This out-and back journey begins at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in downtown Atlanta. From there, the paved trail heads east/northeast through a series of greenspaces and parks (including Freedom Park) and continues, eventually, all the way to Stone Mountain Park. (On different maps, you may see it labeled first as Freedom Trail
and then change to Stone Mountain Trail as it goes east, depending on the map/source. Some may have the whole thing labeled as Stone Mt. Trail, and visa/versa.)
This featured route departs from the main "trail" near the end, cutting due south alongside Candler Park and then east, to arrive at a charming 1-block shopping district nestled inside a residential neighborhood area. Here, you'll find the Candler Park Market, The Flying Biscuit, Dr. Bombay's Tea Room, and several shops selling crafts/gifts (many by local artists), vintage clothing, records, and much more. On your way there, you'll also enjoy some interesting outdoor art sculptures right along the trail. At about the halfway point, there is a connector to the Beltline Eastside Trail
: another urban foot/bike tour which deserves its own description.
There are several options for parking and public transit listed on the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site Website
Also check out the nearby Relay bikeshare program
One option is to begin from the King Center and Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. (The satellite view on Google Maps is also helpful here to orient oneself to the location of historic features like MLK's tomb, etc.) Cross Auburn Avenue heading north through the grounds of The MLK National Historic Site and the (new) Ebenezer Baptist Church. If you keep the historic site building on your left, you can follow sidewalks up through the middle of the block to then cross Irwin Street. After one more block, cross Cain Street and keep right on the path when you have a choice, heading east, (it will bend sharply left first). You'll be parallel with the south side of Freedom Parkway. Right after crossing Highland Ave, you'll come across your first opportunity for food in the Old 4th Ward area (unless you want to wait until the end point of this out-and-back trip). To the right, you'll see a place called "Across the Street". If you divert here, there are several choices, including Highland Bakery: a popular breakfast/brunch/lunch spot.
Continuing on, you'll come to a brief covered section and an uphill climb. At the top of the hill, you'll see a small white sign on the right with 2 arrows saying "Atlanta Beltline Trail" (right) and "Decatur and Stone Mountain" (straight). Just after this sign, you'll see a path to the right that branches off sharply and goes down a short hill to the Atlanta Beltline. If you want to stick to this route, however, stay straight to go to Freedom Park and Decatur. The "Beltline Eastside Trail
" can be an adventure of it's own, or you can add it to this trip (on the way out or back) for a longer tour, depending on how much time you have and how many places you want to stop.
Moving forward (northeast) on the Freedom Trail
: In the next half mile, you'll cross North Highland Ave, and and then Moreland Avenue. Once across Moreland, the sidewalk splits. Take a left immediately, then stay to the right to follow the main path through Freedom Park: a 200-acre greenspace with gently rolling terrain dotted with trees and some beautiful sculptures by local artists. After about half a mile's worth of sidewalk, the path crosses Euclid Ave, then Oakdale Rd. The next road is Candler Park Drive. If you went across and continued on the path, you would stay on the Freedom/Stone Mountain Trail.
However, for this featured hike, turn right here and follow Candler Park Drive down the west side of Candler Park (which also has a big greenspace with paved paths to explore if you wish). About half a mile south brings you to McLendon Avenue. Turn left here, heading east. In just over a quarter of a mile, you'll find yourself at our end destination. This area has plenty to explore, including Candler Park Market
and several small independent shops selling everything from local arts and crafts to vintage clothing and records. Hang out or get some work done at Dr. Bombay's
while sipping on tea/coffee nestled among cozy couches and tables and walls of used books. (Check out their "Learning Tea" benefit project on the website), or stop by Kashi Atlanta
for a yoga or meditation class before heading back the way you came.
This is definitely a place one could spend a whole afternoon, but don't forget to allow time to get back the way you came!
The most outstanding historic feature if this route is the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site at the beginning of the route, featuring MLK Jr.'s birth home, Historic Ebenezer Babtist Church where he was baptized, his, tomb, and visitors centers and historic memorials. See this website for more info: nps.gov/malu/planyourvisit/…
Freedom Parkway was originally planned as a highway, was fought by the community, and instead became the multiuse parkway we have today.
For more info on Freedom Park: freedompark.org/
For more info on Candler Park: candlerpark.org