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Tag: Georgia Hiking

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain State Park

by JP on Jan.31, 2009, under Georgia Hiking Trails

Big Rock Nature Trail

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 0.75 Miles

Blaze: Yellow

Big Rock Nature Trail in Fort Mountain State Park is perhaps my favorite short loop trail in Northwestern Georgia. This trail has almost everything, a great hike, two babbling creeks, wonderful overlooks, and cascading falls.

The Big Rock Nature Trail begins just past the road crossing the lake. Parking for the trail is in a gravel area to the left of the trail.

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Don’t let the beginning of the trail discourage as it does not look like much, as it is somewhat muddy, and crosses under a section of power lines, but shortly after continuing down this hill, the hiker will enter a section of deeper forest where the trail really begins to become enjoyable.

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Follow the Yellow blazed trail down the pathway for a few hundred yards where it will begin to run parallel to a babbling creek, and intersects the the much longer Gahuti Trail at a wooden bridge marked with Orange Blazes.IMG_1987 IMG_1988

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The trail does not cross the bridge, instead, follow the trail to the right. Although I do recommend standing on the bridge as the creek runs underneath, as the forest opens a bit for a beautiful overlook.

The trail then descends farther into the mountain hollow before turning back up the mountain ridge as a Yellow and Orange Blaze (marking Gahuti and Big Rock Nature Trail). This ridge provides some wonderful overlooks.

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

As the trail bends back around the ridge, it will meet up with Gold Mine Creek.

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Gold Mine Creek cascades down the mountain ridge. The Creek provides some beautiful views of cascading waterfalls as it runs towards the hiker. Hike up largest section of the cascades, and don’t forget to look backwards now and again for overlooks.

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

At the top of the trail, Gahuti and Big Rock separate. Gahuti crosses over the creek via a bridge, Big Rock continues back up the mountain. The trail leaves the forest at the base of a dam blocking the lake.

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

At the base of the dam, there is also small birding area with signs indicating some of the local birds in the area. The trail ends back at the road that crosses the lake.

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort MountainBig Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Big Rock Nature Trail - Fort Mountain

Nearby Trails:

Old Fort Trail - 1.1 miles

Gahuti Trail - 8.8 miles

Lake Trail - 1.2 mile loop

301 Biking Trail - 14.6 mile loop

Gold Mine Loop Biking Trail - 6.3 miles

Directions:

1. Follow I-75 to exit # 333 towards 411

2. Take GA Hwy. 52 8 miles past Chatsworth onto Fort Mountain

3. Turn left onto park entrance.

4. Once in park, turn left towards the lake, and follow to the right of the trail, cross the dam.

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Fort Mountain State Park - Old Fort Trails

by JP on Jan.14, 2009, under Georgia Hiking Trails, Hiking Trails

Panoramic Fort Mountain Overlook

Length: Slightly over 1.1 miles

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Blazes: Red, Blue, Yellow

The Old Fort Trails at Fort Mountain State Park is a combination of three trails that are in the same area, and can be made into a few different combinations of hiking loops.

Each trail has its own unique features and benefits, and as such, I will cover each individually, then discuss the path I believe provides for a great combination loop.

The trails that make up the Old Fort Trails are the CCC Stone Tower Trail, the West Overlook Trail, and the Stone Wall Trail.

Stone Wall Trailhead - Fort Mountain Stone Tower Trail Red Blaze - Fort Mountain

To begin this hike, I suggest starting with the CCC Stone Tower Trail that is an uphill climb which will first arrive at the Stone Wall.

The CCC Stone Tower trail head begins near the parking area. The trail head starts with a red blaze, and slowly climbs up a rocky path.

Fort Mountain

This path is made up of several rocky staircases and is an easy to moderate climb.

Fort Mountain - Tower Trail

Fort Mountain - Tower Trail Fort Mountain - Tower Trail

Fort Mountain - Tower Trail

Approximately halfway up the CCC Stone Tower Trail the hiker will intersect the Stone Wall Trail. This is where I suggest the first detour.

Stone Wall Fort Mountain Stone Wall - Fort Mountain Fort Mountain Steps

Fort Mountain Fort Mountain

Instead of continuing along the CCC Stone Tower trail, climb to the top of the rocky wall, and read the marker about the legend of the Moon People and about some interesting theories on the creation of the stone wall. From here, take a right down the Stone Wall Trail.

