The Pine Mountain Trail is a pawsome trail in the Pine Mountain Recreation Area in Cartersville, Georgia. It's less than an hour's drive from Atlanta, but feels like a world away.
Note that there are two Pine Mountain Trails near Atlanta and that this is the one to the northeast, not the one in F. D. Roosevelt State Park to the south. More people start their hike at the western trailhead off of I-75 on Komatsu Drive, though the eastern trailhead on County Road 294N is also a good option and features a connector trail that links to other nearby trails. Both trailheads have parking lots, but no bathroom facilities. Make sure to bring your own waste bags and water.
The 4.6-mile Pine Mountain Trail is broken into two sections, the West Loop and East Loop. The West Loop is just over 1.5 miles long, while the East Loop is 2.3 miles long. They connect at the middle in a figure eight pattern. The middle of both loops is where you'll find the out-and-back section that leads to the mountain's summit. The entire trail features over 1200 feet of elevation gain, with each trailhead at about 900 feet and the mountain summit at 1,564 feet. The West Loop is shorter, but steeper, with the same amount of elevation gain in less distance.
The exertion required to reach the top of Pine Mountain is worth it. The trail leads you through fresh pine forests loaded with dog-pleasing scents, over trickling creeks, and past lush gardens of ferns and wildflowers. Lichen-clad rocks surround the trail, which features a narrow passage through walls of granite. As you emerge from the forest, you'll enter alpine meadows scattered with boulders. You'll enjoy spectacular panoramic views of Lake Allatoona and the surrounding peaks at the summit. Even foggy days have their charm here, coating the forests in mist that gives older trees an eerie gravitas.
This challenging, but accessible hike features beautiful views and is a great place to energize your body and clear your mind. Bring your dogs along whenever you're looking for a fresh perspective!