Fall might be the best time to be outdoors in Georgia. The leaves are changing, the weather’s cool but mild, and you want to stay active for all that turkey you’re going to eat.
Atlantans have plenty of places to choose from for an autumn walk, but a little-known gem in Lawrenceville is worth the drive. Freeman’s Mill Park, less than 30 minutes north of the Perimeter, isn’t — well — your run-of-the-mill park.
For starters, the 12-acre site boasts a restored 19th-century grist mill. Grist is grain used for grinding into flour, but this mill in particular was used primarily for cornmeal. (Cornbread, hush puppies, grits… so many possibilities.) What makes it unique is that it was a working mill well into the 1980s, powered by the Alcovy River. These mills were everywhere in rural Georgia back in the day, but there aren’t many left now. You can’t enter the mill, but you can get pretty close to peak at the equipment inside and the giant paddle wheel behind. Freeman’s Mill is included on the National Register of Historic Places.
The park also has a scenic waterfall at the end of an easy half-mile paved trail. The falls area created by a dam, streaked with Georgia’s signature red clay. The waterfall is heavier during the rainy season, so now’s a great time to visit. Both the mill and falls are particularly photogenic against the bright reds and yellows of the changing trees. The park trails are lined with hickory, river birch and oak.
There’s also a picnic area, playground, restrooms and a water fountain near the entrance — everything you need to spend a cool fall afternoon outdoors. It’s the kind of place to while away a few hours, tossing around a football or eating brats and sipping cider by the river. The park is also a popular site for prom photos, and there are plenty of places for shutterbugs to catch the perfect shot.
Set your GPS for 1401 Alcovy Road, Lawrenceville. Parking is free, and Freeman’s Mill is open from sunrise to sunset.