Fort Mountain Stone Wall

Fort Mountain Stone Wall Fort Mountain Stone Wall Fort Mountain Stone Wall

Fort Mountain Stone Wall Fort Mountain Stone Wall

This trail runs parallel to the mystery stone wall. Along this trail, one can see  the true extent of this wall, and some of its more unique features, the “love” nests that periodically dot the wall. These nests, like the wall itself are a bit of a mystery, and only local legends can be relied on as to their reason for existence.

Take in one of Georgia’s interesting mysteries as you follow along the blue blazed trail. At the end of the Trail, the trail will again intersect a portion of the CCC Stone Tower Trail.

This time take a left and return onto the CCC Stone Tower Trail, marked by a red blaze.

Keep  your eyes open in these forest, last time I hiked here, I was surprised to find two white tail dear grazing in these woods. They apparently had little fear of hikers, as they never darted off (although I did keep my distance).

CCC Tower Trail - Fort Mountain

CCC Stone Tower Trail -Fort Mountain

Continue down this trail and you will reach the park’s namesake Tower. This large stone tower is an interesting site, and one can enter the bottom of it, although the top is chained off and boarded up.

CCC Tower - Fort Mountain

Take a look around the Tower, or take a seat on one of the near park benches for a short rest.

Once finished enjoying the Tower, head straight across the opening from where you entered the area. The red blazes will continue for a short time before turning into yellow blazes as you begin a descent towards the West Overlook.

Western Overlook  - Fort Mountain Western Overlook - Fort Mountain Western Overlook - Fort Mountain

Western Overlook Trail - Fort Mountain Western Overlook Trail - Fort Mountain

The West Overlook is at the end of several sets of stairs. Once your arrive at the Overlook, you will be able to see a 180 degree, unobstructed view for miles. of the Chattahoochee National Forest and Chatsworth, Georgia.

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Western Overlook - Fort MountainWestern Overlook - Fort Mountain

Western Overlook - Fort Mountain Western Overlook - Fort Mountain

This may be one of the best overlooks in all of Georgia, mainly due to the face that there is little to nothing obstructing the views.Be careful while on the Overlook, however, the wind can get pretty hard up there.

Once finished with the Overlook, proceed back up the first set of steps, and notice a large boulder marked with a red blaze on your right. Follow along this ridge until it intersects back up with the West Overlook Trail (yellow blaze).

Western Overlook Trail - Fort Mountain Western Overlook Trail - Fort Mountain

Follow back along this ridge and enjoy the boulders in the area, including the other end end of the Stone Wall, This last portion of the Overlook Trail provides for some additional views of the Chattahoochee National Forest area.

Western Overlook Trail - Fort Mountain Western Overlook Trail - Fort Mountain Western Overlook Trail - Fort Mountain

Western Overlook Trail - Fort Mountain Western Overlook Trail - Fort Mountain Western Overlook Trail - Fort Mountain

Western Overlook Trail - Fort Mountain

The trails ends in the parking area close to where you started this hike.

Old Fort Trails - Fort Mountain Picnic Area

Nearby Trails:

Big Rock Trail - 0.5 miles

Gahuti Trail - 8.8 miles

Lake Trail - 1.2 mile loop

301 Biking Trail - 14.6 mile loop

Gold Mine Loop Biking Trail - 6.3 miles

Directions:

1. Follow I-75 to exit # 333 towards 411

2. Take GA Hwy. 52 8 miles past Chatsworth onto Fort Mountain

3. Turn left onto park entrance.

4. Once in park, Stay straight, and keep right towards Old Fort (not towards Lake area).

Fort Mountain State Park

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Amicalola Falls - West Ridge Falls Access

by JP on Jan.10, 2009, under Georgia Hiking Trails

Amicalola Falls

Length: 0.3 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Blaze: White

The West Ridge Falls Access is a shorter approach to trail to Amicalola Falls. The upside to the trail is that it is a quick walk to a beautiful waterfall. The downside is that you miss out on the hike alongside Amicalola Creek, and the reflection pool at base of the falls.

