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Duluth Massage

Burnt Hickory Loop
Georgia Trails

Trail Length: 5.0 miles Type of trail: Loop
County: Cobb County, GA Our rating: Moderate
Features: visitors center, scenic, historic, bathrooms, 60hikes Your rating:
Usage: Medium Added on: January 01, 1998
Last hiked: November 14, 2004 Updated on: February 01, 2009
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Directions to Burnt Hickory Loop

This trail is a rugged, scenic loop that requires, in places, climbing short, near vertical rocks. The first part of the hike, to the top of Kennesaw Mountain, is known as Mountaintop Trail. From the parking lot follow Mountain Road about 100 feet to the trailhead, on the right. Immediately climbing and quickly entering a second-growth forest the trail winds its way to the parking lot near the top of the mountain.

Little Kennesaw Mountain from Kennesaw Mountain
Little Kennesaw from Kennesaw Mountain
As the mountaintop trail ends turn left and follow the sidewalk around to the overlook. It was from this site that General William T. Sherman had his first look at the city of Atlanta, Georgia. It would take him 2 months to traverse the 12 miles between Kennesaw Mountain and Atlanta. As the path continues to curve around to the right, the massive Georgia Memorial is on the left, up a set of stairs. Dedicated on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, the massive structure allows access to the top of Kennesaw Mountain, where the Burnt Hickory Trail continues to climb past defensive arrrays of artillery.

As you reach the top, the reason for climbing the mountain becomes apparent. The sweeping, 360 degree view is stunning. From the top of Kennesaw Mountain the trail begins with a difficult descent into a the gap between Big Kennesaw and Little Kennesaw, crossing Mountain Road at a wide point in the road with a couple of parking places and an interpretive marker. After crossing the road, the trek becomes somewhat easier, at least until you gain the top of Little Kennesaw. Scenic views abound and the diverse hardwood forest makes this spectacular during the fall. From Little Kennesaw the path descends into what is best described as a gorge, separating the mountain from Pigeon Hill.

This steep, rocky descent can be difficult. The path has been repeatedly reworked in an effort to improve it. Over the past few years the National Park Service has added steps, ropes and railings where possible. Recently, the switchbacked drop to Pigeon Mountain has been completely redone, replaced by a straight-line trail that still drops quickly but is somewhat easier than the old switchback. At the end of the descent, turn right and continue to Pigeon Hil.

Named for the extinct passenger pigeon that blackened the spring and fall skies before the 20th century, Pigeon Hill was a stop in the species migration to the upper midwest. While the main thrust of the Union attack on June 27, 1864 was in the area of Cheatham Hill, it was at Pigeon Hill that a secondary attack occurred during The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. Use of metal detectors is banned, it is not difficult to find a minnie-ball in this area if you know what to look for (they look like rocks now).

All along this path entrenchments and earthworks are clearly visible. At the top of Pigeon Hill entrenchments can be spotted below the top on the west side of the hill. After the top of the hill a sign shows a picture taken of the area in October, 1864, shortly after the battle. A rock, visible in the picture, still sits as it was photographed 125 years earlier. Off in the distance both Pine Mountain and Lost Mountain are visible (Lost Mountain is the further, taller of the two).

As the treadway descends across rock, watch for a brown sign on the left. This marks the loop back to the start of the footpath. Access to the return path from Burnt Hickory Road is possible, but not recommended because many people drive well above the speed limit here.

As you reach the bottom of the mountain, turn left on the level gravel roadbed, which returns to the Visitors Center. Walking along the road a wooden fence has been built to delineate park property from private property adjoining the park. Along this fence a kind-hearted neighbor of Kennesaw Mountain Park has left a bucket of water for hikers with dogs. We always stop and use this, as we always hike the trail with our pets.

The gravel roadbed continues to the visible remains of the old Civilian Conservation Corps camp. Young men from this camp were responsible for many of the early improvements to the park and found the grave of the Unknown Soldier at Cheatham Hill Loop. A few feet past the clearing that held the camp is the remains of the headquarters building. The road begins to rise and the trail makes a marked right turn, reentering the woods, then coming out into the full sun of an open field. The footpath skirts the field on the left, next to the woods, coming out on the left side of Mountain Road near the visitors center.

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