Cartersville's Pine Mountain is a popular hiking spot. A short drive up I-75 from Atlanta puts it in easy reach of almost all who live in ATL. And the panoramic view keeps hikers coming back for all seasons.
But with two trails to the summit, which is the best? For us, it's the East Loop and here's why:
- Diverse terrain. We find the "back side" of Pine Mountain to offer a more diverse hiking experience. More boulder fields offer some great views and an occasional glimpse of animals near their rocky dens. And while the west side is more of an up-and-down experience, the east includes more rolling terrain and varying elevation changes.
- Fewer people. With a large parking lot convenient to I-75, the west side attracts larger crowds on virtually all days. Weekends often are extremely crowded in total numbers, with large groups, and with lots of pet lovers spending quality time outdoors with their furry friends. By contrast, largely because it's remote and away from I-75, we rarely cross paths with other hikers on the east trails. And when we do, it's one or two people and not a cruise-ship-sized excursion group.
- The creek bottom section. A small creek runs between two mountain undulations on the east side, and, as a result, there's a rich diversity of plant life. Since the trail follows the creek bank closely, your much more up-close-and-personal with the water environment, meaning more flowers, mushrooms, small insects and such. It also means you're more likely to cross path with a snake on the east trail, and that may be a deal-breaker for some.
Consider the Trade-Offs
Now, there are some tradeoffs that make the east less desirable. Among those are:
- Limited parking. While the west parking is expansive, the remote easy lot is tiny. It may accommodate 10 vehicles at most. There is more parking nearby at the Cooper's Branch lakeside day use area. We often stop in there for a bathroom break before and after our east trail hikes.
- Share with bikes. The east trail is open to mountain bikers on Wednesday and Saturdays. We've never encountered a mountain bike on our Wednesday hikes.
All Loops Lead to Summit
Both loops meet near the summit, where a single trail rises approximately 150 additional feet to reach the Archer Overlook. The rocky promontory offers a 180-degree view to the East, South and West. We've created a map and description of all the natural and man-made sights visible from this panoramic view.
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