Hike Dowdell’s Knob at Georgia’s FDR State Park, looping on the Pine Mountain Trail and Boot Top Trail to gorgeous summit views and the historic site of a plane crash on the mountain.
LOCATION:FD Roosevelt State Park near Columbus, Georgia
The rolling terrain of FD Roosevelt State Park rises high from the surrounding plains south of Atlanta, offering some of Georgia’s best hiking and backpacking trails. Running the length of a high ridge, the 23-mile Pine Mountain Trail and its seven connecting loops offer adventures to lofty summit views, tumbling waterfalls and through a beautiful, rocky forest.
This hike at the park explores Dowdell’s Knob, a high overlook on Pine Mountain that was once a favorite of the former President. The route combines the Pine Mountain Trail with the Boot Top Trail to explore some seriously stunning views, looping through a tornado-ravaged forest filled with moss and wildflowers, and visiting a small, trickling waterfall. With some of the best views in the park, Dowdell’s Knob Loop is one of our all-time favorite hikes at this state park south of Atlanta.
The adventure begins at the Dowdell’s Knob trailhead (view maps and driving directions), following a spur trail to the Pine Mountain Trail. The hike reaches a trail junction at just under .1 mile and turns left, following the blue-blazed Pine Mountain Trail eastbound through a rugged, rocky landscape.
The trail arcs to the northeast, passing the PMT mile marker 15 at .45 mile. Through-the-trees views of the flat, sweeping valley bordering Pine Mountain extend on the trail’s right side. The landscape is ruggedly beautiful. Ravaged by a tornado in 2011, this section of FDR State Park is a landscape of contrasts: wildflowers, young trees, and moss thrive in the sun-drenched landscape, while enormous, toppled trees lie as a testament to the tornado’s massive destruction.
The trail meanders through the forest, rolling elevation. Blocky rock outcrops line the trail at 1.2 miles, where wildflowers stretch toward the abundant sunshine on Dowdell’s Knob eastern elevations. The sound of tumbling water grows louder as Sparks Creek cascades down through the valley to the east.
The hike crosses Langford Creek at 1.35 miles, just downstream from a small, trickling waterfall. Fern and moss cover the damp creek valley, a contrast to the rocky, rugged, wind-swept landscape of the exposed ridge. The hike passes a white-blazed side trail at 1.4 miles, a short spur to the PMT’s Brown Dog Campsite. (A camping permit is required; contact FD Roosevelt State Park for availability.) The trail begins a steady climb, passing the PMT mile marker 16 and meandering to the north. The hike reaches a junction at 1.8 miles; from here, the Dowdell’s Knob Loop turns left, following the white-blazed Boot Top Trail westbound.
The Boot Top Trail descends through thickets of mountain laurel, passing a large, broad trunked sawtooth oak tree at 2 miles. The hike climbs a small knob, winding through a wide switchback as it gains elevation. The trail crosses a paved road at 2.4 miles and passes a small gravel parking lot, an alternate trailhead for this hike. The hike descends from the road, arcing southwest and rejoining the Pine Mountain Trail at 2.9 miles.
The hike hangs a left on the PMT, ascending through a mossy, rocky forest covered with crusty lichens. Evidence of the tornado’s path becomes visible once again as the trail contours the eastern edge of Dowdell’s Knob. Scattered, downed trees, wildflowers and moss, and spindly young trees dominate the landscape. The hike swings westbound, passing the PMT mile marker 14.
Vibrant green moss and leafy vegetation flourish on the sunny slopes of the ridge, and sweeping views emerge between tree cover on the trail’s right. The Pine Mountain Trail arcs eastbound, passing a private-access side trail and small boulder shaped roughly like an elephant’s face at 4 miles. Just before completing loop, the hike passes the crash site of a B-25 airplane. West of the commemorative plaque honoring the flight crew, two parallel channels slice through the forest floor, carved by the distressed plane’s engines on impact.
The hike reaches the outbound spur trail at just over 4 miles, turning left off the PMT and trekking to the paved parking areas at the summit of Dowdell’s Knob. Commemorative signs and a life-sized statue of President FD Roosevelt pepper the mountaintop, and extensive, long-range views of the surrounding plains stretch far onto the horizon. The highest point on Pine Mountain, the 1395-foot-high knob was the President’s regular rural retreat and favorite picnic spot.
Departing the summit area, the hike follows the paved road north through the picnic area, reaching the trailhead at 4.3 miles and completing the adventure.
Pine Mountain Trail Association
Major thanks and kudos to the Pine Mountain Trail Association for building and maintaining the Dowdell’s Knob Loop, the Pine Mountain Trail and FD Roosevelt’s network of 43 miles of prime hiking trails. Thanks to the dedication of this non-profit organization and its 500 members, the Pine Mountain Trail network is one of the most beautifully maintained trail networks we’ve had the joy of hiking.
Trails and routes may change – so please refer to official trail maps for the latest route.
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32.840713, -84.745622 // N32 50.443 W84 44.736