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Rockdale River Trail offers a beautiful natural escape through Rockdale County, just southeast of the Atlanta metropolitan area. The trail is hilly and winding as it goes through heavily forested areas and rock outcroppings, and crosses several creeks and wetland areas.
As the Rockdale River Trail continues southeast, it passes through the Alexander Lakes area and Panola Mountain State Park. This is a pristine natural setting, where recreational opportunities abound: birding, paddling, hiking, bicycling, picnicking, geocaching, even tree climbing excursions.
From the Alexander Lake Road and Flat Bridge Road intersection, the trail continues its southeast course for nearly two miles until it meets Union Church Road, where there is a small trailhead parking lot, but no other facilities. The trail continues another two miles from there to South Rockdale Community Park, where you'll find a trailhead, parking, and other amenities.
Newly completed in 2014, an extension continues the trail down to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, a community of monks that was founded in 1944, which is one of the most popular attractions in the county today. A visitor center on the grounds provides a history of the monastery, a gift store, and a café. There are also gardens to tour and Abbey Church with beautiful stained glass windows made by the monks.
On the western half of the trail, you'll find the Alexander Lakes Trailhead about 7.5 miles south of Lithonia (Exit 74 off I-20). The trailhead is at the junction of Alexander Lakes Road and Flat Bridge Road. Since this trailhead is on Panola Mountain State Park property, there is a daily cost for parking. Bathrooms and water are available.
On the eastern half of the trail, parking is available at the Lorraine Trailhead (3465 Highway 138 SE, Conyers), as well as at the South Rockdale Community Park Trailhead (3909 East Fairview Road), about 8.5 miles southeast of Conyers (Exit 80 off I-20). Bathrooms, water, picnic shelter, and a playground are available there.
The eastern terminus of the trail is the Monastery of the Holy Spirit (2625 Georgia 212, Conyers).
The Rockdale River Trail is seamlessly connected with the Arabia Mountain Trail and a portion of the South River Trail, forming a network of ~25 miles of trails (I see various measures). This entire system is hard surface (mostly concrete with a few asphalt stretches). Even though significant portions of the trail are wooded/shaded, the trail itself is usually quite clear of debris (well maintained)... unless you are riding very soon after stormy or windy days).
When we ride near dawn or dusk, we often see wildlife along the trails (deer, rabbits, snakes, turkeys). The stretch of the Rockdale River trail between Union Church Road and S.R. 138 that runs above/along the South River and is probably my favorite portion of the entire connected system, as you listen for the water cascading over the rocks down below.
Rockdale County recently (~September 2019) constructed bathrooms at the trailheads located off Union Church Road (at Daniels Bridge Road intersection) and off S.R. 138 (at the East Fairview Road intersection)… the latter of which has full plumbing (running water + sewer).
As other comments on this site indicate, this trail system has lots of hills and curves (this is a roller coaster, not a "rails to trails" like the Silver Comet!). So, if you are a beginner, expect to cover a shorter distance than you normally would. And remember, along with uphills come downhills, so make sure your brakes are in working order!
Wide, concrete trail very well maintained. But somewhat hilly. Has a seamless connection to the Arabia Mountain Trail. The Monastery of the Holy Spirit at the south end is a good place to start -- convenient parking. Also you can get a sandwich lunch (and tour if you like) at the Monastery.
They take care of their trails very well! I never felt unsafe while in the park! For you Pokemon Go players, there is one gym, two poké stops and Quite a few fire types. I didn't have much trouble with Pokemon being off trails. So you shouldn't have to worry too much if you don't mind going on the dirt trails
I'm new to cycling and this is really the first paved bike trail I've been on. I loved the layout of the trail. Cycling mid-afternoon on a hot June day still had shade from foliage over about 50% of the trail. I started at Panola Mountain State Park and rode to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. About 9.5 miles by TrailLink but my GPS showed a bit longer. The trail is well maintained. Why I say it's not for beginners is the hills. If you're a climber you'll love it. I knew from the first mile riding down some steep winding downhill runs that I was going to pay dearly for it on the return and I did. It was one of the tougher workouts I'd endured. Lessons learned for my next trip (Yes, I will do this trail again) 1) Bring more water! It was hot and I ran out of water early. I'll bring a Camelbak next time. 2) Don't count on your phone GPS. My iPhone GPS overheated and shutdown before the turnaround point. You really don't need the GPS if you familiarize yourself with the map. I did get turned around a couple of times though on some loops. 3) Next trip I'll start at the Monastery and work this in reverse. That will let me take on the worst of the hills when I'm fresher. Enjoy the ride. It's worth the trip.
My wife and I just purchased new bikes and live close to the trail. We've been riding the trail now for about a month and have really enjoyed it. It has some hills for the beginner like we are but we have been able to do at least 11 to 12 mile a day.....Going to try a new section this week. Good time is after 5:00 until about 7:30 during that time its pretty populated with bikers and people walking. Park at the Monastery in Conyers.
