Yes, Atlanta is a major metropolitan area, complete with tall buildings, crowded streets and much-maligned traffic. But the city also has more tree cover than most urban areas in the country, which means hidden green spaces and parks abound. For a more serene experience, skip the crowds of Piedmont Park and the Eastside BeltLine Trail to visit some of these lesser-known but equally beautiful spaces.
East Palisades Trail
Nestled in the heart of a quiet residential neighborhood in Buckhead, this offshoot of the extensive Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area has two entry points and nearly 4 miles of trails, with options for both novices and advanced hikers alike. While the bankhead near the Whitewater Trail entry point is often crowded, the trails leading away from the river are more tranquil. The steep trail rewards hikers with breathtaking cliffside river views and the serenity of a hidden bamboo forest.
Highlights of this 154 acre preserve tucked away in the Emory University campus include miles of walking and running trails, the elegant Tudor-style Lullwater House mansion where the current university president resides, Candler Lake, and a 210-foot suspension bridge that leads to a beautiful waterfall and a lush forest teeming with wildlife like birds, rabbits and beavers.
Duck Pond Park
Located just a few blocks away from bustling Peachtree Road, Duck Pond Park is the crown jewel of the Peachtree Heights neighborhood. With nearly 7.5 acres of green space, the park is home to more than 40 species of birds and the perfect quiet spot for an urban picnic with a side of birdwatching.
Rooftop Garden, Clough Commons at Georgia Tech
Don’t worry—no student ID is needed to gain access to this sustainable rooftop oasis on the fifth floor of the LEED Platinum-certified Clough Commons building on the Georgia Tech campus. Stop by the Starbucks on the building’s second floor before venturing to the gardens, which feature an 18,000-square-foot native plant garden, panoramic views of the city and plenty of benches for reading or just enjoying the view.
Lake Claire Community Land Trust
Accessible via MARTA, this eclectic, 1.5-acre urban greenspace is part-garden, part-playground, part-neighborhood gathering place. Highlights include the Sunset Overlook with views of the downtown skyline, a Japanese meditation garden and Big Lou the emu, a Land Trust resident for over 20 years.
The Monastery of the Holy Spirit
Find some Zen at this Rockdale County spiritual center, located just outside of the city in the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Center. This serene retreat boasts a 2,000-acre preserve, a bonsai greenhouse and seven daily prayers services, as well as biking and running paths for those who prefer self-guided meditation and reflection.
Kirkwood Urban Forest and Community Garden
This former trash dump has been transformed into a 7-acre hidden community garden and conservation park, complete with secluded walking trails, a spring-fed creek, a small orchard, frog pond, wooden swings and ample space for an urban picnic.
Blue Heron Nature Preserve
This 30-acre Buckhead preserve features creek-side trails and four distinct natural habitats—pond, meadow, wetland, and woodland—that provide a haven for local wildlife and native plant species. Enjoy the butterfly sanctuary, art installations, medicinal plant talks with trained herbalists, yoga classes and guided forest walks.
Westside BeltLine Trail
This latest spur of Atlanta’s popular multi-use trail is less traveled than its neighbor to the east. With 14 access points, four public parks, and 40 acres of greenway space, the 3-mile trail in southwest Atlanta is perfect for biking and walking. Bonus: the trail is just a few blocks from Monday Night Brewing’s Garage, the local brewing company’s popular second taproom.
Doll’s Head Trail, Constitution Lakes Park
Two lakes surrounded by 125-acre nature preserve now occupy the pits once used to excavate the state’s signature red clay in southeast Atlanta. At under just 2 miles, the gently rolling Doll’s Head Loop is both an outdoor hike and art installation, with found objects like bricks, toys and namesake dolls discarded on the trails or washed up on the lakeshore taking center stage.