Stone Mountain, Georgia
Distance: 1.0 mile (one way)
Stone Mountain is a unique geological granite mountain, forming a round bald of rock rising up south of the Atlanta skyline. The walk up trail takes hikers to the summit of Stone Mountain by means of a primarily open granite trail. For the most part, the trail is a very gradual up hill walk. At the end, though, it becomes much steeper, even requiring handrails at one point. The trail itself does not go near the “edge” of the mountain, but throughout the trail there are numerous places to look off the mountain for spectacular views. Ultimately, the payoff for the hike is the 360 degree view from the top of Stone Mountain.
First, those that don’t hike (you’re probably not reading this site), there is an option of taking a tram to the top of Stone Mountain. For those that enjoy the hike as much as the destination, the trailhead is tough to find once inside the park.The parking area for this is actually located at the Confederate Hall. Once there, the trail is marked with a yellow blaze painted occasionally along the rock. The trail was extremely busy on the Sunday I hiked, and I’m guessing it’s even busier on warm Saturdays.
As the trail continues, it becomes slightly steep and drifts into a very light forest of pines. If one pays attention to the ground, there are numerous names carved into the rock. At first, I assumed these were vandals, and I was offended, but looking closely, I noticed something amazing. Some of these carvings had dates in the 1800′s. These carvings were made by visitors from over 100 years ago, and continued to be made throughout the time when Stone Mountain was used as a granite quarry.
Approximately half way up the trail, a shelter sits in the middle of the trail. One of the best views along the actual trail is just to the left of the shelter. The mountain side is lined with a protective fence, here, but the views over the park are very nice. The fence can be followed for a short distance where we saw three hawks soaring around. We also saw some wonderful wildflowers in this area.
Just past the shelter the trail begins the real climb to the top. The trees quickly begin to disappear, and the first dramatic views of Atlanta appear.
Shortly after the trees disappear, a very steep section of trail begins. This section actually contains hand rails up the mountain. The section is very short, maybe 50 feet, but the rails should be used (especially going down, we saw a girl slip and nearly fall down the entire length).
After this, the trail briefly flattens out, before the final summit. The final summit becomes increasingly steep, and is probably the hardest part of the trail. It also happens to be the widest area as well, which provides several options for walking up. The less steep, but longer climb follows the white (service vehicle) line to the left.
Summit of Stone Mountain
Once on top of Stone Mountain, hikers can visit the visitor’s center on the far right corner. The center only has a few signs about the geology of the mountain, a concession stand, and the tram departs from there. Hikers can explore the perimeter of the mountain top along a chain link fence.
If one looks behind them in the direction of the trail head, the Atlanta skyline, Buckhead, and Kennesaw Mountain can be seen in the distance. To the west, the airport towers can be seen on a clear day. To the south and east, one can see how geological different Georgia is. Mountains to the north, lowlands to the south. The view really is stunning.
Take some time to take it all in. The return is the save route.
If possible, plan to make this hike on a weekday. The crowds are pretty bad. Think lots of screaming kids, and rude groups with no hiking etiquette.
Stone Mountain is not a state park, it’s a privately owned amusement area. It has restaurants, rides, and a fantastic laser on weekend nights (check the park’s web site for a schedule).
The park also contains a campground within the complex, as well as numerous other hiking trails, and a small lake.
To access Stone Mountain Park, there is a $10 fee per vehicle. During some holidays it goes up even more.
1. Take I-285 North from Atlanta.
2. Take Exit 39B on Hwy. 78 East.
3. Travel 7.7 Miles and take Exit 8.
4. Follow signs to the Stone Mountain Entrance.