Trail Running at WD Thomson Park
As part of our run at Lullwater Preserve, we also decided to explore the nearby WD Thomson Park. We had read about the park in the excellent book, “Hiking Atlanta’s Hidden Forests” by Jonah McDonald. WD Thomson Park has about a mile of trails along a feeder stream that flows right into South Fork Peachtree Creek nearby. As long as you follow the general course of the stream, you can’t get lost – although we did take a non-optimal route ourselves.
The park is located at 1760 Mason Mill Rd, but you actually get to the main park entrance on Mason Woods Drive nearby. After completing our run at Lullwater, we left our car at the Hahn Woods parking area on Houston Mill Road and headed north along the road. After crossing the bridge over South Fork Peachtree Creek, it’s a fairly steep climb up the road to the light at Mason Mill Road. Wait for the crosswalk light and turn right (east) onto Mason Mill Road. Head downhill along Mason Mill Road and the park is at the bottom of the hill. Just before the bottom is a road to the left, Mason Woods – turn there for the best access to the park. If you’re driving to the park, that’s where the parking is located. Here was our route.
When you arrive at the park, you’ll notice a small open field straight ahead and a play area. We mistakenly thought that was the trailhead and veered right. Veer left and look for the basketball court which is the actual trailhead! Our small detour wasn’t for nothing, we did get to cross the stream and catch a nice view of a small waterfall which is pictured at the very top of this article.
Figuring out that we were not on the trail, we followed the small stream and eventually found our way to the true trailhead. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of good maps of WD Thomson Park. The best map is in the “Hiking Atlanta’s Hidden Forests” book we mentioned earlier. Despite the lack of maps, the trails are blazed by color code and all of the trails follow the general course of the stream alongside and across it. Pictured below is the true trailhead for the blue trail which goes from the start to the north end of the park and the other back entrance.
The blue trail winds up and down small hills working it’s way north to the back entrance of the park. The trail was in excellent shape when we ran it and there were some folks out walking their dogs and taking pictures. It’s a great neighborhood nature area. There are several connector trails to the left. The yellow trail veers southwest before reaching the stream and then follows it back to the parking area. We continued along the blue trail to the top of the park and the back entrance. This was about the halfway point of our short run.
At the top of the park, things can get a bit confusing as several trails intersect. In general, all trails lead back to the creek and south to the parking area. The red trail is a shortcut. Seeking the longest path possible (even though all these trails are short), we took the orange trail which heads west then south along the stream. The red trail shortcut rejoins the orange trail. Here’s a picture of Mary Catherine descending the orange trail to cross the stream.
Crossing the stream was a simple, non-technical series of rock hops (great balance practice for runners, by the way).
The orange trail becomes the green trail and continues to head south to the trailhead and parking area. The green trail follows the stream on the west side. The yellow trail we mentioned earlier runs parallel and follows the stream on the east side. The blue trail we started on is to the east of that.
The green trail crosses a small wooden bridge (pictured below) and rejoins the yellow trail which heads directly to the trailhead and parking area. Our total distance in the park was just over a mile. Our return trip to the car, was back along the roads – up the hill on Mason Mill Road, then down the hill on Houston Mill Road to the parking area at Hahn Woods.
This is a great little park that packs a lot into a small area. While it’s not a lot of mileage, you could add this onto a road run (lots of hills in the area) or perhaps a trail run in nearby Lullwater Preserve like we did. Adding on small trail runs during regular road runs is an excellent way to mix up your training and get a gentle introduction to trail running.