Sunday Hikes: The Homestead Trail at Red Top Mountain State Park

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

Fort Massac State Park

In my constant quest to find somewhere to exercise while traveling, I hit up google to try and find a good hiking trail near me.   Just a few miles from my hotel was Fort Massac State Park and their “shouldn’t be missed” 2.5 mile long Hickory Nut Ridge Trail.   This looked perfect so I headed over to the State Park.

Fort Massac State Park is located in southern Illinois on the north bank of the Ohio River.   There is some interesting history to be learned I am sure as it was originally a French fort during the French and Indian War in the mid 1700’s and later in 1803, Lewis & Clark spent time here recruiting men for their upcoming expedition.


Welcome to Fort Massac State Park

I pulled right into the State Park and headed to the Visitor’s Center.   It was closed (4:45pm?), but free parking and no park entrance fee so that was good.   I noticed that they seemed to have a bit of a flooding problem also in the surrounding wooded areas.   Directly between the Visitor’s Center and the Ohio River was the remains of Fort Massac.   I went and checked out the old French Fort and checked out the river.   You couldn’t go inside the fort so that was a bummer.


Fort Massac


Statue of George Clark near the Fort

I then tried to find the trailhead but couldn’t find it.   Finally after asking a few of the locals walking on the roadway, I realized that the trail was pretty much underwater as the Ohio River had flooded it out.   Disappointed, I decided to walk through the campground and get my exercise that way.   I was able to find part of a trail system including possibly part of the “shouldn’t be missed” Hickory Nut Ridge Trail, but despite which way I traversed the trail I would eventually end up at a flooded area.


The Hickory Nut Ridge Trailhead has seen better days


Another trail under water


Finally found some trail not underwater

Fort Massac State Park was interesting and I hope to be able to make it back when it is completely open.   I am sure the Visitor’s Center would have more information about the history of this fort and I would like to see the entirety of the Hickory Nut Ridge Trail also.  Thanks for reading.   rk

Sunday Hikes: Dunbar Cave Recovery Trail

Clarksville TN is a fun little town about 45 minutes northwest of Nashville right on the Kentucky border.   Occasionally I spend time here for work.   I discovered a few years back a real gem of a place to hike, Dunbar Cave State Park.   This State Park is in the city limits and has a well marked hiking trail that covers almost the entirety of the park.

The State Park covers 110 acres and centers around Dunbar Cave.   The visitors center and parking lot are in one corner of the park.   The trail leads from the visitors center to the cave entrance and then has a figure 8 trail system behind the cave.   The total length of the trail is 2.8 miles.


The pond area formed by the stream that comes out of the cave

Last week, I was able to revisit this state park and hike the trails and view the cave entrance.  The trail from the visitors center to the cave area is a short flat walk.   The cave area is pretty neat.   Back before air conditioning became common, they used this area for outdoor concerts and functions.   They built a two story complex with a concession area and dance floor.  It’s really amazing to think about how it must have been back in the day with live bands and dancing.


The cave entrance / big band stage


Concessions area next to the cave entrance / big band stage area


Peering into the fenced off cave entrance

After viewing the cave entrance area, I hiked the figure 8 behind the cave area.   The trails are wide and well marked with numerous sinkholes off to the side.  At one sinkhole I saw several deer.   I did take a few pictures so that you could see what the area was like.   I hope you enjoy and thanks for reading.   rk


The trail behind the cave entrance


Coming back around towards the sinkhole area


Sinkhole with very poor fencing effort


Deer hanging out near the sinkholes


Sunday Hikes: The Devil’s Backbone and Fall Creek Loop Trails

I caught a beautiful day to hike the Devil’s Backbone Trail.    Combining it with the Fall Creek Loop Trail creates what I call a lollipop trail.   The Devil’s Backbone runs straight out for 1.2 miles and connects the Fall Creek Loop which is a 1.5 mile loop and then return to the trailhead by retracing your steps on the Devil’s Backbone.

I found these trails at Warriors Path State Park in northeast Tennessee, about 15 minutes from the Virginia state line.   The trailhead was tricky to locate, I took I-81 north and got off at exit 59 and turned left (west).   After less than a mile take Hemlock to the right.   What confused me was the park entrance where I originally turned (by the way, they have a really cool playground for kids here).   In any case, pass the park entrance by and follow what becomes Fall Creek Road over the South Fork of the Holston River towards the golf course.   Immediately after crossing the river is the trailhead to the right.

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After parking at the trailhead, I quickly started the trail as it was now 6pm and I wanted to finish before dark since my headlamp batteries were dead.   I quickly learned that the Devil’s backbone must be arched severely because this trail goes up, up, and then up some more.   Near the top there are multiple overlooks that view down to the South Fork of the Holston River with the rest of Warriors Path State Park in view behind the river.   This length of trail is covered with granite rocks and hardwoods.    It is a very beautiful hike.

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I kept moving and then got to go down, down, and down some more.   At the bottom, the trail cuts left and follows a stream (must be Fall Creek!).    I caught a picture of a strangely eroded rock that had caught my eye near where the river and the stream meet.    This rock to me had the appearance of a longhorn skull.   The trail then heads upstream a short bit before you cross a rickety bridge.   Shortly after crossing the bridge you arrive at the Fall Creek Loop Trail.

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The Fall Creek Loop Trail follows the stream farther and then cuts right up to the top of a hilltop.  This area is extremely peaceful with the only noise being birds and the babbling brook.   The ascent to the top of the hilltop is easy compared to the Devil’s Backbone.   It appeared to be a micro climate at the top with grass and different types of plants and less trees.   There was also a good bit of old barbed wire embedded in some of the trees and reading about the trail afterwards indicated that at one time there was a farmhouse up here.   Eventually you come down the far side of the hilltop and come back to the Devil’s Garden Trail where you repeat the up, up and down, down to get back to the trailhead.

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I completed both trails at a total distance of 3.9 miles in about an hour and 20 minutes.   It was a great workout and fun to boot.   I will warn you that if you are able to hike these trails to beware of mosquitos.   I did this hike in mid April and it was a very warm day, but I was surprised to see the next day that I was eaten up on my lower legs with mosquito bites.

Thanks for reading about this hike and I hope you enjoy the pictures.   rk