Truly one of Atlanta’s "hidden" gems, the Morningside Nature Preserve is a much-appreciated but often overlooked natural retreat nestled within the city. Located just seven miles northeast of downtown in the upscale Morningside neighborhood, the 34-acre preserve has long served as a destination for many in-town residents looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city without making a long-haul drive out of town.
Once slated for residential development, the preserve was saved when local residents and the Nature Conservancy rallied in the early 2000s to protect the area, purchasing the land from developers before transferring it to the city to be made into a park. Today, the only signs of development are a unique wooden suspension bridge that connects the east and west sides of the park across the South Fork of Peachtree Creek and a wooden staircase.
You won’t find many man-made structures in the park, but you will find lots of rugged trails to help you explore the preserve. (photo Shawn Taylor)
Hit the Trails
About two and a half miles of mostly narrow trails connect opposing trailheads through the park, with the majority of walking paths located west of the creek. From the westward trailhead at Wellbourne Drive the trail splits a short distance into the wooded walk and reconnects before arriving at the suspension bridge. Don’t expect to find manicured fields and picnic gazebos here. The trails are scantily marked (though it’s nearly impossible to get lost) and may be overhung with brush during warmer months. Keep an eye out for wildlife.
A roughly half-mile trail continues east of the bridge, going through a clearing to a small wooded area before arriving at the eastern trailhead on Lenox Road NE. A short section of wooden stairs helps transverse a small ridge -- the most difficult portion of this easy hike by far -- before the trail descends gradually to the trailhead.
Stop by the Dog Beach
The sandy banks of South Peachtree Creek below the suspension bridge are a popular stop off for dog owners and kids during summer, earning it the moniker Atlanta’s "dog beach." The shallow waterway meanders through the park, slowing around bends and cutting steep earthen banks that form a natural barrier around the creek. Kick off your shoes and wade upstream if you’re looking to add miles to your hike.
Plan a Trip to Morningside Nature Preserve
Morningside Nature Preserve Location
2020 Lenox Road NE
Atlanta, Ga. 30324
Where to Park at Morningside Preserve
There is a small parking area on Lenox Road, where the trail starts with a gradual gain beneath power lines into the heart of the park. Park on the street at the Wellbourne Drive trailhead for easy access to the western side of the park, especially if you’re looking to do a short loop hike to the suspension bridge and back.
Best Time to Visit Morningside Preserve
A good time to explore the preserve is in the early morning hours and on weekdays. Thick vegetation and woodlands help break up the park and offer seclusion. The grassy field in the east leg of the park is a good place to catch morning’s fog lifting at sunrise.
Written by RootsRated Media for Atlanta CVB.