- Dacey Orr For the AJC
Many of the mountain parks near Atlanta have become popular destinations for metro residents to escape for fresh air and beautiful views. But when those well-known destinations get crowded in the cooler months, Georgia holds plenty of less famous destinations for aspiring mountaineers. Check out these five often-overlooked mountain destinations in Georgia.
Emery Creek Trail to Bald Mountain
Bald Mountain may be a well-known destination for Georgia outdoorsmen, but nearby path Emery Creek Trail has remained largely secluded, seeing light foot traffic even on weekends. A 13-mile hike complete with secluded waterfalls, refreshing (and, at times, difficult to navigate) waterlogged paths and relative peace in the deep woods leads to the popular mountain, but don't forget to waterproof any phones, camera equipment or other electronics, and wear clothes that can get wet.
Smithgall Woods State Park
61 Tsalaki Trail, Helen. 706-878-3087.
This Helen property was donated to the state by Charles A. Smithgall, a well-known philanthropist and conservationist whose legacy continues in multiple arenas, including a Humane Society nearby. Smithgall Woods State Park holds many options for big groups looking to make a weekend of it, offering six cabins and multiple picnic areas for down time. Take a trip to this mountainous state park and enjoy miles of trails as well as bird watching, archery and catch-and-release trout fishing.
101 Broad St., Pine Mountain. 800-441-3502.
Touted as one of Georgia's more unusual mountains, Pine Mountain is the southernmost mountain in the eastern United States and offers more than 40 miles of trails including the 23 mile Pine Mountain trail in nearby F. D. Roosevelt State Park. One of the most distinctive characteristics about this park is the diverse array of wildlife and botany that comes with such varied terrain and habitats. Nearby, history buffs can check out Franklin D. Roosevelt's Little White House, one of Georgia's most popular historic destinations.
Accessible via Vogel State Park.
405 Vogel State Park Road, Blairsville. 706-745-2628.
Maybe some of Georgia's overlooked mountains aren't so much neglected as they are intentionally skipped over. After all, not everyone is up for a hardy hike just to catch the best view. Coosa Bald, Georgia's tenth-highest peak, walks that line with a 12.9-mile out and back trek to the top with several elevation changes along the way, making for a great hike for moderate hikers looking to up their skills. Unless you’re camping, (permit required) you’ll need to start early in the morning to make this a day hike. Dress warmly: Even when the valleys below are clear and dry, this peak has been known to see its share of snowfall.
Cast out into the Cohutta wilderness and take a hike up Grassy Mountain for panoramic views and a beautiful mountaintop lake. Hikers will traipse across wooden bridges and beside beaver dams for 2.6 miles to the summit, where they will find a fire tower that provides a unique picture of the surrounding mountains. This view comes with a price, though, so remember to prepare for rocky roads and an off-the-grid experience before setting out into this wilderness unprepared.
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