Buckhead’s Top 5 Natural Wanders: Winter Edition

Buckhead is known for its connection to nature. The juxtaposition of green space and modern amenities is one of the things that makes Buckhead unique. The natural world offers different opportunities for exploration in different seasons, so we wanted to share five of our favorite places in Buckhead to hike and explore in the winter.

East Palisades Trail at Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

The East Palisades area of the CRNRA easily takes the number 1 spot on our list of best places to experience nature in Buckhead in the winter.

The East Palisades Trail is accessible from the Whitewater Creek parking lot near Harris Trail NW, and from the Indian Creek parking lot in Sandy Springs. The trail winds from the eastern bank of the Chattahoochee up to the bluffs overlooking the river. Proving that you don’t have to drive to north Georgia to have a fun hike and find some high ground. The bare trees in winter don’t detract from the area’s natural beauty, and you’ll quickly forget you’re minutes from downtown Atlanta.  

The East Palisades Trail features some of the more famous spots on this part of the river, and some secrets as well. There is a deck that offers beautiful views of the river from the cliffs above, and we recommend that you venture north along the river to find the bamboo forest. This trail system rarely feels crowded in the winter. Although the parking lots are relatively small and tend to fill up fast on the weekends. There is plenty of room in the CRNRA to accommodate a lot of visitors while still feeling secluded.

The Wetland area at Blue Heron Nature Preserve

The Blue Heron Nature Preserve is a a nice place to get away, just minutes from the center of Buckhead. You can access the wetland areas by parking at the Urban Ecology Center on Roswell Road and walking south past the Edison Mill Dam. The raised wooden boardwalks that make up this southern section of the 3-mile Blueway Trail make a great choice for a hike in any weather. There is plenty of wildlife to see at Blue Heron if you take your time, even though you will sometimes find yourself walking close to houses and busy streets. The bare trees in winter make the surrounding neighborhoods feel closer to the path, but the section of the trail south of Lakemoore Drive is generally more secluded. Be sure to check out the wildlife viewing blind in the wetlands area to try and catch a glimpse of blue herons, red tailed hawks and more.

The Blue Heron Wildlife Refuge is an especially fun destination for kids. The northern sections of the trail along Nancy Creek have lots of room for the kids to leave the beaten path and explore when the weather is dry.

The Quarry Garden at the Atlanta History Center

The Quarry Garden is just behind the Atlanta History Museum and adjacent to the Smith Farm Gardens. What strikes me about the Quarry Garden is how quickly you feel immersed in the forest. The bustle of West Paces Ferry Road is instantly replaced by the sounds of a small waterfall and the wind in the trees. The wide variety of plants in the garden insures its beauty year round. Even though many of the hardwoods are bare, there are still plenty of evergreens that make the gardens feel anything but dormant.

I saw a wider variety of bird species during my visit to the Quarry Garden than at some of the larger parks in the area. The gardens are an Atlanta Audubon Society wildlife sanctuary. The History Center grounds serve as a forest oasis amongst the high-rises and busy streets of downtown Buckhead. I saw hawks, woodpeckers, robins, and several other species of birds within just a few minutes of my arrival.

The Paul Koshewa Trail

The Kosh trail at The Westminster Schools is a wonderful natural resource for the Paces community. This 1.9 mile trail gives nearby residents a place to hike and enjoy nature in their own backyards.

The Kosh trail may not have a lot of wildlife along the busier sections of the trail in the winter because of the proximity to roads, athletic fields, and parking lots, but you will see your share of birds and other wildlife on the more secluded stretches of the trail. There is a blue heron rookery along Nancy Creek near the Gym and baseball fields. The herons put on quite a show just before sunset as they are coming home to roost.

The Kosh trail is a great choice if you are trying to get your steps in and your heart rate up. There is nothing too strenuous, but you will get some good exercise by walking up and down the hillier sections. The Kosh Trail is the cross country track for The Westminster Schools. As such it is a great option for trail runners as well. Even when the trees are bare in the winter, there is plenty of shade to keep you out of the sun for most of your hike or run.

Tanyard Creek Park

Tanyard Creek Park is another one of those uncanny in-town parks that makes you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. This 14.5 acre park follows Tanyard Creek through the Collier Hills neighborhood. By the time you leave your car and walk away from the parking lot you feel like you are immersed in the forest.

The trail through the park is part of the Northwest Beltline trail that connects Atlanta Memorial Park to the beltline trail through Ardmore park. Following the trail north to Memorial Park is a fun and convenient way to extend your hike. The accessibility of this park from so many different directions makes it a great choice for a quick hike on a cool day. Whether Tanyard Creek Park is your destination or simply a beautiful area to pass through on the way to some other part of the beltline, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon.Tanyard Creek is great for the kids because there’s lots of flat open ground where they can play and explore, a nice sized playground, and don’t miss the cool wooden train trestle at the south end of the park!

What’s your favorite place to tune into Buckhead’s natural wonders in the winter? We are always looking for new places to get out and hike. Even when the weather is cold!