We’ve been cooped up for a while now; time to get some fresh air. Head to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. My little guy was 25 months the first time he hiked all the way up and back down without being carried. If you have a younger kiddo, bring a sling. The trail is not stroller-friendly (unless you wind the road, but that isn’t as much fun!).
Growing up in Gwinnett County, our closest mountain was Stone Mountain, which is beautiful and loads of fun, but it is not exactly a lush green oasis from the hustle and bustle of the city. When I moved to Cobb Country, I was lucky enough to work so close to Kennesaw Mountain that I could dash over on my lunch break and take a quick hike or enjoy a picnic.
The fresh air, trees, serenity and meticulously maintained trails helped me to clear my head and was a welcome escape from the florescent lighted cubicle-land of my 9 to 5 grind. The mountain has so much to offer that everyone can find something to love about it. There is a rich history to explore, verdant hiking trails, expansive meadows, fun events and educational opportunities for all ages. Best of all it is easy to access from most places in the metro Atlanta area.
You do not have to drive a couple hours into the Appalachian foothills to find this gem. The mountain is just a few minutes from Interstate 75 in Kennesaw, Georgia, near the shopping district on Barrett Parkway.
Despite being nestled in one of the busiest and most populated areas of booming Cobb County, Kennesaw Mountain has retained a sense of serenity amidst the hubbub. Situated on nearly 3,000 acres, the National Battlefield Park is insulated from the traffic and suburban growth surrounding it.
Trails For Your Little Hikers
Kennesaw Mountain Park is a perfect location to take your little hikers.
For the nature lovers, there is the Environmental Trail. This 1.33 mile loop was especially designed for children and will be an easy and engaging hike. Along the trail children will encounter signs identifying the local trees and plant life, all of which are native to the area.
This trail is located across from the Visitors Center, right by the parking lot, and is super convenient for a quick afternoon outing to get some fresh air.
The Summit hike is also a great option for young hikers in good health. This trail is one mile up an 800 foot ascent and then one mile back down. Kids will love the expansive, breath-taking views from the top of the mountain. From the summit, you can see all the way to Red Top Mountain and on a clear day you will have distant views of the Atlanta skyline.
Drive, Shuttle, or Stroller Hike
If you want to see the summit, but cannot do the hiking trail there is a paved road for driving to the summit or taking your stroller. Just be aware that you will encounter, cars, strollers, skateboarders, etc on this road. On the weekends the road is closed to cars, but you can catch a shuttle up to the summit on this road every 30 minutes for a small fee ($3.00 for ages 12 and older, $1.50 for ages 5-11 and children under 5 years old are free).
Trails For Your Older Kids
For older kids or a longer day hike, there are several other beautiful trails that will take you to various historical locations in the park such as Kolb’s Farm, Cheatham Hill and Pigeon Hill. These hikes offer a variety of terrains through the woods and into meadows.
Why This Park is important to Civil War and Georgia
Besides being a beautiful hiking area with breathtaking vistas, Kennesaw Mountain is National Battlefield Park that chronicles a major shift in the direction of the Civil War. The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain was fought on June 27, 1864, during the Atlanta Campaign of the American Civil War. It was the most significant frontal assault launched by General Sherman. In fact, battles were fought here until July 2, 1864.
Grant sent his Generals Meade, Sherman and Hood with specific instructions to drive as far towards Atlanta as possible while inflicting maximum damage along the way. As with all invading forces traveling far from their home base, the Union army was required to stay near their supply lines, this being the railroad.
Fierce fighting was waged between the Union troops under Generals Mead, Sherman and Hood against the Confederate General Joseph Johnston all the way from Chattanooga to Atlanta. The campaign was a frustrating back and forth of deadly skirmishes where Meade would attack, attempt to flank and then Johnston would withdraw back a bit.
The battles that took place around Kennesaw Mountain marked the turning point in the Union’s headlong drive towards Atlanta. While the Confederates sustained substantially fewer causalities than the Union troops during some of the bloodiest fighting of the campaign, General Johnston’s inability, or unwillingness, to make a more aggressive push back allowed Generals Meade, Sherman and Hood to advance their troops far enough to gain access to the Chattahoochee River Crossings.
This allowed Union troops to finally successfully outflank the Confederates who immediately pulled back to the fortifications of Atlanta. Once there, the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, exasperated with Johnston’s ineffectiveness, replaced him with General Hood.
The damage was done however and Union troops were able to cut the railroad supply lines to Atlanta and lay a very successful siege to the city, ultimately causing its fall. From there, Sherman began his historic March to the Sea ending the Civil War.
