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The Short Version: The Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area is located 20 minutes outside of Atlanta and is a picturesque destination for active couples. The area sits on 40,000 acres of land that includes a 400-million-year-old granite mountain. Arabia Mountain is a great place to get away for a group hike, photography workshop, mountaintop yoga class, or a stroll with a partner. In addition, the preserve offers plenty of cultural and historical significance for a well-rounded date night experience.
If Atlanta couples get tired of cocktail bars and strolls in Piedmont Park, they can visit one of the area’s little-known natural treasures — just a 20-minute drive from downtown.
The Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area sits on 40,000 acres of land and offers spectacular hiking trails and opportunities for many other outdoor activities perfect for a memorable date.
The granite mountain and surrounding area took 400 million years to form, which may be hard to imagine as it’s so close to a major metropolitan area. Nearby, the Flat Rock Archives provides a look at how freed enslaved people contributed to the dynamic changes of local agricultural communities. Whether you’re looking for a challenging hike or prefer to exercise your mind and learn about the area’s history, Arabia Mountain offers something for everyone.
“This whole place is a living landscape where life is built on stone,” said Zack Loehle, Communications Manager for the Arabia Alliance. “Small and mighty plants thrive here, and people have made their mark on this solid foundation. It’s a nationally significant landscape. We have a variety of green spaces and historic sites, and the National Heritage Area connects that all.”
Just south of Arabia Mountain is Panola Mountain, which is a National Natural Landmark. Unlike Arabia Mountain — and most granite mountains throughout the Southeast United States — Panola has never been quarried. The pristine nature of the entire Davidson-Arabia Nature Preserve can make you and your date feel as if you have been transported to a different part of the country.
Both mountains are examples of granite monadnocks — a term that describes an isolated and exposed rock hill. They both have sections of hardy and rare plants that grow among the outcroppings of stone, creating a one-of-a-kind landscape that has served to spark more than a few romances — and even wedding proposals.
Zack said that the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area team cares deeply about keeping it healthy and accessible to the community. Experts and volunteers work in the national heritage area, its archives, visitor centers, and nature preserves. Staff members are also eager to answer questions and organize events for couples and families.
“We’re lucky to work with people who care about the landscape, wildlife, people, and history,” he said. “They work every day to make sure that everyone else enjoys it, too.”
Many of those who visit Arabia Mountain live in the Atlanta metro area, although it frequently hosts couples who come from Florida, North Carolina, and other states for hikes.
It’s an exciting date location not only for its natural views but also because it is home to diverse plant and animal species. Two species that thrive on the mountain are considered endangered by the federal government. Couples can spot the brilliantly red diamorpha plants that grow in the small pools of water that dot the mountain’s flat rocks.
Visitors have other ways to enjoy the natural area, too. It offers 33 miles of multi-use trails that crisscross the preserve, making it stroller-friendly and wheelchair-accessible. Along the paved path are plenty of trailheads for those looking to explore further.
Couples can also enjoy Arabia Mountain for free. There is no fee for parking or hiking, and leashed dogs are welcome. Those with state licenses can even fish in Arabia Lake.
“It’s really exciting. We’re known as Atlanta’s best-kept secret, but we’re trying to make it a little less secret,” Zack said.
Perhaps the most popular date options for visiting Arabia Mountain are its self-guided hikes. Zack recommends the Mountaintop Trail, which takes couples to the top of Arabia Mountain to enjoy its gorgeous view. The 1.3-mile trail connects to 30 miles of hiking trails. It’s perfect in the spring when couples can enjoy the wildflowers and reds of the diamorpha at the summit of the cratered mountain. But it’s also excellent in the fall, as the panoramic landscape is great for taking in fall foliage.
Another popular hike is the Meadow Loop at Vaughter’s Farm, which starts in nearby Panola Mountain State Park. The 1.25-mile trail was recently completed thanks to a grant from REI.
“It’s one of the last dairy farm landscapes in the former dairy capital of the state of Georgia. It’s a beautiful, picturesque spot that couples can enjoy,” Zack said.
Rangers offer a variety of guided hikes at 8 a.m. on Fridays and Sundays throughout the year. These hikes are an ideal way to learn more about Arabia’s natural and cultural resources. Some guided hikes focus on specific topics, including the birds of prey that live on the mountain, activities like archery, and Native American arts.
One romantic option is the Moonlight Mountain Hike, a guided hike up Panola Mountain that allows couples to enjoy the sunset over Atlanta before hiking back down in the moonlight to make s’mores around a lakeside campfire.
“We were doing a guided hike this past spring at the top of Arabia Mountain, and we paused for a group photo,” Zack said. “We looked over, and someone was proposing to their significant other at the top of the mountain.”
A good time for couples to enjoy the Arabia Mountain landscape is during the annual Monadnock Madness event. Because the granite mountain gets so hot — with temperatures above 100 degrees during the summer — the team invites people to explore during March. They offer guided hikes of three mountains — Arabia, Panola, and Stone — to explore the unique ecosystem they share. They also plan photography workshops and mountaintop yoga sessions.
Couples can check out the cultural areas within the preserve as well, including the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. This active monastery features a large exhibit center, bookstore, and a bonsai greenhouse. There, visitors can learn about the building’s remarkable history.
In addition, visitors can check out the Flat Rock Archives, located in a home that dates back to 1917. Inside, archivists tell the story of the historical African-American Flat Rock Community.
Whatever you decide to do, the team encourages people to keep conservation in mind — both cultural history and the environment. Zack underscored the importance of taking care of nature when hiking around the top of Arabia Mountain, which is covered with shallow pools called solution pits.
“As you hike and enjoy this other-worldly landscape, make sure you don’t step in patches of mud, water, or vegetation on top of the mountain,” he said. “That’s where the rare plants live, and we want to make sure they flourish so that everyone can enjoy them on future dates.”