The hike along the West Ridge Falls Access Trail runs along the ridge of Amicalola Mountain. The pathway is made up of recycled tire, and is very soft on the feet.

West Ridge Trailhead West Ridge Amicalola Falls Access Trail Amicalola Trail Material

The trail begins at a parking area that straddles West Ridge Falls Access Trail and Spring Trail.  Along the ridge, one can see a beautiful forest.

Amicalola Falls West Ridge

Amicalola Falls West Ridge

As the trail approaches the falls, it begins running parallel to Amicalola Creek below. From the height of the ridge, there are beautiful vistas of the valley below.

West Ridge Falls Access Trail

Follow the West Ridge Trail’s white blazes, and just before the Top of Falls Access stairs. There is an old truck  relatively intact wedged between some trees. I cannot fathom how this vehicle ended up where it is, but it is one of two vehicles or portions of vehicles I saw while at Amicalola State Park that I could not figure out how they reached their final resting point (the other vehicle is under the stairs on the Base of Falls Trail, and had obviously been there long before the stairs were installed.

West Ridge Falls Access Truck

Just before the trail arrives at the falls is another set of stairs that goes to the Top of the Falls. This West Ridge Stair provides for a long 425 step climb, which is more worth while on a clear day.  Look down below the stairs for some wonderful views of Amicalola Creek.

West Ridge Falls Access

West Ridge Staircase

West Ridge Staircase

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Continue a few feet past the stairs, and the cascading Amicalola Falls opens up. The bridge/ overlook that straddles Amicalola Creek is a wonderful point to enjoy the falls from.  To return to the trailhead, simply turn around and follow the path. For some more hiking continue past the overlook to the long descent of stairs that is part of the Base of Falls Trail.

Amicalola Falls Amicalola Falls

Notes:

The West Ridge Falls Access Trail is a nice short trail if you just want to see the Falls quickly, but for a more enjoyable hike, although somewhat more strenuous, I have to recommend taking the Base of Falls Trail. If limited on time, start the Base of Falls Trail from the Reflection Pond parking area, and skip the true trailhead hike from the Visitor’s Center. You will miss out on some views of Amicalola Creek.

Nearby Trails:

Base of Falls Trail - 1.0 Mile

Spring Trail - 0.4 Mile

Creek Trail - 0.6 Mile

Mountain Laurel Trail - 1.0 Mile

Driving Directions:

Directions from Ellijay:

Follow GA-52 approximately 21 miles to Amicalola Falls State Park.

Directions from Dawsonville:

Take Hwy. 53 west to Hwy. 183 north to Hwy. 52 east.

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Amicalola Falls - Base of Falls Trail

by JP on Dec.29, 2008, under Georgia Hiking Trails

Amicalola Falls

Distance: 1.0 Miles (one way)

Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous

The Visitor’s Center to Amicalola Falls State Park is a great place to begin the approach to Georgia’s highest waterfall. While it is possible to drive very close to the falls and hike to the falls along the very short West Ridge Falls Access, hiking from the Visitor’s Center provides a more challenging hike, wonderful views of the entire state park and Little Amicalola Creek, and is the true beginning to the Appalachian Approach Trail to Springer Mountain.

To begin the trail, enter the Visitor’s Center (be sure to check out the live Georgia snake exhibit) and exit through the rear door of the center. Grab a map of the park on the way out too. After exiting, the hiker will immediately notice a large stone archway, and signs indicating the direction of Springer Mountain, Mount Katahdin, Maine, and the Amicalola Lodge.

Amicalola Falls - Appalachian Approach Amicalola Falls Appalachian Trail

The signs indicating the direction of the Base of Falls Trail is somewhat confusing. To begin the trail, do not go up the wooden steps, take an immediate left before the sign and the steps. Follow the blue blazes up the trail.

Amicalola Falls Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls

The Base of Falls Trail leads parallel to the Park Entrance road, beside several picnic shelters, and an amphitheater. The trail then crosses over a wooden walkway before crossing the road.

Amicalola Falls Amicalola Falls Amicalola Falls

After crossing the road, the trail then runs alongside Little Amicalola Creek.

Amicalola Falls Amicalola Falls Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Creek

Amicalola Creek

Continue along the trail to the left of the picnic shelter, over the creek, and around the ridge of the parking lot.

