Every year we are compelled to look up to the trees and give a nod of appreciation to Mother Nature. Luckily, there are plenty of places — inside the metro Atlanta area and beyond — that offer the glory of fall colors. Whether your tree gazing means a walk around your neighborhood or a drive to the mountains, the splendor will be awesome. Here are some of our favorite sojourns into foliage gazing.
Mount Yonah Trailhead
Near Helen at the tip of the southern Appalachian Mountains, Yonah Mountain Trail is a moderately challenging hike with steep drop-offs, but the trek is worth the energy; it offers outstanding summit views. Along the way, on this four-mile hike, there are wildflowers such as mountain laurel, trickling streams and wildlife. Hikers should be aware that there are drop-offs that are sheer, sudden and extremely dangerous, so that it’s important to pay attention to where you are going even as you look up at the foliage. You can also camp here.
Free. 1900 Chambers Road, Cleveland. 770- 297-3000, fs.usda.gov.
Little Mulberry Park
With more than 14 miles of quiet trails over 890 acres, there will be plenty of Instagram-worthy pictures at Gwinnett County’s Little Mulberry Park. Thanks to its trail network, you can choose your level of intensity, meaning you can take a leisure walk on some trails and get an aerobic workout on others. Either way, the leaves will be vibrant.
Open sunrise to sunset. Free. Several entrances. 678-277-0850, gwinnettparklife.com/parks/little-mulberry-park.
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
Maybe its the solemn history of the Civil War, but somehow the leaves at the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park seem to want to reinforce that all is good in the world by presenting a stunning array of colors each year. There are more than 15 miles trails, each offering different views and levels of difficulty. Among them are the Battlefield Trail (11-mile loop); Cheatham Hill and Kolb Farm Loop Trail (5.8-mile loop); Environmental Trail (1.35-miles); Kennesaw Mountain Trail (2.1 miles) and the 24 Gun Trail (3.5 miles). To make the hiking even more informative, the Kennesaw Mountain Calorie Counter allows visitors to keep track of the calories they are burning while hiking.
6:30 a.m.- 7:30 p.m.; 6:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m., March through November. Free. 900 Kennesaw Mountain Drive, Kennesaw. 770-427-4668, nps.gov/kemo.
Yellow River Park
Want to feel as if you’re in the North Georgia Mountains while still being in metro Atlanta? Well, venture over to Yellow River Park near Stone Mountain and enjoy the park’s forested 566 acres (mostly upland deciduous trees) that offer more than 13 miles of hiking, running, mountain biking and horseback riding that run by the river.
Open sunrise to sunset. Free. 3232 Juhan Road, Stone Mountain. 770-978-5271, gwinnettcounty.com.
Historic Banning Mills
Located in Whitesburg, Historic Banning Mills offers several ways to view the pristine ecosystems of Snake Creek Gorge and the Chattahoochee watershed, along, of course, with the trees. A family-run retreat and conservation center, Historic Banning Mills is the biggest zipline adventure park resort in the world and offers five zip line canopy tours, ranging from Level 1 where you experience one sky bridge and nine shorter zip lines to a Level 5, an all-day tour complete with the Terminator and a 100-foot free fall. Other ways to look at the trees are horseback riding through the trails, hiking through the trail system or kayaking. If you just want to literally look out your window and see the leaves turn, stay in the Tree House Rooms, which is an actual treehouse with a king bed, gas log fireplace and private bathroom overlooking the Gorge.
8 a.m.-11 p.m. Prices range from $49 per person to $468 for two eight-hour days of ziplining. 205 Horseshoe Dam Road, Whitesburg. 770-834-9149, historicbanningmills.com.
Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
All aboard! Take the family and climb aboard the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway for a four-hour, 26-mile trip along the Toccoa River through the Chattahoochee National Forest. During the ride, a two-hour layover lets passengers wander through the towns of McCaysville, Georgia, and Copperhill, Tennessee.
10 a.m., 11 a.m. or 3 p.m. on select days. Sept. 11-Nov. 30.$35- $90. 241 Depot St., Blue Ridge. 877-413-8724, brscenic.com.
For those living in town, going to Piedmont Park is a short hop to look at fall’s splendor, but it’s a perfect place. With 189 acres, there is something for everyone’s preference for foliage viewing. Walk your dog, meander on the walking trails or simply get a blanket and a picnic basket, sit back and enjoy the view of trees changing colors against the skyline.
6 a.m.-11 p.m. Free. 1320 Monroe Drive, Atlanta. 404-875-7275 (PARK), piedmontpark.org.
This high-in-the-sky destination has two locations: Dunwoody and Buford. The aerial adventure park challenges visitors to maneuver from tree to tree through obstacles and zip lines for 2.5 hours. At both parks, each participant is provided with equipment and led through a detailed briefing and practice session before starting. The Dunwoody park is located inside Brook Run Park and features more than 60 obstacles and zip lines. There is a course for all ages and abilities including a Chick Pea Course for ages four to six and a Level 4 that will challenge a person’s strength and balance. (Gwinnett has a Level 5.) Treetop Quest is at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center, two minutes from the Mall of Georgia. It features seven courses including a harness-free one, Spider Quest.
10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. weekends; 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. weekdays. $19-$51. 2020 Clean Water Drive, Buford. 404-277-6113. Also at 2341 Peeler Road, Dunwoody. 770-365-0356, treetopquest.com.
Fall foliage roundups typically discuss all the beauty that can be found in state parks, and Georgia is graced with a number of fantastic parks that colorfully stand out in the fall. Each park is unique but some notable ones are: Cloudland Canyon State Park, Tallulah Gorge State Park (especially by Tallulah Falls), Brasstown Bald, Red Top Mountain State Park, Black Rock Mountain State Park, Vogel State Park, Fort Mountain State Park, Sweetwater Creek State Park and the James H. “Sloppy” Floyd State Park. Each park has hiking trails of various levels of difficulty and where are the best views are located, so to determine which is best for you and your athletic ability, go to gastateparks.org.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.