Crisp air, brilliant leaves and cozy sweaters; no wonder fall is the most popular time of year! You can get the most out of the season at these picture-perfect places in the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area (AMNHA). From secluded lakeside retreats to mountaintop vistas, you’ll always be treated to spectacular views. And the best part? The AMNHA is located just 20 minutes east of Atlanta along I-20!
The AMNHA is more than 40,000 acres and has many picturesque places to watch the leaves turn. However, these three spots perfectly frame our brilliant fall color and offer a fantastic variety of choices for even the most particular fall visitor. We’re sure you’ll be amazed!
1) Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve: Mountaintop 360-degree views of fall color make this breathtaking spot worth the walk! From the base of the mountain at the south parking lot you can follow the trail for an easy 25-minute walk to the top of this domed monadnock above the tree line. As you hike, you can enjoy small pools of water that shelter rare plants and the swirling pattern of the granite in this lunar landscape. Once you arrive at the mountaintop you can look down on an almost uninterrupted view of spectacular fall color!
2) Alexander Lake at Panola Mountain State Park: The water here is often still as glass and reflects the surrounding trees. This means double the fall color and perfect photo opportunities! Sit and soak it all in at one of the many picnic tables tucked into grassy spots along the edge of the water. When you are ready to walk through this fall wonderland, you can use the paved hike/bike PATH trail though the park. The trail boasts a new raised boardwalk that winds over the water. Continue walking for about 20 minutes to a viewing platform that reaches out over a granite outcrop. From there you’ll be able to see the undisturbed ecosystem that grows on the bare rock and a rare view of Panola Mountain in the distance. This area is encircled with trees and offers viewers a lovely burst of fall color!
Location: Alexander Lakes: 5089 Flat Bridge Road S.W. , Stockbridge, GA 30281
Phone Number: (770) 389-7801
Times: The park is open from 7 a.m. to dusk
Cost: $5 parking (free for Georgia State Parks Pass holders)
3) Chestnut Grove at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit: The Monastery is the perfect place to spend a quiet and reflective afternoon viewing the fall colors. The stunning Abby Church is located on more than 2,000 acres of woodland and is open to those of all faiths or no faith. Unlike many monasteries, this location has always been open and welcoming to the general public. When you visit, you can enjoy the Monastic Heritage Center (which includes a historic barn where the monks used to sleep), an exhibit area, the largest bookstore of its kind in the Southeast, and a renowned bonsai greenhouse. Looking for a relaxing spot to have a picnic? Spread your blanket out under the grove of mature chestnut trees and enjoy the view of the Abbey Church. Or you could circle around the church and follow a path to a small peaceful lake framed with trees in full fall colors. Did you forget your favorite fall treat? Don’t worry, the Abby store has monk-made breads, fudge and other scrumptious goodies to stock your picnic basket.
Location: 2625 Highway 212 SW Conyers, GA 30094
Phone Number: (770) 483-870
Times: The Monastery grounds are open to the public every day from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. The Monastery Visitor Center is open Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Hungry for more? The preserve has more than 18 miles of soft and paved trails for you to wander through. As you explore, you can find granite ruins and lakes all with a gorgeous backdrop of the red and orange leaves of fall.
Location: 3787 Klondike Road, Lithonia, GA 30038
Phone Number: 770-492-5220
Times: The park is open from dawn to dusk.
When not putting her savvy communication skills to use at the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, Kimberly Estep can most often be found wandering over hiking trails with her two dogs. Most of all, Kimberly loves sharing her knowledge of the hidden gems of Georgia with anyone who will listen.