It's Spring and gorgeous outside.... time to get your hiking gear and hit Stone Mountain Park! This is the perfect weather to get out for a local hike and Stone Mountain offers so much for the hiker. You have the option of actually hiking up and down the mountain or use several loops around the moutain, whatever you feel like doing, it's yours for the taking.
Stone Mountain Park actually features 15 miles of hiking and walking trails, including the 1.3 mile trail to the top of the mountain which starts at the Confederate Hall Historical & Environmental Education Center.
The Loop: What I love most about the loop is that you get to vary your terrain. You hit some easy spots and you hit some not-so-easy spots. There are small hills and grades in the trails that really give your backside a great workout. Because the loop is longer in mileage, you can really give yourself a full workout. You will find many opportunities along the way to stop and perform small "bootcamp" type exercises to give your body the extra boost you may want. You will also have opportunities to jog or run parts of the loop so you can combine running with your hiking.
More details and loop trail maps can be found at http://www.georgiatrails.com/gt/Stone_Mountain_Loop
Mountaintop trail: The trail to the top is the hike I find the most challenging and the most rewarding! The 1.3 miles up and 1.3 miles back down is a great way to build your heart rate, target the calves, buttocks and hamstrings and give your lower body the kick in the pants it needs. An athletic walk, the hike up Stone Mountain is mostly gradual with only a couple of steeper areas. Still, you should be generally fit before you make the hike up Stone Mountain.
More details about the climb to the top including trail maps can be found at http://www.georgiatrails.com/gt/Stone_Mountain_Mountaintop_Trail
In the first place, hiking (which can be as moderate as a walk around your block or as strenuous as a mountain climb) is a weight-bearing exercise, which helps prevent osteoporosis. Being outside in the sunshine, which provides the body with vitamin D, is another bone-healthy reason to take a hike.
Because hiking is an aerobic exercise, it offers important cardiovascular benefits. Going up and down hills gives the heart a great workout. Hiking can also help you manage your weight and is a joint-friendly form of exercise that can keep arthritis sufferers more limber and mobile.
As with most cardio workouts, hiking decreases blood pressure and leads you to your weight loss goals. In addition to the physical workout you get, you'll gain a mental workout by concentrating on each step, breathing fresh air, enjoying the great outdoors and gaining a sense of accomplishment once finished.
More information about the hiking trails around Stone Mountain and the climb to the top can be found at http://www.stonemountainpark.com/outdoors-recreation/outdoor-detail.aspx?AttractionID=805
Read more about the fitness benefits of hiking in http://www.examiner.com/cardio-fitness-in-atlanta/take-a-hike-it-s-perfect-weather.