An extension to the Rockdale River Trail was completed and dedicated in mid-June of 2014 and what an extension it is!!! The Rockdale River Trail now totals 9.5 miles from the end of the Arabia Mountain Trail, which is a tad over 10 miles itself. That totals to 19.6 miles for both of the main trails combined, one way.
On top of that, construction was also completed on a 1.75 mile loop and a 1.75 mile long spur one way to the main entrance of Panola Mountain State Park. Both the loop and the spur are located at the Alexander Lakes Traihead on the Rockdale River Trail.
My wife and I have walked the trail and I have rode the trail. There are no flat parts on this trail. Everything has a slope to it. Like a previous reviewer wrote, it is like a paved mountain bike trail.
In the future, the trail will extend to the Olde Conyers Trail that now ends at Johnson Park. No schedule has been announced for the construction of this part.
This is a great trail to walk and ride. It definitely is a destination trail to come to and have fun. Remember, what goes down, must come up.
What a great trail. It has expanded so much in the last year or so.. You can now go all the way to the monastery. Had a wonderful ride today going from the monastery to MLK High School trailhead and back with a side trip to Panola Mtn.
Am so blessed to have such a nice trail system within reach. It is simply lovely. Agree with a previous reviewer. This is like a mountain bike trail for road bikes. Fantastic!
In response to "kdianich", there are many trailheads to the Arabian Mountain Trail, The Rockdale River Trail and the South River Trail. You might want to pull up the Path Foundation web site, which is pathfoundation.org. Then pull up their maps and go to the trail that you want. The above noted trails are all lumped together and the maps are quite well done. You will be able to see the trailheads on their maps. The Path Foundation is the builder of all these trails. The Arabian Mountain and Trail, the Rockdale River Trail and part of the South River Trail are all seamlessly connected. The City of Lithonia TH and the Stonecrest Mall TH have no facilities and they can have some drama around them. The Evans mill TH, The Panola Shoals TH and the Murphey-Candler School TH are all too inconvenient. The THs that we use are the Union Church Road TH, the Browns Mill Road (GA 212) TH, The Alexander Lakes TH (Fee), The Panola Mtn. State Parks TH (fee) on GA 212 and Nature Center TH on (Klondike Road). Yes, there is a completed trail from Alexander Lakes to the Panola Mountain State Park Entrance. And the trail from the South Rockdale Community Park to the Monastery is being worked on. Part of it will be done in a couple of months and the other part will be completed in 2015. Then, a biker will be able to ride from Lithonia or the Stonecrest Mall all the way to the Monastery. That will be great.
I cannot find this section when I search, but there is a very nice section of trail at Hwy 155 and Panola Rd. Ample parking with a portojohn. It goes west to MLK Jr high school (1.5 miles). The eastward direction goes approximately 2 miles to connect with the Arabia Mtn Trail, the open section that is at the utility right-of-way, south of Browns Mill Rd., and north of the South River bridge crossing.
This eastward section is fairly flat, has nice views of the river and is a newer section, although I was able to find it on Map My Ride.
Almost feels like a mountain bike trail on a road bike!
I can't wait to go to the monastery.
The trail head is open at the monastery. Come on Down. Construction has started toward E. Fairfiew and Hwy138
We love this trail. We get on it via the Arabia Mtn trail. It's a lovely ride through the woods, with a nice lake view. This is not a rail trail though. It follows the terrain & that terrain is hilly. For bikers that means you get to enjoy down hill stretches as a reward for the climbs. For pedestrians there are multiple rest spots with benches to take a break on. With the connection to the Arabia Mtn trail you have access to more miles of similar trails. These are nicely paved trails.
In December of 2012, a 1.8 mile middle segment of the trail was completed between existing 1.1 mile and 2.4 mile trails thereby making up a 5.3 mile total length. More mileage is coming in the next couple of years. What's even better is that the northern end of the trail seamlessly hooks up with the southern end of the Arabia Mountain Trail at the South River.
Both the Rockdale River Trail and the Arabia Mountain Trails are not flat. They both have plenty of hills and very little flat parts. In the newly completed 1.8 mile segment, there is a hill the locals are calling Mt. Sprayberry. The Sprayberry family owned most of the property in this area. Going north, a rider crosses a curved structural bridge over a creek that feeds into the South river, makes a hard left and immediately begins an uphill switchback climb for about a half of a mile. You can't get any momentum here to go up the hill. At the crest of the climb, the slope even gets steeper. Be careful going down this hill. At the bottom of the hill, there is a hard right hand turn to go back over the curved bridge. Control your speed. In my opinion, Mt. Sprayberry is the toughest hill to climb in the Arabia Mountain and Rockdale River Trail systems.
The scenery is mostly forests, rock outcroppings and some vistas. There are many creek crossings and the trails parallel the South River in many areas. At times, one can see the deer cross the trails. So, be careful.
All in all, great place to get some good exercise and enjoy the outdoors.
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