Published: Fall 2010

Fort Mountain State Park, Ga  

 

Driving west from Ellijay in Northwest Georgia, the journey to Fort Mountain seems so much longer than 17 miles. However, the steep and winding but incredibly scenic drive along Hwy 52 leading visitors to this remote mountain getaway is well worth every breathtaking moment. Leave plenty of time to stop and just drink in the spectacular views of trees and the Appalachian Mountains.

Fort Mountain derives its name from an ancient and mysterious 855 foot long stone wall which stands on the highest point of the mountain. Why mysterious? Well, archaeologists cannot agree as to whether the wall was built by Welsh explorers, “Moon eyed” people who could see in the dark or even Spanish conquistadors. The most likely explanation is that the wall was built by a tribe of Native Americans in 500 A.D. for ceremonial or religious purposes. But really we may never know for sure as there are no artifacts to support any of these theories and the mystery behind its origins only serves to increase our fascination with the wall.

What to do? There are plenty of activities here to suit every age, ability and inclination

 including hiking, mountain biking, water sports and horseback riding. The hiking trails vary in length and difficulty. I think my favorite was the short and easy climb to the Cool Springs Overlook which offers fabulous views of the Cohutta Wilderness area. Great place for a picnic! The lake is open during the summer months for swimming, paddle boat hire and fishing. Make sure you set aside some time to take a leisurely stroll around the lake; you will not be disappointed with the beautiful vistas. Plenty of photo opportunities here! Fort Mountain Stables are located just a short drive to the west of the park on Hwy 52. More than 25 miles of horse trails pass though varied landscape from lush forest to windswept ridge tops. Riders have the choice of bringing their own horse or renting a guided horse from the stables.
www.fortmountainstables.net

Things to do are not purely isolated to the park itself. We ventured beyond and discovered quaint stores on Hwy 54 as well as a positive wealth of antique and nick nack stores in the very picturesque town of Ellijay. Well worth a visit! I actually found the butter dish of my long sought after dreams in the antique emporium there, for under $5!!

Where to stay? The camp offers excellent camping facilities for tents, RV’s and trailers. There is group and equestrian camping and for the more adventurous among you-backpacking sites. For a slightly more up market experience there are plenty of cabins to choose from at a price that will not break the bank! Not only is there no shortage of wheelchair friendly accommodation there are even pet friendly cabins set aside for those of you who cannot bear to leave your doggie at home. My only complaint was the lack of dishwashing facilities at the campsite itself.

Where to eat?  There is a souvenir store in the main office and a concession snack bar near to the lake, but unfortunately no grocery stores located in the park. Bearing in mind that Fort Mountain is located eight miles away from the nearest town (Chatsworth) along a very winding, mountainous road; you are advised to make sure that you bring plenty of supplies with you. Of course when you’ve had enough of cooking you may want to experience some of the local cuisine. Ellijay seemed to have a variety of restaurants to suit every taste and pocket. We plumped for the “Cajun Depot Grille” which offers
“an authentic blend of Louisiana cooking in a relaxed New Orleans atmosphere”*
. Both lunch and dinner prices are very reasonable and the food delicious. We sampled the chicken chardonnay, rib eye steak and Jambalaya-all to die for and you will not leave hungry. In fact the leftovers of our dinner provided lunch for the next day!
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cajun-Depot-Grill/196709887012752

Regarding food and food safety, there are notices throughout the park warning of the need to secure foodstuffs due to increased black bear activity. These warnings were useful, of course, but quite frankly for the first day or so, all we could think about were-BLACK BEARS!!!-and what we would do in the event of an encounter. Apparently making lots of noise will scare these creatures away, but as it so happens we saw precisely NO bears during the week of our stay. They seem to be pretty reclusive animals. We did however see plenty of deer, which were a perfect delight to watch as they pranced elegantly and almost noiselessly through the campground.

I would imagine that this park is beautiful all year round. Our stay was at the end of August, under canvas, and the temperatures were perfect; lower 80’s during the day with low humidity, and cool 60’s at night. The pleasant night temperatures, combined with the fresh mountain air ensured several nights of excellent sleep.

So, whether you are a day tripper or like us your stay is of a longer duration, there is so much to do and see at Fort Mountain you will no doubt want to return to sample the many pleasures of this beautiful park again and again.

* quote from “Cajun Depot Grill” restaurant facebook website

Additional info
Address/Directions
Fort Mountain State Park
181 Fort Mountain Park Rd
Chatsworth, GA 30705
http://www.gastateparks.org/FortMountain
Located 8 miles east of Chatsworth and 17 miles west of Ellijay via Ga. Hwy. 52
ACCOMMODATIONS & FACILITIES:

  • 3,712 Acres
  • 15 Cottages ($125-$145) -- #5 and #6 are dog friendly. ($40 per dog, max 2)
  • 70 Tent, Trailer, RV Campsites ($25-$28) - cable TV hookups, some sites close during winter
  • 4 Walk-in Campsites ($15)
  • 6 Platform Campsites ($15)
  • 8 Primitive Equestrian Campsites ($50)
  • Group Shelter (seats 80, $115, seasonal)
  • Pioneer Campground ($45)
  • 4 Backcountry Campsites ($9/person)
  • 17-Acre Lake with Swimming Beach - open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend
  • 7 Picnic Shelters ($40-$50)

 

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