located just off Atlanta Highway and stationed on the Middle Oconee River, visitors can rent kayaks and paddle for 3.5 miles along the river. Once you park at the facility, which is just an eight-minute drive from UGA, a shuttle takes you upstream and you paddle downstream back to the parking lot. Both single and tandem kayaks are available.

Birchmore Trail

This trail offers both an outdoor tour of Athens and a taste of local art. The Birchmore Trail, also located in Memorial Park, is a mile-long path that winds through forests, ravines, creeks and bridges and eventually brings you to the Great Wall of Athens, built by beloved Athens local, Fred Birchmore. No bicycles are allowed on this trail, so you’ll have to walk or run. 


Located in Danielsville, just outside of town, this service offers kayaking and canoeing for all levels along with other outdoor activities such as camping. 

The Firefly Trail

The Firefly trail follows the historic Georgia Railroad, first built in 1841 and no longer in use. After its completion, the trail will span 39 miles from Athens to Union Point and connecting Athens-Clarke County with Greene and Oglethorpe Counties. This trail is perfect for biking, walking and running. 

Sandy Creek Nature Center 

This nature center, located off Old Commerce Road, has 225 acres of wetlands and woodlands with more than five miles of trails. The center also has rehabilitated animals housed indoors. Some of the most popular activities include hiking, bird watching and wildlife viewing.

Walker Park

Walker Park is an outdoor option guaranteed to suit every personality in the family. The park, located off Athens Perimeter on Peter Street, has a splash pad for children and five miles of bicycle trails. The park even has sites that can be used for football, rugby, softball and Frisbee. Other features include nature trails, an outdoor fitness zone and picnic areas. 

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