Pine Mountain Trail – East Loop and Summit

Pine Mountain Summit View

Pine Mountain Summit View

PINE MOUNTAIN RECREATION AREA – CARTERSVILLE, GA
Trailhead Coordinates: 34.177045 N, -84.737294 W
Distance Hiked: 3.04 miles (East Loop and Summit Overlook)
Time to Hike: 1:50:21
No GPX file for this one due to technical difficulties.

It’s been a few weeks since I got a hike in and I was ready to go this weekend.  Weather, work, holidays… ’tis the season, I guess.  I made sure to get some time this weekend and was excited to check out a trail close to my house, even though it’s not in my 60 Hikes book, although I’m told that it will be in the next edition.  This is the toughest hike I’ve personally done (remember, I’m a newb trying to lose weight) not counting Brasstown Bald.  Although Brasstown Bald was a more strenuous climb it was only 1/2 mile each way and on a paved trail.

The Pine Mountain Recreation Area is situated on Lake Allatoona and not far from Red Top Mountain.  It’s divided into a few trails as well as the summit overlook.  I hiked the East Loop and Summit, the West Loop connects to the East Loop for those that would like a longer hike.  For the East Loop and Summit my roundtrip was 3.04 miles, if you add in the West Loop the total hike is around 4.50 miles.  There are several picnic areas and lake access close to the area, however for some reason most of them were closed this weekend.

Interesting Tree on the East Loop Trail

Interesting Tree on the East Loop Trail

It’s important to note that a Georgia mountain is a bit less… mountainous than some of those beasts out West.  The trail started at an elevation of just over 900 feet and at the summit it’s about 1,500.  A good climb for me and the largest elevation gain of the trail I’ve hiked around  here.  It got my heart rate going pretty good and I burnt enough calories to have a few beers with friends after the hike and not even worry about it.  The terrain also offers a bit of a challenge with rocks and roots along the winding trail.  The view from the top was awesome and gave an almost 360 degree view of the area including Lake Allatoona and North Georgia.  To make it even more picturesque there were a few hawks (I’m gonna call them hawks, could have been buzzards – I was pretty tired once I got up there) circling around over the lake.

I’ll definitely hike this trail again, next time I’ll have to check out the West Loop as well.  Pine Mountain Recreation Area is less well known than Kennesaw Mountain just a bit south, if you’re looking for a hike it’s a less crowded area and much more geared to the hiking than the history.

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Brasstown Bald – Highest point in the state of Georgia

Panoramic view from the top of Brasstown Bald

This past Saturday I took a trip a little outside my usual 60 miles of Atlanta range.  Some friends and I traveled up to Blairsville, GA to Brasstown Bald, the highest point in the state of Georgia at 4,783 feet.  From the top of the mountain you can see four states – Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and South Carolina.  The English name for the mountain comes from a translation error of the Cherokee name, Itse’yĭ (New Green Place or Place of Fresh Green).  White settlers in the area mistakenly translated it as Ûňtsaiyĭ (brass).

Brasstown Bald is approximately a 2 hour drive from Atlanta, mostly due to the last 45 +/- miles of the trip being on winding mountain roads.  It’s several miles from any city/town so just be aware if you decide to travel up.  Due to stops for lunch at a nice Cuban restaurant, the cigar shop to grab a stogie for the trip up and the gas station for fuel and drinks we headed up a little later than intended.  We arrived close to 5:00 PM just as they were shutting down the small General Store and the museum on the peak of the mountain, no big deal for us but worth noting if these are areas you’d like to see.  Brasstown Bald is also a wonderful place for star gazing.  We were there once it got dark (unintentionally, it’s a long story… I’m still traumatized so I’d rather not talk about it.) and I have to say I’ve never seen a night that dark before.  The sky was crystal clear and moonless and the stars were the most brilliant I’ve ever seen.  Absolutely indescribable how amazing the night sky was, if you get a chance you should definitely check it out.  The trail to the summit is open 24 x 7 for those that would like a night hike to the summit.

View from the top of Brasstown Bald

View from the top of Brasstown Bald

There are a few ways you can get to the top of Brasstown Bald.  One popular route is via Jack’s Knob Trail, a 4.5 mile trail (each way) with the last 1/2 mile being the trip from the visitor’s center parking lot to the top.  Although I’d like to think I was ready for a 9 mile hike over steep hills I’m not one to lie to myself so I opted to do the short 1/2 mile on this trip.  Fortunately we had a couple others that agreed with me so majority won.  Even the half mile is a tough half mile, very steep hills.   The trail is paved all the way up and is flanked on both sides with trees and plants.  As I pushed my hardest to make it up the mountain I really wanted to trip the kids that were sprinting past me… but I didn’t, even though those little show-offs would have deserved it.  Once I managed to make it to the top I was greeted with an amazing view from the observation tower.  The sky was clear but there was a light fogginess over the mountains, a really amazing sight.  The towns and lakes we could see in the valleys looked more like they belonged on a model train set, very cool stuff.  I snapped a few pics and we wandered around a bit then headed back down.   I was very happy to be trotting 1/2 mile down the mountain rather than back up.

Some technical details for the trip.  There is a lot of winding roads to get to the mountain, we had one person in our group that gets carsick and this trip whipped her around pretty good.  You can ride a shuttle bus to the peak if you’d rather not take the hike.   The shuttle bus is $3.00/person for adults.  If you choose not to take the shuttle bus it’s still $3.00 per adult (anyone over 16) to enter the park, I believe older kids and teens were $2.00 with young children being free.  There is a newly constructed restroom facility at the welcome center and also a small General Store with t-shirts, hats, stickers, magnets, etc.  The day we went they also had a vendor there with a cart selling hot dogs, cold cider and hot chocolate.  There are machines if you’d prefer water or a soda.

Definitely a fun trip and one I’d do again.  We caught it about mid-way through the fall foliage change and there was still a lot of green.  It would be nice to see it when leaves are at there peak, perhaps I’ll take another trip next year.

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