Kennesaw Mountain rises to 1,808 feet and offers wonderful views of Atlanta in the distance and even Stone Mountain to the southeast on a clear day. There are many options to choose and one can easily piece together everything from a short 5 mile loop to a full 20 mile run and rarely cover the same ground.
Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield National Park is part of the National Park Service, covering almost 3,000 acres. The drawing point to the park is the preservation of its historical significance during the Civil War and the Battle of Kennesaw in 1864. You can visit Civil War-era battlefields with earth mounds still visible and various canons and monuments located at different spots in the park.
The park has many different loop trails: a good rule of thumb is that the west trails are more technical and traverse higher elevation, while the east trails tend to hug the side of the mountain and are flatter and dirt packed.
What Makes It Great
Red Mountain Loop: 5.8 miles (from Visitor Center to Burnt Hickory Road)
Early morning light cannot be beat, and the 1-mile distance to Kennesaw’s peak is a great warm-up for your day’s activities. Sunlight filters through the trees as you journey toward the summit. In the fall and winter, looking out to your left gives views of the vast realm of Atlanta’s suburbs. By hiking early, you’ll hear birdsong mingling with the gentle sound of winds sweeping through the trees.
The trail pours out to a parking lot at 1,670 feet, but this is not the highest point. Continue across to round out your hike at the summit of Kennesaw Mountain at 1,808 feet. The cannons are reminders of the Confederate soldiers’ position on the top of this mountain. To the south, sweeping views of Atlanta’s full skyline look like a bar graph, and on clear days you can see some of north Georgia’s mountains.
From this point onward, hike a constant descent into the valley from Little Kennesaw Mountain to Pigeon Hill and Burnt Hickory Road.
Little Kennesaw’s summit is home to Fort McBride. The trail, now marked Little Kennesaw trail, winds through a boulder field. Weathered granite boulders populate the landscape here, and at some portions of the trail you’ll have to scramble across rocky sections. Before the final drop to the road, Pigeon Hill signifies the Confederate earthworks, where Union soldiers tried to take the hill, but were unsuccessful.
At this point, you can opt to retrace your steps and regain elevation, or take the flat Camp Brumby Trail that traces the base of the eastern side of the mountain. The a wide-set, dirt-packed path feels sheltered by towering trees, and it is much easier to navigate than the western trails. You’ll pass by the Civilian Conservation Corps camp, where the volunteers that created many of the park’s trails stayed from 1938 to 1942.Noses Creek Loop: 3.6 miles You begin the trail crossing through a sprawling, grassy field before entering into the thin forests that are typical of northern Atlanta. To make this loop, take the two west Hardage Mill trails (north and south), which wind away from Noses Creek trail to form a figure eight. The first branches off after 0.3 miles before briefly reconvening with Noses Creek trail to cross over the creek on a bridge. The banks of Noses Creek slope gently from shore, so it’s an easy place to take off your shoes and wade in the water. The north and south portion of these trails snake through the woods in a roller coaster fashion. Once you turn around at Dallas Highway, follow Noses Creek Trail in a straight shot back to Burnt Hickory Road.
Cheatham Hill to Kolb’s Farm: 5.5 miles Cheatham Hill was in the heat of the battle in 1864. Near the parking lot, be sure to stop by the Illinois Monument, a white granite structure built in 1914 that honors the soldiers from that state who died here. You’ll hump over Cheatham Hill and continue south over the “Dead Angle” where it is said the most intense battles occurred in June 1864. Wide, smooth trails are a solace to trail runners.
The turning point of the loop is Kolb Farm, at the intersection of Powder Springs Road and Cheatham Hill Road. This farm was built in 1836 by Peter Valentine Kolb, and the Union and Confederate Generals Hooker and Hood fought near this location.
Kolb Farm signals the over-achiever loop, if you take it the full 16.8 miles from the visitor center, going out on the west trails and back on the east trails. the path isn’t as shaded as some of the others, so run this in early morning or after the heat of the day.
Who is Going to Love It
The historic monuments and Civil War history is not to be missed by Civil War buffs. The hike up to Kennesaw Mountain’s summit is short, and you are awarded with monuments along the way. For rocky and elevated terrain, hike the Kennesaw Mountain trail and Little Kennesaw trail to Burnt Hickory Road.
Trail runners will enjoy the easily navigated, lower elevation trails on the east side of the mountain. Camp Brumby Trail, Noses Creek Trail and the Cease Fire trail take you from the visitor center out to Kolb Farm and back, with access points along the way. Kennesaw Mountain is iconic running legend Jeff Galloway’s favorite running trail in the area.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Getting to Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield is easy- brown National Park signs guide you from I-75 to the park. The parking lot at the visitor center sits at the base of Kennesaw Mountain and provides a good starting point for both east and west trail access.
Another parking lot that positions you in the middle of the park is off Burnt Hickory Road at Old Mtn. Road. From this section you can choose to hike north progressing in elevation from Pigeon Hill to Little Kennesaw Mountain and then Kennesaw Mountain. Many trail runners enjoy parking at this lot or Cheatam Hill Road’s lot.
For the amount of acreage and outdoor activities that you can do at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, it's an added bonus that parking is free.
On a weekend morning, the park is busy with visitors taking advantage of the trails, so for a more isolated experience, visit the park on a weekday or take the lesser-traveled trails, such as those further from the Visitor Center like Noses Creek Loop. All dogs must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet.