Hiking in Georgia can be an amazing way to spend an afternoon. You get to escape the chaos of Atlanta and get back to nature. At the same time, you can get an amazing workout and burn a whole bunch of calories. I’m a huge fan of combining exercise and nature! Georgia hiking trips that we have been on so far have ranged from hot, dry trails to wet, woodsy areas loaded with gorgeous Georgia waterfalls. I must admit, my husband and I are often drawn back to the hiking trails of the North Georgia Mountains when we want to escape for the afternoon. Since he had Columbus Day off from work, we decided to head out for a few hours to explore the Chenocetah Fire Tower up in Cornelia, Georgia.
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Hiking in Georgia: Chenocetah Fire Tower
The Chenocetah Fire Tower is a stone tower that measures 40 feet tall. It was built to allow fire fighters to spot fires in the Chattahoochee National Forest. It was used in active service as a fire tower until 1975 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 11, 1984. It’s a relatively easy drive from the metro Atlanta area. Since we were on the motorcycle, we chose to take the back roads which took about 2 hours. Highway route is shorter and you can probably get from Atlanta to Cornelia in about 90 minutes. There are a few small parking areas near the fire tower but a definite lack of rest rooms so plan accordingly! To the left of the tower itself is a dirt road that begins your hiking trip down to Lake Russell. Please remember when hiking in Georgia: Summer is HOT AND HUMID. Bring lots of water and dress accordingly!
The photo above is the view of Lake Russell from the road just below the Chenocetah Fire Tower. From here you will be hiking a relatively gentle decline for the next couple of miles. Before you get started on these hiking trails, I would recommend you purchase a guide book with detailed directions and distances. A GPS watch (affiliate link!) comes in handy as well. These trails are NOT well marked. Trail blazes are sporadic and signage is almost non existent. We use a book called Day Hiking the North Georgia Mountains (yes, that is an affiliate link!) It provides a general map as well as detailed Georgia hiking trails information like finding the trail head, hiking directions, mile marker things to notice etc. It has been a life saver and even WITH this book we got a bit turned around on the trail. Really need to get the Georgia Department of Natural Resources out there to fix up this trail!
You will have to navigate a few fallen trees on the way down to Lake Russell. You will also have to tread through some fairly overgrown areas of trail. Like I said, this trail needs some work! However, if you are relatively agile and in good health you can duck, climb and circle around with no problem. The two mile hike down to Lake Russell winds through the woods, along a nicely flowing stream, past tons of Rhododendrons and ends at the lake itself. Beautiful and peaceful scenery on these Georgia hiking trails and we didn’t see a single soul the whole way down!
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Once you get down to the lake, you will actually follow about a mile of paved road to get to the trail going back UP. Seems like most hiking in Georgia is relatively close to civilization! You can turn around and go back the way you came down or continue the loop that picks up again down the road a bit. We chose to take the last half of the loop up and honestly I am not sure that was a wise choice! There were even MORE fallen trees to navigate and these weren’t quite so easy to get around! And keep in mind, the trail down is easy because you are going downhill. The way back up the mountain is STEEP and definitely a serious workout. We got a bit turned around but managed to come back out on the fire tower road about 1/4 mile from where we started. We pushed ourselves hard on this trip in terms of pace. The guidebook suggested that this was a half day journey. Round trip, it is a 5.4 mile hike and we competed it in just over 2 hours. We are definitely sore today but neither of us is some sort of exercise fanatic either. If two middle aged relatively in shape people can do it, I don’t consider the trail all that challenging!
Since you definitely want to be well fueled on your hiking trip, consider stopping to eat in Cornelia, Georgia. We chose a cute little restaurant called Natalie Jane’s and had a great experience. The place is huge and has a small stage so I assume on the weekends they have some live entertainment available. The service was wonderful and the food divine! I got a Reuben and some sweet potato fries which were both delicious. The building used to be an old Chevy dealer in the 1930’s. It was later turned into a restaurant which changed hands a couple years ago and Natalie Jane’s was born. Cute interior and decorated with art from a lot of local artists. We would definitely eat here again!
My husband and I had a great time hiking in Georgia this weekend and discovering a few hidden treasures in Cornelia. I definitely recommend you check out the area if you ever find yourself wanting to do some hiking around Atlanta.
Enjoy hiking in Georgia? Let me know what trails you have discovered!
Diane has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology with a Minor in Health Management and Policy. She spent many years working in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging as a way to share this knowledge with others. While passionate about health and the environment she can’t quite give up her favorite Cheetos and Diet Coke! Learn more about her HERE.