Neighborhoods - A walk in the park

6 forests hidden inside the Perimeter

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Eastern Box Turtles

The city of Atlanta is a vast tangled web of concrete and steel connected by winding streets that cater to the needs of a culture ruled by cars. But the city also bursts with nature. Countless acres of forest, wetlands, and wildlife refuges flourish throughout Atlanta. Here are six ITP forests offering sanctuary from the city.

Cascade Springs Nature Preserve
Off an unremarkable stretch of Cascade Road, this 120 acres of creekside woodlands was the site of the Civil War’s Battle of Utoy Creek. An exclusive resort was built here around the turn of the century, but now it’s nothing more than moss-covered stone ruins. Today, the small but majestic waterfall, a boulder field, and the Bigleaf Magnolia trees — a rarity for these parts — make Cascade Springs a bucolic Westside gem. 2852 Cascade Road S.W.

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Constitution Lakes Park
It’s easy to forget that Constitution Lakes lies inside the Perimeter, considering how much wildlife thrives amid this 200-acre park located deep in Southeast Atlanta. The wetlands boardwalk offers a peaceful journey into a primitive Georgia landscape, where cedar waxwings, green herons, kingfishers, ducks, and geese are perfectly at home. Lots of turtles and snakes live here, too. And the Doll’s Head Trail is a folk-art dreamscape where repurposed trash, urban debris, and disembodied doll parts line a path through the woods. 1305 South River Industrial Boulevard S.E.

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Deepdene Park
Deepdene exemplifies Atlanta’s majestic neighborhood forest spaces. A 185-foot Tulip Poplar — the tallest for its species — stands near the entrance to this 22-acre offshoot of Olmsted Linear Park in Druid Hills. The forest is lined with bridges and a bubbling creek that’s teeming with crawdads, salamanders, frogs, and snakes. Squirrels, hawks, and chipmunks dart to-and-fro amid the tree line. The path is well manicured, but it never takes away from the sense of trekking through unadulterated nature, hidden in plain site. 2199 N. Ponce de Leon Ave. N.E.

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East Palisades Trail
The East Palisades Trail offers a gorgeous hike along the Chattahoochee River near Cumberland Boulevard and I-75. The trail is a bit crowded at the start, but the kids and the family scenes soon fade into the distance. Be prepared to break a sweat while navigating the landscape. The bamboo thicket is an excellent payoff, and a great picnic spot by the water. Keep an eye out for skinks, hawks, snakes, rabbits, white-tailed deer, toads, and frogs along the way. 1414 Indian Trail N.W.

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Lullwater Park
A refuge for Emory students, faculty, and wildlife alike, Lullwater Park offers a nice secluded walk around Candler Lake. No cars are allowed inside the park, which creates a quiet haven where ducks, hummingbirds, turtles, and deer frolic amid the greenery. The forest at the far end of the park is home to a waterfall and the stone ruins of a derelict mill. Venture deeper into the woods and climb across the 210-foot suspension bridge. 1463 Clifton Road N.E.

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Morningside Nature Preserve
Hidden away between Cheshire Bridge and Lenox roads are 30 acres of rolling forest. Sandy beaches line the South Fork of Peachtree Creek, which divides the scenery. An impressive wood and metal footbridge offers passage over the water. Below, dogs frolic in the water amid raccoon paw prints and empty clamshells that litter the shoreline. Venture deeper into the woods and the deer are plentiful — safe from the bustle of the city traffic. 2020 Lenox Road N.E.