Site of the Battle of Kennesaw in 1864, Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield National Park is massive, covering almost 3,000 acres just outside Atlanta. The park is criss-crossed by dozens of trails with the largest loop trail clocking in at 16.8 miles from the visitor’s center to Kolb Farm and back—going out on the west trails and coming back on the east trails. While the views of Atlanta to the east are spectacular, the real majesty of this run comes from the history, with markers, monuments, and even cannons dotting the trails.
What Makes It Great
While Georgia is home to some of the country’s most majestic mountains, trail runners have to drive hours out of the city to enjoy them. Thankfully, Kennesaw Mountain brings the scale, the views, and the challenge of big mountain running right to Atlanta’s backyard.
While many of the trails near the visitor center are highly trafficked, the farther reaches of the park are often empty, and the dense forest can make you feel like you are miles away from civilization. As you run deeper into the park, you’ll see markers indicating troop encampments from the Battle of Kennesaw in 1864 and can even see the faint outline of trenches and fortifications from the battle.
Especially in the early morning summer mist, the sites make this run something special, and it’s impossible to ignore the history you’re running through. The Illinois Monument, about 5 miles from the visitors center, is a particularly gorgeous tribute to this history and is a great place to stop and catch your breath.
The park’s trails are well maintained and open year round. While there are a few technical climbs, the grades are forgiving, even on the dreaded “forever hill,” a half mile section with 150 feet of vertical gain. Much of the run is through dense forest that is well shaded in the summer and covered with a thick bed of leaves in the winter. There are a handful of road crossings, but they are well marked and drivers tend to yield readily to runners.
Who is Going to Love It
Atlanta trail runners looking for a longer run than those offered by local spots like Cochran Shoals will find the 20 minute drive to Kennesaw Mountain well worth the trip. With smooth trails and a secluded feel, the mountain is a great run for advanced and beginner trail runners alike. The majestic views and abundance of history are just the cherry on top of a trail run that stands all on its own.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Kennesaw Mountain is a straight shot up I-75 from downtown. Once you exit at 267B, brown National Park signs guide you from I-75 to the park. The parking lot at the visitor center is at the base of the mountain and offers good access to all the park’s trails. There is also overflow parking just up the street. Additional parking is available further into the park off Burnt Hickory Road at Old Mtn. Road or at the Cheatam Hill Road lot.