Walking 19 Miles of the Atlanta BeltLine

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On Saturday, my friend T and I walked the entire Atlanta BeltLine. Yes, the whole thing. And yes, we were in some pain the next day.

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But man, was it worth it. We went with a small group of great people and walked more than 19 miles around the heart of Atlanta. I’m an intrepid kind of gal, but even this was more than I’m used to.

Still, what an experience to personally see the urban revitalization project that will completely transform the city of Atlanta.

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Above in red is the loop that makes up the Atlanta BeltLine.

For those that don’t know, the Atlanta BeltLine, when finished, will be a continuous loop of transit, trails, and parks that encircle the city. It was visioned in 1999 by a student at Georgia Tech who, in his Master’s thesis, dreamed up a way to re-purpose the railroad tracks that used to chug non-stop through the city decades ago; these days, most of those tracks are abandoned and unused.

I hope I’m not oversimplifying anything, but to my understanding, Ryan Gravel’s thesis proposed the idea of bringing those tracks to use again, but instead of freight trains, why not use light rail that can transport people around the city? Turns out his question was a good one, and now his thesis has become the foundation of the Atlanta BeltLine project.

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The BeltLine will create new parks and restore old ones, connect neighborhoods, install paths and bike trails for active user enjoyment, provide public art, plant trees with Trees Atlanta, and of course provide the light rail.

It is an ambitious project, one that is watched and supported on a national level because of the effect it will have on Atlanta and the whole southeastern United States. Click here to learn more about the project.

OK, so back to our 9.5 hour walk.

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It was a curious feeling to be so geographically close to familiar parts of the city, yet practically a world away from them. The BeltLine winds below, beside, around, and across the city, leading us a hairsbreadth past places like the Whole Foods on Ponce de Leon Ave, the old Sam Flax on Northside Dr, both sides of I-20, Grant Park, and more familiar spots. When you jettison streets and instead take the BeltLine to travel, it’s surprising how near all of these things are to each other. “As the birds flies,” right?

Anyway, I’ll let the pictures do the talking. They are in no particular order, but will draw you into our experience better than my words can.

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Walking over a variety of bridges in various states of durability.

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Lots of street art.

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Important: I’ll take this moment to say that we went with people very familiar with the BeltLine and comfortable with this walk. If you undertake this walk on your own, please educate yourself on the train lines. Some trains do still run on these tracks and you do not want to be roadkill.

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Onward!

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^^Artist Hadley Breckenridge created this mural, entitled “The Highball Artist” which shows paint dripping off the Lucile Ave bridge. You are supposed to imagine a train dragging the paint through the tunnel…

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… and then bursting out on the other side. One of my faves.

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Way to stick the landing, girl.

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This house has definitely seen better days. But honestly, I think it’s T’s dream house. Pre-made skylight, and for a fraction of the cost.

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Artist Santiago Menendez created this installation, entitled “Meet Me at the Crayons”.

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^^T found herself a solid guy to chat up. Solid as in steel. Artist Jac Coffey created this piece, entitled “Railroad Workers”.


I found an empty spray paint can (littered around the area, tsk, tsk) and pretended I was doing some street art. I told you: many, many moments of silliness.

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Artist David Landis made this sculpture of a rhino head, entitled “Northern White”.

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My dentist, Dr. Alex Rodriguez, made this sculpture, entitled “Whirling Wheels”.

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At the 10.25 mile marker on the Eastside Trail. I’m making a muscle face because by this time we’d already walked 18.5 miles #fistpump

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What a nice group of people to spend nearly 10 hours with!

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We took the road less traveled that day, and it has indeed made all the difference.

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13 Comments

  1. February 5, 2014 / 10:09

    This is awesome and seems like it was an enlightening experience! I would love to do this! I’m actually going on a photo walk of the beltline next weekend but I doubt we will walk the whole thing. How did you find the group of people to walk the whole thing with?

    • February 6, 2014 / 17:03

      It was truly fantastic. I actually found out about it randomly, and went with a group of BeltLine insiders. They don’t particularly advertise the walk because you wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt on the walk, especially considering the active train lines. But it was super super cool. Great to see soooo much potential with the project. If I hear of an upcoming walk, I will definitely let you know!

  2. Veronica
    February 21, 2014 / 22:49

    Where did you start? Also where did you park your cars? I wanted to try and do this next Saturday, it looks like so much fun and potential for great pictures!!

    • March 4, 2014 / 22:42

      Hi Veronica! We met at the Park Tavern early in the morning, parked our cars in the neighborhood, and headed north on the Eastside Trail. We came full circle back through the Eastside Trail by twilight that evening. :)

  3. Ryann
    February 26, 2014 / 18:52

    I am looking to have some photos taken at old railroad tracks. Do you know which tracks are not in use? Or who I can contact in regards to that? This looks like a super fun time! What a great way to explore Atlanta!

    • March 4, 2014 / 22:39

      Thanks Ryann! Unfortunately I personally don’t recall which is active rail and which is inactive. I know CSX utilises several of the tracks, but after ten hours, I don’t remember which ones they were! I am sorry! You might have luck asking someone at BeltLine, Inc., though they probably couldn’t officially advise you to try it. :-/

      I’ve done some photoshoots on the tracks in the West End alongside Lee Street. But you def have to be careful; I believe that might be rail that is in use. Good luck!

  4. Flying Dutchman
    March 1, 2014 / 21:31

    Great read! Would love to do this walk myself!

    • March 4, 2014 / 22:32

      I gotta say, it was awesome. Be safe if you do it, and definitely watch out for trains! You must stay safe.

  5. James Becker
    April 22, 2014 / 21:33

    a friend and I are trying to find someone to guide us on a full Beltline walk. If you know of anyone that could provide this service please let me know? Thank You:)

  6. March 4, 2015 / 00:45

    Nice pics. I walked 3/4 of the BeltLine a couple of years ago over three weeks from Lindbergh Marta to Reynolds town-Iman Park to West End and almost to Bankhead Marta until it started raining. Let me know if you are interested in the Piedmont Park Photography Project which will feature a pictorial of you. It will give you something to write about. Not say that you aren’t already busy. I only write enough on my blog to give me an excuse to post images.

  7. Denise Britti
    September 7, 2015 / 14:37

    I know this blog was from 2013 but if you/anyone can let me know if there are still groups that walk the full beltline, we’d love to know.

  8. Suzanne
    October 13, 2016 / 09:49

    Thank you for explaining the Belt Line!! I’m definitely going to walk it!!

  9. Valerie
    December 30, 2016 / 18:53

    Great blog! Thank you for the read!

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