Lionel Hampton–Beecher Hills Nature Preserve
Alongside Westview Cemetery in southwest Atlanta sits one of the largest natural undeveloped areas in the city, much of which was gifted to the PATH Foundation by famed jazz musician–turned–real-estate tycoon Lionel Hampton. Find two miles of paved trails and another mile of natural-surface paths once trod by Civil War soldiers, which wind through 100 acres of mature hardwood forest that includes the city’s largest sugar maple and bitternut hickory. It’s a favorite retreat for George Dusenbury, the state director for the Trust for Public Land, who compares it to the nearby, more well-known Cascade Springs Nature Preserve. But this spot, he says, is relatively undiscovered. 310 Willis Mills Road
Yellow River Park
Want to really get lost? Just east of Stone Mountain is this 600-acre park in southwestern Gwinnett County, another of McDonald’s favorites, with 12 miles of soft-surface paths for hiking, mountain biking, and running, and peppered with the occasional horse and rider. The trails curve along the lovely Yellow River, where you can fish or even drop in a canoe or kayak and paddle the 43 miles to Lake Jackson via the Yellow River Water Trail if you please. Tucked secretly among cul-de-sacs, this complex network of trails feels more like north Georgia than suburbia and isn’t always well-marked, so you could wander aimlessly for days. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. (But take your GPS.) 3232 Juhan Road, Stone Mountain
Proctor Creek Greenway
The once blighted northwest waterfront reopened to much fanfare two years ago, but when Jonah McDonald, author of Hiking Atlanta’s Hidden Forests: Intown and Out, recently tackled the seven-mile in-and-out, he crossed just a handful of folks. “It’s such a great place not being well-used,” he says. The path, created by the Emerald Corridor Foundation and the City of Atlanta, will connect to the forthcoming Westside Park at Bellwood Quarry, so it won’t stay deserted for long. The paved trails meander among forest, abandoned warehouses, and open greenspace with skyline views, crossing the creek here and there where you can spot herons and turtles. There’s lots of sunshine, so take plenty of water. 1115 Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway or via the Bankhead MARTA Station
This article appears in our July 2020 issue.