Pine Mountain Trail: double loop hike to stunning Allatoona Lake views
Hike the Pine Mountain Trail near Cartersville, Georgia, catching outstanding views of Allatoona Lake from a rocky mountain summit.
There’s nothing better than a drive to the North Georgia mountains for a dose of fresh air and a hike to a scenic mountain summit. Even better, though, when a local hike offers beautiful summit views and a steep summit climb – without the drive. The Pine Mountain Trail winds and climbs to sweeping views of Lake Allatoona, Stone Mountain and Kennesaw Mountain. The trail, located just east of Cartersville, hikes a stream-filled coniferous forest, and winds along massive granite outcrops. And under 40 miles from midtown Atlanta, this figure-eight loop offers a fantastic, view-packed hike without a long drive to the trailhead.
(Note: Pine Mountain is one of several so-named summits in Georgia, and this hike summits the mountain near Cartersville, north of Atlanta. Also check out some lofty summit views from the Pine Mountain south of the city, near Columbus, at FD Roosevelt State Park, where the Pine Mountain Trail winds over 23 miles of elevated ridgeline to some beautiful waterfalls and exceptional long-range views.)
Pine Mountain Trail near Cartersville: the hike
The hike departs the Pine Mountain Trail west trailhead (view maps and driving directions), hiking the West Loop Spur Trail and crossing a wooden bridge over a trickling creek. The hike reaches the West Loop trail at just under .2 mile.
The hike turns right on the West Loop trail, the most direct route to the Pine Mountain summit. The trail climbs elevation quickly, hiking through a series of angular switchbacks in a 675 foot climb to the mountain’s summit. Reaching a signed trail junction at .9 mile, the hike turns right, hiking the East Pass Trail and continuing the climb. At just under 1 mile, the hike turns right again, hiking the Summit Overlook Trail to the Pine Mountain summit.
The trail reaches the mountain’s summit, the forest canopy clearing to reveal large rock outcrops and scattered boulders on an expansive, cleared peak. Wide views open to the southeast, Allatoona Lake visible just below the ridge and the Atlanta skyline visible on the far, sweeping horizon. The views are stunning, and multiple rock outcrops offer a great place to rest and take in the view. (Or bring an ENO hammock and soak in those views in some serious comfort! Pine Mountain is one of our top 5 favorite places to hammock near Atlanta.)
The hike departs the summit, retracing its steps on the Summit Overlook Trail and turning right on the the East Pass trail towards the East Loop. The trail hikes under large, windswept pines, reaching a second overlook at 1.4 miles. A large rock pile (likely a Native American grave, often found on scenic summits in former Cherokee and Creek lands) and a gnarled, old-growth tree stand just off trail.
The trail continues to descend from the summit, and reaching a trail junction, turns right on the East Loop Trail. The trail descends, meandering through a forest dotted with fern-covered rocks and pockets of wildflowers.
The hike passes the East Loop Spur Trail at 2.2 miles. The trail ascends through a fern and moss-filled creek valley, following the contours of a large ridge, before crossing Cooper Branch Creek at 2.8 miles via wooden bridges.
The hike resumes its climb as the trail ascends from the creek valley, climbing a series of switchbacks at 3.25 miles. Seasonal views of Allatoona Lake open on trail left before it reaches the East Pass Trail at 3.5 miles. The hike turns right, hiking the East Pass across the Pine Mountain summit, and reaching the West Loop Trail at 3.7 miles. The hike turns right on the West Loop, descending through a series of scattered, immense granite outcrops on a series of switchbacks.
The trail continues its descent, reaching the West Spur Trail at 4.35 miles and turning right to return to the trailhead. After crossing the wooden bridge, the hike reaches the parking area and trailhead, completing at 4.5 miles.