On this National Trails Day, check out the beauty of a Civil War site that exists in the shadow of tragedy.
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield in Marietta marks a horrific set of American Civil War battles that occurred from June 19, 1864, to July 2, 1864. Union forces pushed south from Tennessee hoping to disrupt Confederate train travel, especially at the hub of Atlanta. Southern forces dug in, building earthen trenches at Kennesaw and the result was the loss of hundreds of lives.
Today, the National Parks Service preserves the almost 3,000 acres in this town north of Atlanta with beautiful hiking paths running throughout. Even on the hottest days, the woods breathe relief. The Confederate earthen works are still visible and monuments mark those who died in the struggles, so it's a history lesson as well. But it’s those peaceful woods, bubbling creeks and wild deer roaming through that make Kennesaw one of the most perfect places for leisurely hikes in the Southeast.
Today, National Trails Day (June 5, 2021), we’ll give you a sneak peek. Admission to the park is minimal for a parking pass and can be obtained at the Visitor’s Center or by mobile phone.
Pull into the parking lot off Dallas Highway and enter the trail system at several locations. One takes visitors on an almost 3-mile hike to Kolb Farm, passing the burial of the unknown soldier. Parts of the trail are accessible to horses so you may pass a few along the way.
Visitors can also descend a large hill from the Illinois Monument that follows a wide open field where a battle took place. After learning of the history, head down to woods and turn left to follow a sweet little creek. This trail takes you to the Kolb Farm trail.
Also from the parking lot hikers can head back toward Dallas Highway and walk a loop back to their car, passing open fields, woods and monuments along the way. Or they can cross Dallas Highway and begin the trail toward Pigeon Hill and Kennesaw Mountain.
It's rumored that soldiers haunt Cheatham Hill. When you read the battles that took place here, you'll likely agree.
Hikers can access the Pigeon Hill trail from a parking lot off Burnt Hickory Road or walk up from Cheatham Hill. Either way, the hike through the woods at Pigeon Hill is delightful and it’s easy to spot songbirds, deer and other wildlife. Halfway through the trail lies a creekbed with trails branching off along the water’s edge and to the site of an old mill.
There are two ways to scale this 1798-foot mountain — from trails heading upward from Cheatham Hill and Pigeon Hill or by being lazy — my choice — and driving the road to the mountain’s pinnacle. Just be mindful of the many hikers and joggers along the road if you choose the latter. However you tackle this mountain, there’s a fabulous view waiting at its end of downtown Atlanta to the south and the Georgia mountains to the north.
For more information on the park, its history and to view hiking maps, visit https://www.nps.gov/kemo/index.htm.