The John Ripley Forbes Big Trees Forest Preserve

Come enjoy a stroll through an old growth forest in the middle of Sandy Springs!

By North Fulton Master Gardeners February 11, 2021

The John Ripley Forbes Big Trees Forest Preserve is a beautiful and unique 30-acre Fulton County tree, plant, and wildlife sanctuary, the legacy of John Forbes, the foremost preservationist of the great outdoors in the Southeast. A visual and spiritual oasis in the bustling city of Sandy Springs, the Preserve is the perfect setting for a quiet afternoon stroll. Once a cotton farm plantation along Roswell Road, the Preserve is awash with native trees, plants, and wildflower meadows planted and maintained by the North Fulton Master Gardeners. 

The beautiful trees that you see include red and white oaks, beech, hickory, sourwood, loblolly pine, wild black cherry, ironwood, and sassafras. Native plants include orange flame azaleas, crossvine, American beautyberry, eastern sweetshrub, jewelweed, bloodroot, bachelor button, verbena, and a wealth of ferns. The animals that you might see in the Preserve include deer, raccoon, fox, grey squirrels, rabbit, opossum, snakes, box turtles, plus a wealth of pollinators, including bees, hornets, wasps, and butterflies of many sizes and colors. The resident raptors, red tail, sharp-shinned, coopers hawks abound. 

Powers Branch Creek, a tributary of the Chattahoochee River, is alive with salamanders, crawfish, and minnows. The Preserve also serves as a family-friendly outdoor classroom for those looking to take a self-guided nature walk. Download the Big Trees Forest Preserve Trail Map and follow the 15-stop watershed education tour to learn about the positive and negative effects humans have on water quality and the forest community.

This Preserve is being protected for its many special natural qualities in a cooperative partnership with the John Ripley Forbes Big Trees Forest Preserve, Inc., a nonprofit, 501(c)(3), volunteer organization; the City of Sandy Springs Recreation and Parks Department; the State of Georgia Department of Natural Resources; and the Southeast Land Preservation Trust. 

Within the Preserve you will find almost an acre-sized meadow of native grasses, wildflowers, flowering shrubs, and small trees cared for and maintained by the North Fulton Master Gardeners, a true delight for the eyes in early spring through late summer.

The Preserve is located about 4 miles north of I-285 in the north metro Atlanta community of Sandy Springs, Georgia, next to the North Fulton County Government Annex building at 7645 Roswell Road. 

The Preserve is open sunrise to sunset, seven days each week. There is ample free parking. Dogs on leashes are welcomed in the Preserve. You will find restrooms, a water fountain, trash cans, and a dog watering spigot at the entrance to the Preserve, well-lit and in full view of the parking and Fulton Co. Government Annex. The Preserve is a smoke-free environment.

Read about our Hike at Big Trees Forest Preserve

As part of our "hiking through a health pandemic" initiative, our family visited Big Trees Forest Preserve. It was one of our favorites. This is a great location for a family day outside. Read about our experience, HERE.

How to learn more about Big Trees Forest Preserve

North Fulton Master Gardeners, Inc., is continuing to provide horticultural education in the metro Atlanta community through the Spring Gardening Lecture Series,10 free virtual gardening education classes beginning February 2, 2021. On Sunday, March 7 at 2:pm, Katherine Coppedge, a North Fulton Master Gardener and a Board member of John Ripley Forbes Big Trees Forest Preserve, Inc will present a live Zoom webinar, “Big Trees of Sandy Springs”, an overview of The John Ripley Forbes Big Trees Preserve. The class will be available through live Zoom webinar, Facebook Live and also be available for later viewing at Please register in advance for this class at

Additional classes in the NFMG Spring 2021 Garden Lecture Series can be viewed at

About the North Fulton Master Gardeners:

North Fulton Master Gardeners, Inc. is a Georgia nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose purpose is to educate its members and the public in the areas of horticulture and ecology in order to promote and foster community enrichment. NFMG assists The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension by providing unbiased horticultural information to Georgians through volunteer community service and educational gardening projects using applied research and the resources of The University of Georgia. NFMG Volunteers are trained and certified by The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

To receive more information about classes and other NFMG activities, you can sign up for our email list at Please follow us on social media to learn more about our Spring 2021 Gardening Lecture Series -

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