Environmental Trail, Kennesaw Mountain NPS

52 Hike Challenge 2018 | Hike 1

It’s a new year, and a new 52 Hike Challenge! I’m about to move from Atlanta to Los Angeles, so I’m trying to get in some good North Georgia hikes before we leave. Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is one of my favorite places to hike near Atlanta. I’ve hiked many trails here and had some “adventures”. But I’ve never been able to find the trail head for the Environmental Trail. So, I set out to find this elusive trail for a nice, easy, weekday walk.

Environmental and 24 Gun Battery Trails

When I got to the park, I still couldn’t find the trail head, so I asked for directions. The person I asked didn’t know, which helped my ego. Hooray, I’m not the only one! But they pointed me in the right direction, and I was able to find the trial from there.

I started down the Environmental Loop, a self-guided interpretive trail that’s flat and just over a mile. However, about a third of a mile in, the 24 Gun Battery Trail splits off and makes a quick jaunt across a field and back, adding about 3 miles. I couldn’t resist, and my hike was suddenly in 4 mile territory. It was freezing, it was windy, but it was worth it.

Still a relatively flat trail, the 24 Gun passes through forest, field and civil war cannons. That’s why I love Kennesaw so much. There’s a good amount of natural and cultural history going on. No matter how many times I visit, I always notice or learn something new.

I can’t say I’m particularly attached to the Atlanta area, but I will miss Kennesaw Mountain NBP.

Hike Summary

Map, Speed and Elevation from my 52 Hike Challenge Hike 1 at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
Hike 1 Stats

Big Trees Forest Preserve | 52 Hike Challenge 2017 | Hike 8

The Location

For Hike 8 I headed to Big Trees Forest Preserve. I’ve hiked in this area before, but not this trail or in this year’s challenge, so I can add it to my Explorer Series! Big Trees is about 30 acres of land located near Sandy Springs, Georgia. This area is extremely built up, and this preserve is a surprising oasis in the city.

The Hike

There’s not much to this one! It was a hot, sticky spring day, but I wanted to get out and do some easy hiking. This is a great option for me that’s close to home and easy to access (there’s always parking which is fantastic is a car city like Atlanta). So, I did a bit of nice, shady walking along the Big Trees Loop and that’s that. Not nearly as much drama as my last hike!

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Do you have a nearby go-to trail?

Pigeon Hill | 52 Hike Challenge 2017 | Hike 7

The Park

Oh Kennesaw…every time I’m here, I have some kind of issue. This hike was full of all kinds of “adventures”…and lessons learned.

The Hike

Well. This hike was actually intended to be a short trail run. Starting at the Visitor Center, jogging along the Visitor Center Cutoff Trail, then cutting back at the Camp Brumby Cutoff and returning to the Visitor Center via the Kennesaw Mountain Trail. I got my run in, but missed my turn for the Brumby Cutoff. I should have just turned around and headed back the way I came, but I thought I’d head around the Camp Brumby Trail and take a short cutoff trail I saw on a map in my hiking app. Unfortunately when I got to that turn…there was no built trail. So I kept going. At this point I had settled in and knew it was going to be a much longer day, but I still thought there was a way around the Little and Big Kennesaw Mountain peaks. Wrong.

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The “Detour”

I preach the ten essentials, but for this hike I really didn’t do much prep, and suddenly found myself without enough food or water. I was hiking about 5 more miles, hundreds of feet of elevation and in much hotter and more exposed temperatures than I had planned and packed for. UGHHHH…lesson learned, Mother Nature.

As I rounded the Pigeon Hill Trail to start climbing Little Kennesaw, I was quickly warming up. I realized I would probably need to ration my water. Had I not been so wiped from the beginning of my hike (I ran, remember? probably another reason I was so wiped out), this would have been really enjoyable. I was on a new-to-me trail that was quite pretty, and I even stumbled upon a cactus! I didn’t expect to see that on a bald mountain top in Georgia. As I climbed French’s Rock Trail, I started to feel a little off balance. Not quite disoriented, but it was clearly time to stop, eat something, and drink some of the little water I had left.

The Return

After this break I felt a lot better, and headed towards the Kennesaw Mountain summit. From the top, there are two ways down. Although I wasn’t prepared like I should have been, there are still lots of little decision points along the trail (like picking when to eat and drink). Heading down the mountain was one of those points. I could head down the trail, or walk the road, which added distance to my hike, but in case I got into REAL trouble, I could signal one of the cars driving the road that connects the parking lots at the top and bottom of the mountain. I felt so terrible I went with the road.

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Luckily, I made it down just fine and made a beeline for the water fountain at the Visitor Center. After chugging water and scarfing down whatever food I had left on me, I felt well enough to drive the few minutes to get McDonald’s. It’s amazing how fast some salty fries and a sugary Coke can snap you out of a big bonk. At this point I felt fine and headed home, resolute to carry what I SHOULD when day hiking from now on…

Have you ever had a big bonk on a hike? What did you do? How do you plan for your hikes?

Bonus Bummer

After this hike I went to get my husband some soup. He was sick and had requested Panera. While leaving the restaurant, a car backed into mine, capping off a day of…”adventure” 😆

Civil War cannon on the way up to the summit of Kennesaw Mountain

Kennesaw Mountain | 52 Hike Challenge | Hike 2


Before leaving town for a few months I was lucky to join a ranger-led hike at Kennesaw Mountain for Hike 2 of my 2017 52 Hike Challenge. Ranger hikes are the best. Not only do you usually get a great hike, but you also learn so much along the way that you’d never know without the wisdom of the ranger.

