Let me take you on a sacred journey up a mountain with me. Which is to say, “let’s go hiking.” I think if I asked people to go on a sacred journey up a mountain with me, I would forever be a solo hiker. But that’s what this place is to me—it’s sacred ground.
And no, I don’t mean it’s actually sacred. Some people might think that because it’s a historical battle site, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Do you ever just love a place? Like, you show up at this place and it just makes you happy? And not even like a bubbling-over-with-excitement kind of happy. Just a plain and simple content kind of joy. This is what Kennesaw Mountain is to me.
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is so normal. It’s a regular hiking or running or walking-the-dog location for a large (and growing) number of metro Atlantians. That’s one of the beautiful things about this place. It offers lots of different options, and has such a prime location. It’s a beautiful patch of nature that’s practically in my backyard.
The park encompasses more than 16 miles of trails and spans across multiple roads, which allows for multiple trailheads with parking lots. The main hub for the park is at the base of Kennesaw Mountain itself, where there is a visitor center, a small parking lot, and an overflow parking lot to accommodate the considerable number of daily guests. One of my favorite trails to hike at the park starts at the mountain, which is where I started today.
I parked in the overflow parking lot and took the sidewalk that leads back to the visitor center. The visitor center houses a small museum on which I can make no comment, since it’s been at least ten years since I’ve been inside it. I usually only go inside the center to use the restroom. There are also water fountains inside as well as one fountain outside the visitor center, and plenty of maps available. A road winds up the mountain starting from this parking lot, but is only open on weekdays. On weekends, you can purchase a ride on a shuttle if you want to visit the summit without having to hike.
Starting from the visitor’s center, the majority of the trail is uphill…I feel like this is obvious, but I might as well say it. It gets your blood pumping, but is only a mile hike, so reaching the top of Kennesaw Mountain is very achievable for most people. It also has a smattering of benches that climb the trail with you, providing plenty of opportunities to rest or take in the view. My favorite bench is one of the last ones before you reach the parking lot at the top, and faces away from the trail. From this bench, you may see the Atlanta skyline for the first time on your ascent. It was pretty gloomy and overcast today, so Atlanta was more of a shadow in the distance than anything else.
Being so popular, the mountain section of the trail is very wide, well worn, and a large portion of it is gravel. Steeper sections have “steps” that act as a resistance against erosion as well as an aid for hikers. The trail reaches the upper parking lot 0.1 mile from the summit. I almost always stop at a bench here and congratulate myself for exercising, grab some water, and enjoy the view. I once was caught in a tornado warning on the mountain, and a gentleman was shuttling hikers back to the lower lot from this parking lot in his truck. Today I took a beat and then continued up to the summit.
The last 0.1 mile to the top of Kennesaw Mountain is paved and the incline is gradual. There are historical markers along this short section of trail, as well as civil war cannons. The top of the mountain opens up, and this is where you will find the best view of the skyline to the south side of the mountain, and a whisper of the Appalachian Mountain range to the north side.
From the summit, you have the choice to turn back and return the way you came, or continue over Kennesaw Mountain. I usually choose to continue on, and today was no different. Possibly my most favorite trail to hike at Kennesaw Mountain continues across Kennesaw Mountain to Little Kennesaw. At the base of Little Kennesaw, the trail continues on to Pigeon Hill (my close second favorite trail) and intersects with Camp Brumby Trail, which is a flat two-ish miles that loops back around the base of the mountains to the visitor center. This loop is about 5 or 6 miles and very leisurely. My plan was to take this trail today, but the thunder began to roll in while I was on the back half of Kennesaw Mountain, and I had to make a choice between completing the trail I had intended to take, turn back and hike back the way I came, or hop onto the road where the trail crosses it, and take it back to the parking lot. I chose to take the road back to the base, because this was my fastest route back to my car. Buckets of rain started coming down within seconds of reaching my car.
All seasons, all kinds of weather, all variations of company, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park never disappoints. Regardless of how crowded it can be, I love that Atlanta has such a sprawling park with so much variety of hiking right in it’s backyard. I’m hoping to branch out to some of Atlanta’s other parks this summer (like Panola and Arabia), but Kennesaw Mountain will always be my number one!