10 nature getaways and wildlife attractions near Atlanta

Co-director Dale Kernahan of Wings to Soar, a bird education program, holds a Harris's hawk during a demonstration at the Chattahoochee Nature Center for its Family Fun Day: Flying into the Future on Sunday, March 14, 2021. (Photo: Steve Schaefer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Who says you can’t see wildlife if you live in the city? Here are ten places near Atlanta to experience wildlife.

Yellow River Wildlife Sanctuary

Just east of Stone Mountain, Yellow River Wildlife Sanctuary has a walking trail on which you can visit all types of animals from black bears to lemurs. You can even purchase feed cups to feed animals in the petting yard. Admission to the park costs $20 for adults, $19 for veterans and $13 for those 12 years and under.

Location: 4525 US-78, Lilburn, GA 30047; Website: yellowriverwildlifesanctuary.com

Morningside Nature Preserve

This nature preserve has plenty of hiking trails and is committed to conserving Atlanta’s wildlife. Just 10 minutes away from midtown, Morningside Nature Preserve is home to a variety of animals including beavers, foxes, turtles and over 100 observed bird species. The preserve is free to visit, pet-friendly and open year-round.

Location: Buckhead/Northeast Atlanta - 2020 Lenox Rd NE; Website: atlantatrails.com

Cascade Springs Nature Preserve Trail

If you’re looking to find solace from the bustling city life, consider going on a walk in the Cascade Trails which is just 15 minutes outside downtown Atlanta. On this pet-friendly trail, you can expect to see many birds, a waterfall and a walking trail in the forest. One reviewer said that Cascade Springs Nature Reserve is, “A beautiful and diverse hike close to Atlanta. Once you are on the trail, the city disappears behind the beautiful forest and bird songs.”

Location: Southwest Atlanta - 2852 Cascade Rd; Website: atlantatrails.com

Blue Heron Nature Preserve

A half-hour away from Atlanta, Blue Heron Nature Preserve offers free parking and trails that take you through rivers, creeks, meadows, streams, woodlands, wetlands and more. The nature preserve has a robust ecosystem in which you can see a diverse number of Georgia native animals and birds in their natural habitat.

Location: Northeast - 4055 Roswell Rd NE; Website: bhnp.org

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park

For bird lovers, you may want to take a trip to Kennesaw Mountain. Less than an hour away from the heart of the city, the park preserved civil war history and is known for its rich birding wildlife. With at least 208 different species of birds, the park has been named an important bird area by the Audubon Society. The daily parking pass costs $5.

Location: 900 Kennesaw Mountain Dr, Marietta, GA 30060; Website: nps.gov/kemo

Chattahoochee Nature Center

For adventure seekers and wildlife lovers, Chattahoochee Nature Center offers a variety of activities for all. Located in Roswell, the center rehabilitates mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish you can see while exploring the area. Additionally, the center has plenty of activities including nature walks, canoeing and ziplining. General admission to the park costs $15 for adults, other activities may cost extra.

Location: 9135 Willeo Rd, Roswell, GA 30075; Website: chattnaturecenter.org

Lake Lanier

If you’re interested in spending time on the water, visit Lake Lanier as it is just an hour away from Atlanta. Home to a diverse array of animals and bird species, you can view these species and go boating, camping, kayaking, swimming, golfing and more. Visiting the lake is free, however additional activities and equipment may cost extra.

Location: 7000 Lanier Islands Pkwy, Buford, GA 30518; Website: lakelanier.com

Noah’s Ark Wildlife Sanctuary

An hour’s drive south of Atlanta in Griffin is Noah’s Ark Wildlife Sanctuary. The Sanctuary offers free self-guided tours, and professionally guided tours and even include an option where you can paint a picture with one of the tigers named Doc. The sanctuary houses over 1,500 animals including tigers, wolves, lions, snakes and monkeys. Additionally, there is a picnic area and playground for families to enjoy and pack a lunch. The mission of Noah’s Ark Wildlife Sanctuary is to provide a safe home and rehabilitation for animals who have previously been abused, injured or neglected. Professionally guided tours cost $75 per person and painting with Doc costs $250 per person.

Location: 712 L G Griffin Rd, Locust Grove, GA 30248; Website: noahs-ark.org

Goats on the Roof

In Tiger, Georgia, Goats on the Roof is, well, exactly what it sounds like. There are goats on the property — and on the roof— that visitors can interact with and feed. Not only limited to goats, but the attraction itself offers a variety of different activities and food options perfect for a family getaway or for those who love goats. There is no cost of admission, however, it may cost extra to feed goats and there are plenty of food options on the property itself that has a food truck and other sweet treats like Nitro ice cream and homemade fudge.

Location: 3026 US-441, Tiger, GA 30576; Website: goats-on-the-roof.com

North Georgia Wildlife and Safari Park

Looking for a different kind of scenery as you drive? North Georgia’s Wildlife & Safari Park gets you up close and personal with all kinds of exotic animals from the passenger seat. A two-hour drive from Atlanta, North Georgia’s Safari Park is perfect if you are looking for a day trip, and you can visit their wildlife petting farm to pet rare animals and birds. Safaris range from $15 to $43 and the petting farm costs anywhere between $8 to $25. Other animal experiences like interacting with baby sloths and wild cats can cost up to $200.

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