I lived and worked near Sandy Springs, Georgia, for about twenty years. At least a couple of times a week, I would use my lunch break by taking my camera out to one of the many area parks to walk, relax, and take some pictures. And one of my favorite destinations was a little-known oasis hidden just off the six-lane commuter highway between Sandy Springs and Roswell.
As you head north out of Sandy Springs on Roswell Road, you come to an area of car dealerships and municipal buildings. Just past the Mercedes and Cadillac dealers on the right is the North Fulton Government Services. You may find yourself there to pay a traffic fine or renew your car tag. But at the south end of that hectic parking lot, it is the Big Trees Forest Preserve entrance.
Within seconds you have left the heat and noise of the pavement and entered a thirty-acre forest protected from development by the Southeast Land Preservation Trust and the city of Sandy Springs, Georgia. The entrance trail is wide and flat, leading over a wood mulch path between two split rail fences I have photographed in every season imaginable. But beyond that, the trails are narrow and steep, meandering all through the oak and pine forest over and around the streams that run through it.
The founder of the Southeast Land Preservation Trust, John Ripley Forbes, spearheaded the preservation of thousands of acres of land across the country before moving to Atlanta in 1971. In 1989, he learned about a forest in Sandy Springs, Georgia, that was about to be turned into yet another car dealership. His Trust worked with local and state officials to purchase and preserve the Big Trees Forest Preserve for future generations.
No matter what kind of stressful day I was having, it all melted away once I entered the deep forest. I especially loved it in the middle of summer when the temperature would drop ten degrees as I walked along the creek at the bottom of the many hills in the preserve. Or I might just sit on one of the benches at the top, set up my tripod, and wait quietly for wildlife to come back out.
The entry trail is about 2/3 of a mile and is handicapped-accessible. There are three other trails for foot traffic only. The longest is only about 3/4 of a mile, but I could easily spend a half-hour or longer walking along it as it went down to the creek and then back up and along a ridge on the other side.
The Backcountry Trail also passes near two historical features; an old abandoned railroad bed and the former "Roswell Road," a wagon trail used in the 1800s. There is also an overlook deck with a view of the Trowbridge Branch. The trails are easy to follow and are marked with stop numbers you can reference from their website.
The Spring Hollow Trail connects the Backcountry Trail to the Powers Branch Trail, passing a small spring. The Jackson Overlook Trail connects the Backcountry Trail to a large observation deck overlooking Trowbridge Branch. It follows the old Roswell Road Wagon Trail a short distance before climbing onto a section of the Bull Sluice R/R bed at a former trestle site.
The park is open from sunrise to sunset, and leashed pets are welcome. There is no smoking, and cellphone use is discouraged. Donations can be made to:
Big Trees Forest Preserve
c/o Sam Hale
1303 Hightower Trail, Suite 201
Atlanta, GA 30350
If you are anywhere in the Dunwoody, Roswell, or Sandy Springs, Georgia area and want a little peace and quiet or shade from the summer sun, I encourage you to visit the Big Trees Forest Preserve.