Red Top Mountain State Park is nestled along the shores of Lake Allatoona in northwest Georgia. The state park received its name from the high iron content in its red soil. This area was originally mined for iron and you can still locate rocks rusting along the shoreline of the lake. Nowadays, this state park is known for its boating, cycling, swimming, and hiking.
Whoever Red Top SP has in charge of maintaining their hiking trails does a fabulous job. They are wide, well marked, and routed for maximum viewing enjoyment.
My favorite trail at Red Top is the Homestead Trail. This 5.5 mile lollipop trail covers much of the park’s geography and provides a great workout as well. The trail begins at the Visitor Center and for the first 1/2 mile mostly drops in elevation. This trail uses yellow blazes and has frequent mile markers and signs. At the bottom of the initial descent, the trail briefly joins the Sweet Gum Trail but after a hundred yards or so kicks off to the left where it ascends the ridge line.
The top of this ridge is often empty of hikers as it is skipped by many because it follows a creek on the far side of the ridge and rejoins the Sweet Gum Trail near where it initially departed from it. The two trails run together again for approximately 1/4 mile until the Lodge Road is crossed when the Sweet Gum trail abruptly veers off to the right.
Almost immediately after the trails diverge, you come upon the 3.5 mile loop portion of the trail. The scenery and wildlife sightings in this area ramp up as well. While hiking this trail yesterday the knocking of woodpeckers accompanied me as I repeatedly surprised deer along the trail.
I normally go left here at the loop which gets the biggest hill out of the way and saves the gorgeous lakeshore for the return trip. The trail throughout the loop rises and falls repeatedly, but with no sustained incline or descent. This results in a consistent high heart rate and fresh views around every corner.
The lakeshore area of the loop is my favorite as the emerald green waters lap the shore beside me for over a mile. Once you complete the loop you cross Lodge Road and follow the lollipop stick portion of the trail back to the Visitor Center. For variety if you want to see new terrain you can take the Sweet Gum Trail veer just before the Lodge Trail. This will quickly lead to the Lodge parking lot which if you cross in a straight line you will pick back up Sweet Gum and can follow this around to the opposite side of the Visitor Center. This doesn’t really add any mileage to the length of the hike but does give you a feeling of having seen most of the state park.
One of the nice things about hiking in this area in August is that the muscadine vines are dropping their fruit everywhere. Muscadines are a native grape to this area and at ground level look like thick woody vines that climb the trees. The variety most common at Red Top is a sub variety called a Scuppernong which is green and has a very thick skin. I think the deer must be having a field day vacuuming these up.
A couple of housekeeping notes before I leave you. Red Top does use an honor system based $5 parking fee. Also, since Lake Allatoona is a Corps of Engineers lake, be forewarned that they drain it every winter. There is no drinking water along the trail but there is a place to fill bottles at the Visitor Center and of course if you have a Lifestraw you could fill from the lake or creeks.
I hope you get to enjoy this trail sometime and thanks for reading. rk