Hike the Pine Mountain Trail near Cartersville, Georgia, catching outstanding views of Allatoona Lake from a rocky mountain summit.
LOCATION:near Allatoona Lake, north of Atlanta, Georgia
PACK:our Osprey day pack and our hiking gear list
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 great mountain climb – but without the long 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: Cartersville’s Pine Mountain is one of several Georgia summits of the same name. Also check out the lofty summit views from the longer Pine Mountain Trail near Columbus, GA at FD Roosevelt State Park. The longer Pine Mountain Trail winds 23 miles along an elevated ridge to 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, carving 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.
As the trail reaches the mountain’s summit, the forest canopy clears to reveal large rock outcrops and scattered boulders on an expansive peak. Broad views open to the southeast, with Allatoona Lake visible just below the ridge and the Atlanta skyline visible on the far horizon.
The views are sweeping and stunning, and multiple rock outcrops offer a perfect place to rest and take in the view. (Or bring your ENO hammock and soak in the 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 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 the 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 ridge before crossing Cooper Branch Creek via several 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 the trail’s left side before it reaches the East Pass Trail at 3.5 miles. The hike turns right, following 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, enormous granite outcrops on a series of switchbacks.
The trail continues to descend, reaching the West Spur Trail at 4.3 miles and turning right to return to the trailhead. After crossing the wooden bridge, the hike reaches the parking area and trailhead, completing the adventure at 4.5 miles.
Always leave no trace, pack out everything you pack in, and if you see trash, pick it up and pack it out.
Stay on the marked trail, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, and don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way. Please always practice good trail etiquette. And before you go, always check the trailhead kiosk, official maps, and the park or ranger office for notices of changed routes, trail closures, safety information, and restrictions.
Free parking is available at the Pine Mountain Trailhead.
34.175233, -84.753817 // N34 10.514 W84 45.229