Northside Parks and Adventures

Story by Bob Pepalis/Photos by Jason Getz

Dunwoody recreation and trails

Dunwoody has six parks and Donaldson-Bannister Farm, a 5-acre property with areas for picnics and walks and playtime on the open lawn.

Dunwoody Park’s 35 acres includes a playground, two baseball fields, hiking trails and Dunwoody Nature Center, which inspires a love of the outdoors and cultivates environmental awareness. Children learn to become backyard naturalists through programs, classes and events.

The City of Dunwoody created the Jim Benson Bike Trail, an eight-mile path that starts and ends at Brook Run Park, one of Dunwoody’s premier parks.

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The park is 102 acres. Two are devoted to Brook Run Dog Park, a fenced, wooded area where pets can play leash-free. The Brook Run Skate Park, at 27,000 square feet, is the largest in metro Atlanta and attracts all levels of experience in the sport.

Brook Run also has a playground, multi-use fields and a community garden that produces organic food.

Roswell mixes history and nature

Roswell has more than 900 acres of parkland. Roswell Area Park is the city’s flagship park, featuring a lighted trail system, playgrounds, ball fields and tennis courts that draw United States Tennis Association tournaments.

“We like that it’s multipurpose,” says Stephanie Dean, who often takes her 8- and 10-year-old sons there. “We’ve played tennis and taken swimming lessons. The kids love the playground tower, and love to play hide and seek. Personally, I like that the pavilion is right there near the play area. I can sit at the table and watch the boys very easily.”

Roswell mixes history with its trails at Old Mill Park, a true hidden gem on the Northside. Vickery Creek runs through the park, surrounded by winding paths, a waterfall and a small beach area.

The park’s Roswell Mill Trail is a historic site of old millworks that once supplied cloth for Confederate troops during the Civil War. You can still see the old machine works building on the trail.

Sam Chontos encourages his three children — ages 5, 6 and 7 — to climb rocks, explore and embrace the nature of Old Mill Park.

“It provides a wonderful safe environment for them to have unstructured playtime,” he says. “For us, the thing that draws us out to the parks is that they are not just a play set or structured ball fields.”

Johns Creek ravine forest and multi-use trails

Even more woodlands can be found at Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Center in Johns Creek. The nature preserve is located on 46 acres of ravine forest that include a remnant of a gold mine, foundation stones of the old mill and a visitors center that houses animal exhibits and dioramas of native animals and birds.

Johns Creek has created multi-use trails along several of its streets. These include Bell, Rogers Bridge and State Bridge roads. These trails are more than just sidewalks: Several of them include stacked-stone seating areas and plazas.

Walking and jogging trails are also available to active park-goers at Newtown, Ocee and Shakerag parks.

Johns Creek also has access points for boat launches on the Chattahoochee River at Abbotts Bridge Road, Medlock Bridge Road and Jones Bridge Road.

Run, walk, bike on the Big Creek Greenway

Alpharetta’s Big Creek Greenway has been a popular draw since the first phase of the park opened in the late 1990s. The nearly eight-mile trail in the flood plain of the Chattahoochee tributary includes a mountain bike path and passive park.

Insider tip:

The National Park Service maintains 12 boat ramps along the water trail. Local cities — as well as community, state and other federal partners — help maintain and increase the quality and access to the river.

Hurried motorists can easily miss Lost Corner, a tranquil 24-acre park development project along Dalrymple Road in Sandy Springs. The property was a working family farm for decades. Before her death in 2008, owner Margaret “Peggy” Miles formed the nonprofit Friends of Lost Corner in order to make the land a preserve for the community. Fore more information, visit sandyspringsconservancy.org/lost-corner-preserve.

Plan your visit

Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area: www.nps.gov/chat

Sandy Springs Parks: www.sandyspringsga.org

Dunwoody Parks: www.dunwoodyga.gov

Roswell Parks: www.roswellgov.com

Johns Creek: www.johnscreekga.gov

Big Creek Greenway: www.bigcreekgreenway.com

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