A surprisingly challenging but tranquil climb from the trailhead, the crest of Pine Mountain overlooks downtown Cartersville. As part of Pine Mountain Recreation Area, 226 acres of land make up a 4.5-mile hike with moderate elevation gain.
The crest of Pine Mountain stands at 1,562 feet and overlooks downtown Cartersville, Georgia, known as the highest point in the city. A portion of this recreation area is situated within the 13,000 acres that encompass Mark Anthony Cooper's iron empire, where facilities produced iron works during the 1800s.
Keep in mind that Pine Mountain Recreation Area is separate from Pine Mountain in F.D.R. State Park, south of Atlanta.
The main portion of the trail system consists of a West Loop (1.57 miles) and an East Loop (2.34 miles) which both ascend either side of the mountain up to the Summit Overlook Trail (0.16 miles) in a figure 8 fashion. Both East and West Pass connector trails allow you to traverse the ridge of the mountain, and signage guides you in the right direction.
The West Loop trail passes a small pond before climbing a series of switchbacks that wind between several large rock outcroppings. In the winter months, tree coverage is thin and distant mountain landscapes in the northwest are visible. While this trail is less distance, the 600 foot vertical gain over the course of a mile provides a worthy challenge. Either direction will pose to be a challenge, but the switchbacks are steadier going counter-clockwise.
On the East Loop trail, there are fewer switchbacks and the ascent is moderate. By hiking clockwise, you'll follow the more mild c-shaped curves up the mountain, and you can "billy-goat" your way down the opposite side on your return hike.
In addition to the main loop trails there are also short lead trails from each parking lot, the West Trailhead to Loop Trail (0.18 miles) and the East Trailhead to Loop Trail (0.07 miles). A map of all trails is currently available at both trailheads.
In total the Pine Mountain Recreation Area offers 4.56 miles of trails. You can access additional trails from the East Loop trailhead using the Cooper's Furnace Connector Trail which leads to the Cooper's Furnace Trail, Laurel Ridge Trail and the Cooper's Branch Trails. The main overlook on Cooper's Furnace trail gives a stunning view of Allatoona Dam and Vineyard Mountain.
What Makes It Great
The view off the Summit Overlook Trail rivals Cartersville's small town feel. David G. Archer overlook offers views of Cartersville, Lake Allatoona, surrounding hills in Bartow County Greenspace and Plant Bowen, a coal-generating plant that has the largest generating capacity in North America. The West Loop trail is the more scenic of the two loop trails. By climbing clockwise, the short switchbacks are coupled with overlooks of Bartow County Greenspace, a quaint valley peppered with lakes and hump-like mountains. At 0.5 miles, an outcropping of rocks known as "Fatman Squeeze". This section was name for a rock, almost squared on one side, that blocks the trail, causing you to squeeze by. Other boulder fields populate the mountain and in the fall, granite rocks poke from piles of leaves. On the East Loop trail, be sure to make a detour at Whiskey Point . After crossing over two bridges (going clockwise), this point will be a sharp switchback west. Whiskey Point doesn't seem like much, but you'll notice a copper barrel hidden among the bushes, across the creek. This was a vat that was used during moonshine operations before Prohibition.
Who is Going to Love It
Those looking for scenic mountaintop views that don't want to trek to Chattanooga or North Georgia, Pine Mountain holds its own beauty, less than an hour from the city. The difficulty of the hike can be altered by the routes chosen- easier hiking is found on the East trails, while you'll find more elevation gain in a shorter distance on the West trails.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
You can access both the East and West trailheads from I-75. To access the East Loop trailhead, take exit 290 and travel east and turn right on GA Spur 20. Parking is available on the right. To access the West Loop trailhead, take exit 288 and drive east away from Cartersville to the end of the road. Parking area for the West Loop Trailhead is on the left before entering Komatsu.
Like most trails, pets are allowed on a leash. Be sure to pack out all trash. Mountain biking is available only on the East Loop on Wednesday and Saturday, and you must adhere to the trail directional signs. No restroom facilities are available at the trailhead.