Iron Hill Loop – #18 in 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta

Peaceful Day on The Lake

Peaceful Day on The Lake

I finally got another hike in after much too long of an absence.  Hopefully I can get my schedule back on track to do this more regularly again!

This is the first hike I’ve done where I’m referencing the 3rd Edition of the 60 Hikes Atlanta book.  Previously #18 in the book was the Homestead Trail at Red Top Mountain State Park which I hiked back in November, 2012.  This trail is in the same park, just a different trail.

Iron Hill Loop at Red Top Mountain State Park
Trailhead Coordinates: 34.13975, -84.70058
Distance: 3.8 miles

Red Top Mountain State Park is so named for the deep red color that makes up the soil of the mountain.  The deep read indicates the presence of iron and this trail winds along two open-pit iron mines that were located here.  The park occasionally has iron pour events to commemorate the mining history.  The loop also winds along Lake Allatoona and you get some great long distance views, there’s also a variety of wildlife here and we saw various lizards, rabbits and squirrels as well as a pair of Red-Headed Woodpeckers that got away before we could get a picture.

Dragonfly - Master of Camouflage

Dragonfly – Master of Camouflage

The trail itself is quite easygoing with only slight elevation changes.  It’s quite wide and well maintained.  Although it is a mixed use trail most people out the day we went were hiking, however there were a few bikers on the trail as well.  In total the hike was 3.78 miles and took 1 hour 43 minutes at a leisurely pace.  The weather was perfect and this is a hike I’ll definitely hit up again.  If you’re in the area this is worth checking out or any of the several others at the mountain.

If you’d rather take it a bit easier there is a swim beach at the park as well as several picnic areas with grills, boat rental and cabins.  It’s an easy 30 minute ride from Atlanta and a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle.

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New Edition of 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta - 3rd Edition

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta – 3rd Edition

There is now an updated version of the 60 Hikes Atlanta book available.  You can get it on here.  If you have a Prime membership at Amazon you even get free 2-day shipping.

In the latest edition there are some new trails included and they have updated information as well as supplying GPS coordinates in LAT/LON as opposed to UTM coordinates.  I’ve already upgraded my copy and it continues to be a great resource, even better with the few updates.

You should definitely pick up a copy.

Pickett’s Mill Trail – #22 from 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta

Creek at Pickett's Mill Trail

Creek at Pickett’s Mill Trail

First hike of 2013!  Between the weather and the holidays it’s been a while since I’ve been hiking.  My Christmas and New Year were spent with great friends and filled with plenty of food and drink, it’s definitely time to get back at it now.  This wasn’t a long hike, it was only supposed to be 3.1 miles going in but with some trail section closed I ended up with 2.37 miles total.

Pickett’s Mill Trail at Pickett’s Mill Battlefield Historic Site
$4.00/person for adult admission
Trailhead Coordinates: 33.973908, -84.759223
Distance Hiked: 2.37 miles
Hiking Time: 1:11:20
Click to download GPX file

There’s a good bet that  unless you live in the area, or are a Civil War buff, you’ve never heard of The Battle of Pickett’s Mill.  One reason being that Sherman got his butt kicked so thoroughly at Pickett’s Mill that he decided to leave mention of it out of his notes and memoirs, and as we all know it’s the victors that write the history books.  It’s understandable he’d want to forget it, the Union lost 1,600 troops compared to the Confederacy losing just 500.   I use “just 500 lives lost” only as a reference to the fact the Union lost over 3 times that many.  The battle took place on May 27, 1864 and covered a rather hilly and heavily forested area.  In some cases the soldiers were entrenched less than 100 yards from each other.

Soldier Keeping an Eye on the Battlefield

Soldier Keeping an Eye on the Battlefield

Hiking Pickett’s Mill Trail I can imagine what it must have been like to do battle there.  Most of the terrain is hilly with a couple rather steep sections where the soldiers faced each other on opposite sides of a ravine.  There’s a small creek that runs throughout the area and it is heavily wooded.  Almost 150 years later it made for a very nice hike, it’s humbling to think that over 2,000 men lost their lives on and around these hiking trails.  The trails are very well marked with like-new blaze markers up as well as numerical points of interest which you can refer to on your map.  There’s also a nice visitor center with a small museum and gift shop and restrooms, water and a soda machine are available just outside the center, there are no other facilities at the park.

Overall this is a nice, leisurely hike with a great history lesson.  Definitely worth checking out.

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Homestead Trail at Red Top Mountain State Park – #18 in 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta

Fall Colors and Lake Allatoona at Red Top Mountain

Fall Colors and Lake Allatoona at Red Top Mountain

Trailhead Coordinates:  34.147330, -84.706549
Click to download GPX file (My first time adding this so let me know if it doesn’t work!)

We had another gorgeous weekend here in Georgia and I definitely had to get a hike in.  I caught up with my buddy and we headed up to Red Top Mountain State Park to hike the yellow blazed Homestead Trail, this is #18 in 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta.  For a longer hike you can also add the Sweet Gum Trail as they share a leg, the book actually shows the Sweet Gum Trail as part of this hike but it is a separate trail.  The park is on the banks of Lake Allatoona and it’s about 42 miles from the center of Atlanta (Junction of 75/85/20) via I-75.   If you are looking for a weekend getaway there is a lodge, cottages, tennis courts, mini golf, camping, boating and more available at the park.

After grabbing some BBQ for lunch we headed North and arrived at the trail around 2:30 PM.  According to the book the trail is easy however both of us felt that “moderate” is probably more appropriate.  Although the trail winds around the mountain it’s laid out so none of the uphill climbs are too aggressive but still offer a little boost to hear rate.  Looking at the elevation chart in the book it’s hard to get a good idea of the actual slopes as the scale goes from 0 – 3600 but is rather small, even a rise of a couple hundred feet looks very small.  I’ve attached my GPS map in the slideshow that will give a better idea of the elevation change.

Lake Allatoona at Red Top Mountain

Lake Allatoona at Red Top Mountain

I really enjoyed this hike, seems like I say that every time I go out but I guess that’s a good thing as each trail has something to offer that I enjoy.  As mentioned, the trail was not overly difficult but it did offer a bit of a workout.  It’s a lollipop trail and the initial leg of the trail (the ‘stick’) is very easy terrain.  After crossing over Lodge Road you hit the more challenging terrain and wind along the lake.  There are some great views of the lake through the trees as well as a couple of areas where you can get along the banks.  We found one spot where a couple had set up hammocks along the lake and were reading as their dog kept watch, nice way to relax.  Although temps were fairly cool we did warm up a bit from earlier in the week and it made for perfect weather.  The trees are at the point where they are very colorful but half the leaves are on the ground and give that awesome crunch as you hike through.  My friend commented that some areas looked like shredded wrapping paper all over the floor on Christmas morning.

The hike took us about 2 1/2 hours to complete and we hiked a total of 5.74 miles.  We ended the day by heading back to my house for cigars and drinks.  With a fire crackling in the fire pit we hung out on the patio until I got too dru…. I mean until we were all tired and needed to get some rest.  All in all it was a great Saturday.

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Sweetwater Creek State Park – 58 and 59 from 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta

Sweetwater Creek

Sweetwater Creek

We had a gorgeous weekend in Atlanta and as I’m wont to do (I’ve always wanted to say that) I had to get a hike in.  A buddy suggested Sweetwater Creek State Park, so that’s where we headed.  I didn’t check my book beforehand and when I got home and looked found out the area we hiked actually covered two of the hikes in the book.  There are a few trails throughout the park and we started out on the red blazed trail, also called the historic trail (more on that later) and finished our hike via the white blazed trail, along with the Blue blazed trail these are referred to as the non-game trails.

The park is located approximately 25 miles west of Atlanta in Lithia Springs.  We entered the park via the Factory Shoals Road entrance and paid the $5.00 per car fee to enter the park.  As you enter the park Sparks Reservoir will be immediately on the left.  Drive straight back to get the visitor’s center and trailheads, you’ll pass several picnic areas along the way.  The park was very busy the day I went, I’m sure people are taking advantage of the gorgeous weather knowing that cooler temps are just around the corner.   We parked, got our gear together, put the leash on Boo, grabbed a map and headed out.  Jumping topics here but I really should get a little better with reading and navigating via a map.  In all fairness many of the maps the parks give out can be confusing as they only put things on the map they feel are important and sometimes things I think are important to pinpointing where I am are left out.  That’s right… I blame my shitty map-reading skills on shitty maps.  Don’t hate.

