|From Red Top Mountain|
Red Top mountain is home to about 11 miles of hiking on 6 separate trails. Most are shorter and very easy to do. The two longer ones are the Iron Horse Trail (which allows Bicycling) and my personal favorite and the subject of this article: the 5.5 mile Homestead Trail. Now don’t let the Mountain in the name scare you, the top elevation is merely 1060 feet and the trail is more of a nice walk around the mountain rather than any real type of uphill climb. The park's website list this excursion as moderate in difficulty, and I concur, but I think its on the lighter side of moderate. There are some ups and downs but no significant patch that should really take the wind out of you. The trail itself has very good footing mostly of compact soil, namely Georgia Red Clay, from which the place gets its name. The 5.5 miles does mean at least a two hour commitment, so its not for the very casual stroller.
The best thing about the trail is the views of the water. The park is on a peninsula created by the damming of the Etowah River, which created Lake Allatoona. The water views to the East are the River and to the West is the Lake. There are a large number of places where you can break from the trail and explore the water, even getting a little wet if you are so inclined. Along the waterside, there are also some interesting rocks on which to climb, which should make it fun for kids. The Lake itself is a very popular destination for water enthusiasts, so you might see a pretty sailboat or motorboat to enhance the view. The trail must also be very dog friendly because we encountered more than half a dozen canines along the way.
The reason I bring this up is two fold. First, this is a very nice park close to Atlanta with a good trail that fits all my required criteria: Scenic Beauty, Good Exercise, and a break from the clutter of city life. But also because I read that the State Park System is thinking of thinking about upping the parking rate for areas such as these from $3 to $5 ($30 to $50 for a season pass). And I wanted to go on the record that every time I drop my $3 in the parking slot this thought goes through my mind, "I get all this for me and my friends for $3 bucks??" I almost feel as if I’m stealing something. I know times are tough but its still a value, and if the good folks at Georgia Parks & Recreation continue to provide places like this to people like you and me, I support them 100%. If you care to exercise your rights at as a citizen, public hearing will be held on April 6 at the Floyd Towers East in Atlanta from 9am to noon (Directions).
But back to Red Top Mountain, this is a good place to get away and unwind, to get your blood moving, and enjoy the nature of Georgia. And the fact that its relatively nearby makes it a real bargain at either price. And it gives you a nice reading on the impact of our water consumption and drought status as Allatoona is used for water supply for the surrounding areas.
Approximate Time: 2-3 hours
Approximate Distance: 5.5
Trail Surface: Compact Red Clay, Soil, some rocks off the path
Features: Waterside Views, Popular for trees
Overall Rating: B+
Scenic Quality: A-
Parking: $3 (for now)
Hours of Operation: 7am-10pm
Facilities: At the trailhead and visitor center
Maps: at the Visitor center, trail is marked, online here