This Month’s Featured National Heritage Area: Lunar-Like Landscapes and Inspiring History Await at Arabia Mountain
Creating the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area (AMNHA) took some time—about 400 million years, give or take. Nature, history, and culture converge in this remarkable part of Georgia to create a landscape found nowhere else. The AMNHA features geological oddities known as monadnocks, a small historic town built out of granite, an active Trappist monastery, and more than 25 miles of dedicated paved hike/bike trails linking it all.
Located just 20 minutes east of Atlanta, the AMNHA offers visitors a chance to escape to peaceful lakes and wooded trails. Those looking for more of a thrill can race over switchback bike paths or even spend the night in a tree. Each season offers visitors a host of new reasons to continue to explore the lunar-like landscape and deep history of the region. See our highlights below as a starting point to plan your trip. The best way to learn about the ANMHA is to visit!
- Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve: The granite slopes of Arabia Mountain are the most distinctive landscape in the national heritage area (along with sister Panola Mountain, below). Though the granite ruins evoke a time of extensive granite quarrying, the preserve is now a refuge for federally endangered plant species and a destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Hiking trails throughout the 2,500-acre park meander by large formations of exposed granite, wetlands, pine and oak forests, streams, and lakes.
- Hike/Bike PATH System: More than 25 miles of trails are open to bikers, hikers, and walkers, with ten more miles scheduled to open this year. The path system includes a span over the South River that extends the length of a football field and connects to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit (see below). This trail is intense, with amazing vistas, challenging switchbacks, and dramatic elevation changes! Preview the highlights and get more information with our interactive PDF.
- Flat Rock Archive: The Archive protects and shares the history of Flat Rock, Georgia. This predominantly African-American community formed during slavery and its descendants share the story of how their community survived through slavery, emancipation, segregation, and the Great Migration. Guided tours of the area, including the slave cemetery, are available.
- Monastery of the Holy Spirit: Founded during World War II as a place of peace and refuge, the monastery buildings are an architectural marvel. The Abbey Church, nestled in 2,200 acres of conservation land, was built by the monks themselves of poured concrete in the Gothic style, and is truly a sight. With the opening on the Monastic Heritage Center in 2011, the monastery is now a destination for those seeking to learn and explore. Discover why the monks chose rural Georgia to establish a new community, visit the bookshop to sample monk-made treats, and wander in the bonsai garden. The monks welcome people of all faiths, and those wanting to stay a little longer can join a spiritual retreat.
- Panola Mountain State Park: A National Natural Landmark, this park showcases one of the area’s monadnocks, isolated rock formations that rise from surrounding hills. The rare ecosystems at Panola Mountain have been protected from development since 1972. Today, it is a recreational haven where guest can spend the night at a primitive campground or sleep in a tree! The park also offers programs on archery, geocaching, orienteering, birding, and tree-climbing, as well as ranger-guided tours.
- City of Lithonia: The name itself means “stone place” and the roots of the city run deep in the surrounding granite formations. Explorers can see the remains of one of the area’s first African-American public schools and cemeteries, visit an early lending library, and marvel at the modest granite architecture.
This is just a sample of the adventures that await you at the AMNHA. You can plan your trip using our maps and event calendar, and keep up with us on Facebook for the latest news and photos. Don’t forget to get your National Parks Passport stamp before you leave!
This story is part of our monthly series on national heritage areas, the large lived-in landscapes managed through innovative partnerships to tell America’s cultural history. See more stories in this series.