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Column: Great hikes do not require trip to mountains
by Thornton Kennedy
Northside Neighbor Columnist
October 23, 2013 02:23 PM | 2088 views | 0 0 comments | 81 81 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thornton Kennedy
Thornton Kennedy
If golf is a good walk spoiled as Mark Twain is rumored to have said, then a hike in the fall in Atlanta is the exact opposite — a good walk elevated to perfection.

In this week’s column I wanted to revisit two of my favorite outdoor spots that perfectly illustrate why this is one of the best places to live. These are nature hikes that do not require an hour’s drive into the north Georgia mountains. They are tucked away in our neighborhoods, hidden gems open to all but enjoyed by few.

The best hike in Atlanta in my humble opinion is Whitewater Creek Trail. The clearly marked entrance to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area is a stone’s throw from the intersection of Harris Trial and Whitewater Creek Road. It is a winding drive to the parking lot and a donation of $2 is required for the vehicle. Just ahead of the paved parking area is an open beach on the river frequented by dogs and their people. To the right of the opening is a wood and steel bridge that leads to a path along the river.

We have seen deer, heron and geese along this well-kept path that is in between Northside Parkway and Powers Ferry Road. You can do a loop which is a little more difficult, but if you are not up for a slight climb, just turn around after about half a mile. There are also a few benches along the trail to sit and enjoy the serenity of the river.

Getting lost in the only perpetually preserved old growth forest in Atlanta is a different experience from walking along the banks of the Chattahoochee. The John Ripley Forbes Big Trees Forest Preserve is a 30-acre tree, plant and wildlife sanctuary on Roswell Road in Sandy Springs. There are a few creeks, tons of wildlife including foxes and various woodland creatures and many 100- to 200-year-old white oaks. It is a maintained forest and operates as an education center. You will find outdoor classrooms and lots of places to stop and contemplate existence.

For those who need to move, Big Trees has a mile and a half of maintained walking trails. Donations are requested and appreciated. When the leaves change their color, it is quite simply one of the most beautiful places in metro Atlanta. It is about two miles north of the intersection of Roswell and Abernathy roads, next to the North Fulton Government Service Center.

This ability to go from the traffic and the craziness of a thriving city to some of the most beautiful, tranquil places on Earth in a matter of minutes is what makes our city truly unique. This time of year, with the cooler weather and vibrant colors, it is perfect time to go see for yourself.

Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a sixth-generation Atlantan and a former news editor of this paper. He can be reached at

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