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Take a Hike

Ozong Agborsangaya
View of Hawthorne Pool at Tallulah Gorge

The spring season is in full effect as the flowers are blooming and the temperatures are starting to rise. While the region may lack in big city attractions, it more than makes up for it in the outdoor department. Now is the perfect time for students to take advantage of all the beautiful nature North Georgia has to offer.

The benefits of hiking in terms of physical health go without saying. The use of hiking as a low to medium effort source of cardio does wonders for the cardiovascular and respiratory system, however the more compelling benefits are the mental ones.

College students face a hectic schedule balancing work, a social life and school. While the spring season means the semester is coming to an end, there is no letup in pressure with final projects and exams approaching.

Amber Ignatius, an associate professor of Geography and Geospatial Science at the University of North Georgia routinely takes her classes on hikes as part of her curriculum, and is adamant that hiking does good for the mind.

“Hiking provides significant benefits for students, going on a nature walk is excellent for mental health. Studies show that exposure to nature can decrease anxiety and lower heartrates. Our daily lives can feel extremely stressful with cell phones providing 24 hour access to the news cycle and social media, but hiking creates an opportunity to disconnect and become more aware of our surroundings.” -Amber Igantius, UNG associate professor of Geography and Geospatial science 

Hiking trails are far from uncommon in North Georgia and range from all different lengths and various degrees of difficulty.

One of the more popular hiking trails in the region is at the Tallulah Gorge State Park located in Tallulah Falls.

Renowned as one of the more spectacular canyons on the eastern side of the country, the gorge is roughly 1,000 feet deep and features a trail almost two miles long. Visitors are sure to witness scenic views of the waterfalls and overall canyon from various lookout points and the suspension bridge.

While this particular trail grades out as a more moderate to taxing hike, and their is a misconception that all hikes lean this way, Igantius says there are plenty of other opportunities that require less physical wear on the body that still allow one to take advantage of all the benefits.

“A short walk in greenspace can be meditative and create a sense of quiet contemplation,” she said.

Less demanding trails in the area can be found at Yahoola Creek Park in Dahlonega and Wilshire Trails in Gainesville, as both are just paths in their respective parks.

Screenshot from MerlinID of birds discovered at Tallulah Gorge (Ozong Agborsangaya )

To maximize the hiking experience, having friends tag along to prioritize safety and grow social connections is suggested. The use of apps such as Merlin Bird ID and PlantNet allow one to connect with nature as they can identify the surrounding species in the area.

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