Kennesaw, GA

Don't Miss the Big Zig and The Saddle on Kennesaw Mountain's Backside for a Diverse, Challenging Hike


Thousands of people hike or walk up the main trails to Kennesaw Mountain each week for the exercise and the views from the summit. But have you checked out Kemo's backside, a shapely, well-rounded, and beautiful natural attraction often unseen and unappreciated by those drawn to KeMo’s more recognizable and oft-visited full-frontal approach?
Around Kennesaw's backside, the boulders at the Big Zig expose the deep-rock remnants of the mountain's geological past.Photo: DeanLand / Our Travel Cafe
Pleasing to the youngsters, we frequently see animals and small deer on the backside route at Kennesaw Mountain.Photo: DeanLand / Our Travel Cafe

We encourage the contra backside route to avoid the crowds, enjoy a longer hike, take in more scenery and fresh air and getmore exercise. By taking the Mountain Loop trail around the mountain first, then ascending KeMo’s backside of Pigeon Hill and Little Kennesaw before cresting the peak of Kennesaw mountain and heading down the front, you’ll enjoy a fun – and occasionally moderately challenging – hike of 5.8 miles.

Be prepared before you attempt this. You will be walking for a couple of hours, you won’t always be on smooth, flat or paved surfaces, and there are some stretches where you’ll elevate your heart rate. And because you’ll walk through fields, forests, gravel trails, dirt trails, rocks and inclines, be certain you have sunscreen, bug spray, water and good walking or hiking shoes.
Taking the contra route around the backside, you'll avoid the crowds and enjoy a challenging 5.8 mile hike.Graphic: DeanLand / Our Travel Cafe

You'll find an extended description, more directions and physical attributes at the blog post, which may contain advertising where the website or author may receive payments. But following are a few of our favorite sections of the backside hike include:

  • The Forest. Enjoy the approximately 2-mile walk through the woods, all on gently undulating ground with approximately 100 feet of elevation change. On this section, you’ll likely see and hear birds, and perhaps encounter a few forest creatures. We’ve seen many squirrels along the way, and a few small deer near the Camp Brumby location. Remember to use caution as Georgia is home to 6 species of poisonous snakes, including the copperhead, timber rattlesnake and pygmy rattlesnake frequently found in the NW Georgia area.
  • Pigeon Hill. Just past milepost 3, say goodbye to flatlands. Over the next 1.5 miles, you’ll ascend approximately 700 feet, covering Pigeon Hill, the top of Little Kennesaw Mountain and the peak of Kennesaw Mountain at 1,808 ft.
  • The Rocks and Big Zig. The trail turns rocky as head up Little Kennesaw Mountain. At a point known as The Big Zig, the trail doubles back on itself through the rocks. This section of the trail exposes the deep-rock remnants of ancient mountains, which at the time of their formation appeared more like today’s Rocky Mountains than the eroded and more gentle landscape of the surrounding area. Large boulders protrude from the surrounding landscape, many ranging from 10 to 20 feet tall
  • The Saddle. Descending from the top of Little Kemo along the saddle are repositioned Civil War-era canons. As you stop to look at the canons, take a sip of water and consider that it required approximately 100 men to move each canon up to Ft. McBride.
  • The Summit. At the peak of KeMo, you’re approximately 900 feet above the surrounding area with unobstructed views to Atlanta and Stone Mountain to the South and East. As KeMo is a wooded peak, you won’t have a full panoramic view. And since you’re in the South, depending on the time of day, elevation and weather, a light fog, high humidity, or atmospheric haze may prevent your mountain top pictures from being crystal clear.

A Tip Before Going to the Top

Don't miss the restrooms at the Visitor’s Center. Unless you’re a bear or forest creature, these are the only real restrooms for miles around. Keep that in mind before you venture away to KeMo’s backside or a full-frontal ascent.

The Visitor’s Center offers a good display on the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, including an informative large-format illustrated timeline on the wall. A 35-minute movie also is shown in the theatre.
The boulder field at the Big Zig expose deep-rock remnants of ancient mountains similar to the Rocky Mountains.Photo: DeanLand / Our Travel Cafe

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I'm a trained journalist, global traveler and retired business executive who worked for more than 20 years with some of the world's best and largest restaurant enterprises. I left the business world behind, living in Northwest Georgia and writing about avocations including outdoor excursions, family-friendly travel, road trips, exploration ideas for active seniors and some of my community passions. I've traveled to 47 states and nearly as many countries, and I'm still counting up. I'm a traveler, hiker, cyclist, blogger, marketing consultant, community volunteer and local high school band nerd who previously has lived in Florida, Ohio, Indiana and Mississippi. I'm a South Louisiana-born French Cajun whose great-grandparents were sugar farmers, bar owners and reputed bootleggers. My upbringing in food-rich Louisiana and my restaurant industry career affirmed my status as an over-qualified eater. That also inspired the name of my blog, There, I offer up a complete menu of our my own experiences, explorations and adventures, organized by geography and always sprinkled with some spicy, tasty tidbits and food notes.

Acworth, GA

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