As mentioned the park was busy and traffic, especially at the trailhead, was heavy.  Just a short ways in we saw a Blue Heron perched high up in a tree, it looked odd as I usually see them along the shore or wading in the shallows. Later on I saw a Bald Eagle, unfortunately it flew over quickly and I didn’t get a chance to take a pic.  That was very awesome, first time I’ve seen one in the wild.  We proceeded along the trail which ran parallel to Sweetwater Creek, about 1/2 mile in you come to the ruins of the New Manchester Mill.  If you’ve read some of my other posts you know I love a hike with history so this was awesome to see.  The factory was burnt to the ground on July 9, 1864 by Union troops.  All employees were taken prisoner and moved to Marietta, later they were moved north and given the option to pledge allegiance to the Union and be released as free Northerners, they were commanded not to travel back south while the country was still at war.  I didn’t find any info as to what the other options were if you didn’t choose to become a Yankee.

New Manchester Factory ruins at Sweetwater Creek State Park

New Manchester Factory ruins at Sweetwater Creek State Park

Past the ruins the trail continues along the creek and offers a bit of challenging terrain as the area is quite rocky, as I attempted to navigate the rocks my pup simply ran up and down them pulling me along on the leash and getting frustrated with me for not keeping up.  For some reason she was extra rambunctious on this hike and hard to control, maybe there were just too many smells to process all at once.  I was too focused on looking at the scenery and navigating the rocks and forgot to take more pictures but did get a few of  the creek.  My buddy that went with me said he’ll be back soon with his fishing pole.  We saw several smaller fish along the banks so I’m sure there are larger ones out there.  He doesn’t have a very good record anyhow… I’m pretty sure the fish are safe.

In total we hiked 3.85 miles in 2.5 hours.  I’d say overall the trail was moderate difficulty. There was one hill that seemed to go on forever but other than that the hard climbs were pretty quick.  All in all it was a very fun hike and I will definitely return again to explore the other trails.

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Wildcat Creek Trail – #30 from the book 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta

Looking up Wildcat Creek from the bridge

Once a year my dad and I get together for a week.  This past week was my birthday (Wow, I’m 41 now… sheesh) so he came over to Atlanta to spend the week with me.  My dad and I normally get together at the holidays, but that’s with all the family around, we still make sure to squeeze in a week each year for the guys to hang out.

My dad has also started trying to live healthier so I tried to plan our activities here based around being more active rather than what we’ve done in the past, which is to eat everything in sight.   When I suggested a hike to my dad he was game and said he’d like to go somewhere with waterfalls.  I looked around Amicalola Falls area and found a trail I haven’t hiked, I took him to see Amicalola Falls but the trail there would have been to steep for him so we hiked Wildcat Creek Trail first then checked out the falls.  We had a great time but I think my pops got a bit more than he bargained for.

At the trailhead to Wildcat Creek Trail there is a sign showing the blaze colors for the four trails there.  We were taking the Green trail, marked at 1.6 miles just like the book says… this was the last green blaze we saw the whole day.  I’ve discovered that the book is more of a listing of trails rather than a guidebook.  I’ve found many of the trails don’t match up with what’s listed in the book, fees have changed or places that didn’t have fees do now.  At Wildcat Creek we found the state has implemented a pay to access system where you must have a pass or license to access.   The pass is called a GORP Pass (Georgia Outdoor Recreational Pass) and is now required in 32 areas across the state.  More info can be found here.

A view across Wildcat Creek

My buddy Brian joined my dad and I and my dog Boo came along as well.  Although we couldn’t find the green trail we didn’t let that stop us.  We followed a trail off into the woods and before long we were doing more trailblazing than hiking.  There was somewhat of a trail around but we spent more time climbing over logs, under limbs and avoiding hidden holes covered with leaves than anything, it was actually quite fun.  Once we came up along Wildcat Creek we followed it back up and ended back at our destination.   In total we did about 1.4 miles, less than we anticipated but I think as far as my dad was concerned that was a good thing.  We found some neat items along the way – a turtle hanging out on the creek bank, a fallen limb that looked as though it had been set up as a torture device and a squirrel’s acorn stash in a hollow log, you could even see where he’d been gnawing on one of the acorns.

The weather was awesome and the hike was fun.  We didn’t get remotely close to the trail as listed in the book but from here on I’m going to consider finding the trailhead to count as me making that hike.  This makes 7 hikes down, 53 to go!  I may detour some from the book as we’re making plans to hike and stay at the Len Foote Hike Inn and also to hike Brasstown Bald (highest point in GA) here in the early fall.  North GA gets some amazing fall colors so we want to get these hikes in soon.

I got the feeling this guy wanted to be left alone.

A squirrel’s winter stockpile, you can see where he was snacking on one of the acorns.

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