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 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.
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.
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.
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!