The Dunwoody Nature Center offers a 1.5 mile walk through a forest filled with old hardwoods. Alan Mothner, executive director, says the center has some of the “best leaf-viewing in Dunwoody.”

On a crisp afternoon in early October, most of the trees around Murphey Candler Lake retained their green summer leaves. The few cool nights had convinced only a couple of early adapters to start changing into their fall finery. Still, members of an outdoor painting class from an art school in Sandy Springs were taken with the view.

“We ought to come back for the colors,” Jeanie Posey said as she mixed bright oil paints on her palette and looked around at the towering trees.

“It ought to be beautiful,” fellow painter Carol Otten agreed.

The mountains of north Georgia justly are celebrated for their colorful roadside shows come fall, but once the seasons change, you don’t have to drive far to find Georgia hardwoods putting on airs. Here are five spots in Reporter Newspaper communities where you can take in autumn’s colorful displays without leaving town.

Morgan Falls Overlook Park, Sandy Springs

This small gem of a park should offer a leaf-peeper’s delight from its vantage point above a broad, tree-lined bend in the Chattahoochee River. The park provides picnic pavilions, a children’s playground, a hiking trail, a fire pit and restrooms, but for fans of fall color, the real draw may be porch swings set up to provide comfy places to view the scenery.

Location: 200 Morgan Falls Road, Sandy Springs, 30350

Hours: Dawn to dusk

Cost: Free

For more information:

Powers Island unit of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation area, Sandy Springs

Powers Island, part of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation area, provides a serene place to gaze at fall colors.

The national recreation area, operated by the National Park Service, is composed of 15 land units scattered along 48 miles of the Chattahoochee River as it winds through north metro Atlanta. The Powers Island unit in Sandy Springs provides walking trails along the river just upstream of I-285. When you stroll the trails, crossing wooden bridges that span small creeks as they head to the river, it’s easy to forget you’re in the middle of metro Atlanta’s urban sprawl. About all you notice are the high-pitched complaints of birds and the surprisingly loud rustling of squirrels bounding through the leaves.

Location: 1650 Riveredge Parkway, Sandy Springs, 30328

Hours: Dawn to dusk

Cost: $3 for a one-day pass; $25 for a season pass

For more information:

Murphey Candler Lake, Brookhaven

The trail through Murphey Candler Park takes you into the woods and for a scenic walk along tree-lined Murphey Candler Lake. A seat in a picnic shelter or a bench alongside the lake should provide a fine place to relax while you admire the fall leaves and the odd duck or goose that drifts past.

Location: 1551 W. Nancy Creek Drive, Brookhaven, 30319

Hours: 7 a.m. to sunset

Cost: Free

For more information:;

Tanyard Creek Park, Buckhead

Tanyard Creek Park should appeal to both nature and history buffs. Its trails cross Civil War battlegrounds. The park features large markers describing the Battle of Peachtree Creek, fought July 20, 1864, at this spot, now in the center of a Buckhead neighborhood. Visitors can walk along the creek on the city’s new BeltLine trail and relax on a large, grassy lawn surrounded by trees.

Location: Collier Road at Walthall Drive, 30309

Hours: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Cost: Free

For more information:

Dunwoody Nature Center, Dunwoody

Dunwoody Nature Center

The nature center offers a mile-and-a-half walk through the woods comprised of an old hardwood forest. During the day, the center offers some of the best leaf-viewing in Dunwoody, executive director Alan Mothner says. And, during October and early November, the nature center is offering special Friday night hikes so daring explorers can experience the sounds of the nighttime forest, admire the stars, and then sip some cocoa by the fireplace.

Location: 5343 Roberts Drive, Dunwoody, 30338

Hours: Dawn to dusk

Cost: Free

For more information:

View from the mountains

If you still feel a need to head to the hills to look at the leaves, the state parks system offers regular reports on which parks are putting on the best show at any given time. For fall color reports:

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.