Kennesaw Mountain

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is pretty much what it sounds like…a mountain on which a battle took place. Namely, a battle that was part of the Atlanta Campaign, a push that Union commanders hoped would end the US Civil War. By joining the ranger hike I learned all about the battle that took place here on the way up to the top of the mountain. The Kennesaw area also played an important role in Cherokee and settler history before the Civil War as well.

The Hike

While Kennesaw is a “mountain”, in only one mile you can summit the mountain with under 600 feet of elevation gain. However, after not hiking for WEEKS over the holidays this was a challenge! The trail starts just behind the visitor’s center and quickly gains elevation. As you climb, you can see the rifle pits and earthworks soldiers used as a form of trench warfare.

The trail flattens out along a section of road used by the Cherokee and settlers. Later, soldiers used the road to move cannons up the mountain.

After a nice, flat break, the trail continues upward with views of Atlanta along the way. The incline covers much rockier ground. Soldiers were no longer able to wheel cannons along the rockier road. Instead, they had to carry the 1000+ pound weapons up the mountain by hand.

The reward at the summit is a wide open view of Atlanta and Stone Mountain. My favorite surprise at the top was Confederate graffiti carved into rocks. Most of the graffiti has been worn away by weather and visitors, but a few markings remain.

This is an out and back hike, so after spending some time at the summit I made my way back down the mountain. The ranger was only with us one-way, so the hike down was at my own pace. I really enjoyed this time alone on the mountain. While there were quite a few visitors in the park, the trail winds down the mountain in a way that I was occasionally alone. I love hiking with groups, but I also enjoy the quiet and solitude found in nature, and this hike provided the perfect mix.

The Lessons

This hike was a bit of a mental health outing after the 2017 inauguration and subsequent immigration and travel ban. I was feeling really stressed out and thought a day out would really help with self care. Nature sure doesn’t care what religion you practice, what color your skin is or where you were born. As I hiked, I passed people of SO MANY different ethnicities, ages, fitness levels, etc. It was so encouraging to see such diversity in the outdoors. When we’re on that mountain, we’re all facing the same challenges, and moving ahead the same way – one step at a time.

The Fire

In an ironic twist, my calming mental health day ended with a bit of chaos. I had just come off of the mountain, thought I’d take a quick bathroom break at the visitor’s center and then hop on the nature trail. While in the bathroom, a park employee ran into the bathroom and explained that we needed to leave immediately. The park was closing, including all trails and buildings, as there was a fire! The irony of a NPS site on fire after the week we had was such a metaphor!

As far as I know, the fire started as I exited my first trail, not affecting my hike. The park is still investigating the cause of the fire, and unfortunately it seems as if it was human-caused. Luckily all trails are now open and it seems like damage was minimal.

Since I’m doing the Explorer Series of this year’s 52 Hike Challenge I don’t plan to revisit this specific hike any time soon, but may do as part of a longer hike later this year, as Kennesaw Mountain has many trails to explore!

Have you ever hiked Kennesaw Mountain or another Civil War battlefield? Tell me about it in the comments!

Cochran Shoals - Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

Cochran Shoals – CRNRA | 52 Hike Challenge – Hike 1

A New Challenge…

Back on the 52 Hike Challenge bandwagon! Today marked Hike #1 of my 2017 52 Hike Challenge, and I’m embarking on the Explorer Series this year! Today’s hike was a great way to start. I headed out to Cochran Shoals in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. Since there are a ton of trails out here, this location may come in handy when I’m trying to add new trails throughout the year.

The Trail…

Since the Cochran Shoals area was to me, I stayed on the large, main hike/bike trail to get a feel for this park. It was pretty busy for my taste, even on a weekday afternoon, so I’ll definitely be checking out some of the more off the beaten path hiker only trails next time I’m in the area.

However, one perk to being on a busy trail is the interactions you might have, like I did today. A man on his bike passed me along the trail, then stopped shortly after at a culvert. As I approached, he asked if I had seen the snake. Uh, what? I certainly had not seen a snake, so he pointed it out. It took me an embarrassingly long time to find it, and I almost gave up. Consequently, my new biker friend had to get off of his bike to help me.

I finally found the silly thing and it was such a neat experience! I’ve rarely seen snakes in the wild, and I think they are such interesting creatures. Apparently this culvert is the main snake hangout in this area. My new trail friend informed me that sometimes in the summer there will be a dozen or so in this area. He also mentioned he’s careful who he tells about the snakes because so many people’s first instinct is to kill the snake! I was shocked and can honestly say that thought didn’t even cross my mind. That snake isn’t bothering anything – I couldn’t even see it – WHY would I KILL it?! Anyway, I’m pretty sure my Osprey backpack and hiking boots gave me away as “safe”, since most people on this trail were recreational walkers/runners with nothing on them but car keys and a cell phone.

We ended up chatting for almost half an hour before parting ways, and it was such an enjoyable experience. Glad it happened in order to not totally turn me off to hiking around other people.

Other Wildlife Encounters…

After this lovely chat, I stopped along the river to watch the water fall over the shoals for a bit and check out the geese whose chattering was impossible to miss.

At last I found myself alone on the trail, which was for only about two minutes. As a bonus to this alone time I had a pretty up close encounter with a couple duck pairs. Unfortunately a noisy group of runners quickly approached, scaring the ducks back into the marshy brush, but I was happy for the few moments I had alone with nature.

A 75 degree January day was not a terrible way to start this year’s challenge (much as I really wish I was hiking in snow!). My 2016 challenge was a huge accomplishment and truly life altering, and I’m excited to see what 2017 has in store.

Will you be joining me this year? Subscribe and leave me a comment below about your hiking goals for this year!