Amicalola Creek Amicalola Creek Amicalola Creek

Amicalola Falls IMG_1603 IMG_1607

You will arrive at the base of the Waterfall Trail which contains a beautiful reflection pool filled by Amicalola Creek, and surrounded by several informative signs about the wildlife in the area.

Amicalola

After enjoying the reflection pond, cross over the bridge and Amicalola Creek. From here, the real climb to the falls starts, and so do the best views. From here, the pathway is made up of a rough mixture of concrete, which provides great traction along a path that can be very slick with moisture.

Amicalola Falls Amicalola Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Amicalola Amicalola

Amicalola

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Amicalola Falls

Be aware, prior to reaching the falls there are two somewhat steep switchbacks. At the top of the first, a potentially wonderful view of the valley opens up. Unfortunately, on my last hike, there was a heavy fog, and the view is less than outstanding (although still enjoyable).

Amicalola Falls Amicalola Amicalola

Finally,  you reach the first observation deck, the Lower Observation Platform. From here, there is a beautiful first view of the falls.

Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls

The views of the tallest drop of Amicalola falls, however, only gets better after you accept the “challenge” of the “175 Steps.”

Amicalola Falls Amicalola Falls

Up, up, and Up the stairs, and then finally, the Falls Overlook.

IMG_1719 Amicalola Falls Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls

Don’t forget to turnaround and see the view of your hike.

Amicalola Falls

This marks the end of the Base of Falls Trail. For a different route back, I suggest the West Ridge Trail to the parking area, then crossing over the parking area to the Spring Trail. The Spring Trail will intersect with Creek Trail and Mt. Laurel Loop. Follow these trails back to the Visitor’s Center.

Nearby Trail

East Ridge Trail - 1.0 Miles

Creek Trail - 0.6 Miles

Spring Trail - 0.4 Miles

Mt. Laurel Loop - 1.0 Miles

Appalachian Approach Trail - 8.5 Miles

Hike Inn Trail - 5 miles

West Ridge Falls Access Trail - 0.3 Miles

Directions from Ellijay:

Follow GA-52 approximately 21 miles to Amicalola Falls State Park.

Directions from Dawsonville:

Take Hwy. 53 west to Hwy. 183 north to Hwy. 52 east.

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Visitor’s Center Loop Trail - Hiking Red Top Mountain

by JP on Dec.26, 2008, under Georgia Hiking Trails

Length: 0.75 mile Loop

Difficulty: Easy

The Visitor’s Center Loop Trail on Red Top Mountain is a very brief hiking trail that begins at the same trail head of the Sweetgum Lodge Loop. Both trail heads begin in the parking area near the Visitor’s Center. The hike follows along the Sweetgum Trail until it forks to the right after a few hundred yards. The trail is marked with green blazes.

Visitors Center Trail Head Visitor center fork

After forking right onto the loop, hikers will find a wooden overlook, and some rock steps that lead down to a small spring. During the drought, this spring appeared to be nearly dry.

Visitors Center Loop Red Top Mountain

Red Top Mountain Visitors Center Loop

Dry Spring Bed

The Visitor’s Center Loop Trail on Red Top Mountain then continues into a small valley and dense forest. The trail also has a few boulders scattered around.

Visitor's Center Loop Trail - Red Top Mountain Visitor's Center Loop- Red Top Mountain Visitor's Center Loop Trail - Red Top Mountain

The trail ends back in the parking area near the Visitor’s Center of Red Top Mountain State Park.

Notes: Overall, I must state that this hike is not the first one that I would recommend on Red Top Mountain. There are limited views, and the best feature (the spring) will likely be dry for a while. Check out the nearby Sweetgum Lodge Loop Trails for similar forest views, but with the added benefit of seeing Allatoona Lake.

Nearby Trails:

Sweetgum Lodge Loop Trail-3.5 mile loop

Homestead Trail - 5.5 mile loop

Iron Hill Bike Trail - 3.9 mile loop

Lake Trail - 0.75 Mile loop

Directions to Red Top Mountain:

From Atlanta:

1. Take I-75 North past Allatoona Lake to exit # 285

2. Turn Right and follow the signs into the Park. The visitors center and parking lot is on the main entrance road.

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