Want to get away from it all but don't feel like spending a lot of time getting there? Fortunately, you can escape from the city in under an hour and feel like you're stepping into a different world.
These five natural wonders are less than an hour from Atlanta and providing a soothing respite from the big city:
Stroll through the forest in Cobb County
60 Fontaine Road, Mableton (a 30-minute drive), 770-528-8810
Cobb County's Heritage Park isn't far away from the city, but it still feels isolated in spots. The 105-acre nature preserve lets you walk over wetlands via an elevated boardwalk. Ther's also a 1.7-mile hiking trail within the park. If you'd like to continue your adventure, the park connects to the Silver Comet Trail.
One of Georgia's historic covered bridges is also located in Heritage Park. Nested among the greenery and crossing over Nickajack Creek, the Concord Covered Bridge is a rustic throwback that was built in 1872. It's been structurally improved since then, but retains its considerable charm.
210 S. Broad St., Winder (a 55-minute drive), 770-867-3489
Fort Yargo State Park in Winder has a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities as well as gorgeous scenery. It's also home to a 1792 log fort that was built by settlers for protection against the Creek and Cherokee tribes.
Fish, boat, kayak or canoe in the park's 260-acre lake or play on a challenging disc golf course in the woods. You'll also find 20.5 miles of trails, ideal for hiking or mountain biking. If you'd like to stay overnight, you can rent a cottage or cabin or stay at a traditional campsite. Yurts – permanent wood and canvas structures – are also available, and, with furniture and electricity, provide a comfortable "glamping" experience as you enjoy nature.
Soar – and sleep – above it all
205 Horseshoe Dam Road, Banning (a 45-minute drive), 770-834-9149
Historic Banning Mills, just outside Whitesburg, is located in a hidden gorge on Snake Creek. The non-profit retreat and conservation center has natural adventures that range from fairly relaxing to extreme. It's home to one of the country's longest and fastest zip line tours, and, if you're up to the experience, you can soar over the treetops and across the gorge. Tamer zip line tours are available for families with kids. You can also hike through the property's nature trails to see an array of wildflowers and plants.
A charming tree house village provides overnight accomodation and features comfortable amenities in a Swiss Family Robinson-style setting. Cabins are also available.
Go fishing and exploring
543 Elliott Trail, Mansfield (a 55-minute drive), 770-784-3059
The Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center is located near Mansfield and spans 6,400 acres. It's managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and offers activities and programs in a beautiful, wooded setting. Hike or horseback ride over several miles of trails or bring your binoculars to spot some of the 200-plus species of birds.
If you'd like to get out on the water, you can canoe or take your boat out onto 20 different ponds – the largest of which encompasses 95 acres. Piers are also available if you'd prefer to fish from the shore.
Enjoy the view
4075 Spot Road, Cumming (a 40-minute drive), 770-781-2215
Sawnee Mountain Preserve in Cumming has 821 scenic acres of space that let you get away from it all. An 11-mile wooded trail system is available for walking, running or hiking. You'll pass abandoned gold mines along the way, and you can also hike to the top of a natural rock formation known as Indian Seats. From there, you'll enjoy views of the North Georgia Mountains.
If you want to cool off and take a break, the Visitor Center has interactive exhibits on the mountain's natural and cultural histories as well as a lounge and resource library where you can relax and read.
Summer Guide OTP edition is a seasonal series from The Atlanta Journal Constitution that highlights some of the best dining and outdoor experiences taking place outside of Atlanta’s perimeter.
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