Today visitors can see all the of the locations that were so pivotal to the Kennesaw Mountain battle campaign when they visit the park. It is best to start your visit at the Visitors Center, right by the parking lot. Here you will a find a short informational movie, knowledgeable staff, museum with local artifacts and a bookstore.
The Visitors Center is open 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM everyday. From the Visitors Center, it is easy to access all of the trails leading to each point of interest. My favorite is the hiking trail to the top of Kennesaw Mtn.
The Summit Trail is a fairly easy one mile hike up an 800 foot elevation and then one mile back down after a nice rest at the top. From the summit, you have a gorgeous view and can get a better idea of the terrain and distance the Union and Confederate troops were covering during their skirmishes between Chattanooga and Atlanta.
If you have a stroller or need a paved walk, then you can always walk on the road that runs parallel up to the summit. However, be aware when taking the road that you will be encountering roller bladers, skateboarders, strollers, cars on weekdays and the shuttle bus on the weekend.
While at the bottom of the mountain, ask a ranger to show you the Georgia Monument to the fallen Georgia Soldiers. Dedicated in 1963, it was never actually installed where the fighting took place like its sister monument, the Illinois Monument, to the fallen Union soldiers.
Back down the mountain near the Visitors Center, you will have access to looping trails leading to all of major points of interest for the battle of Kennesaw Mountain.
Cheatham Hill, named for the Confederate General Benjamin Cheatham, still shows the earthworks that the Confederates created to make a protruding angle (or salient) in their lines of defense. These earthworks became known after the fighting as “Dead Angle” and was the sight of the deadliest fighting during the campaign.
Visitors can also find the Illinois Monument here commemorating the Union soldiers who died. This is going to be a long hike so just be prepared, but it is well worth the effort. Along this hike, you will also pass by Pigeon Hill where one of Sherman’s major attacks was repelled.
Also accessible on this route, you will find Kolb’s Farm where Union troops beat back the Confederates to overtake the area and used Kolb House as headquarters for General Joseph Hooker. The house sustain damage during the fighting, but has been restored to its original condition.
Visitors can also see the Kolb family cemetery plot there. A little ways away, Sherman had his headquarters at the Wallis House during the battle for Kolb Farm. From there, he moved to the Sherman Thomas Headquarters to coordinate further attacks.
24-Gun Battery hike
The 24-Gun Battery hike will lead you to an area of earthworks where you can still make out where the Union troops dug in and where the Confederate battery was placed, even locating dips in the earthworks where the cannon barrels rested.
Weekend Ranger Talks
With the kids in tow, you want to be sure to catch the Weekend Ranger Talks. Park rangers will lead groups through a variety of topics covering the mountain’s environment, animal species and history. Sometimes you will get an interactive demonstration on cannons or maybe a animal pelt identification class.
Kids will also love the Junior books which are free and available in the Visitors Center or can be downloaded and printed from the website (https://www.nps.gov/kemo/learn/kidsyouth/beajuniorranger.htm).
These booklets are written in both English and Spanish and cover a range of ages with the Junior Rangers books or Wee Ranger (for ages 4 to 6). There is a children’s book just about the Civil War history as well. Once your child completes all the activities in the book and has it checked by a park ranger, they will receive a Junior Ranger Badge, certificate and a few other little goodies.
Make sure the kiddos ask a ranger about the trading cards as well so they can start their own collection. To mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the National Parks Service is offering over 500 free trading cards from almost 90 national parks around the country, including at Kennesaw Mountain.
These cards have information about the Civil War and Civil Rights. There are seven cards to collect from Kennesaw Mountain detailing events and individuals associated with the battle and Civil War history.
Kennesaw Mountain is a day-use only park meaning it is open to the public from dawn until dusk so your access time will vary throughout the year. Be sure to check posted signs for hours or double check with a park ranger. The park is open every day except on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
The Visitors Center is open 9:00 to 5:00 every day. Entrance and parking are both free. The only fees associated with the park are for the for the shuttle to the summit on the weekends.
When I first moved to Cobb County, Kennesaw Mountain became a refuge from the loud, bustling city around me. I was able to step away from chaos of the city and wander through the over 22 miles of pristine trails and feel like I was much further away.
Now that I am a mom, Kennesaw Mountain still offers a quick escape into the woods for my family and I. There are great programs my daughter can enjoy, trails to engage her without pushing her too far, picnic tables for us to stop and grab lunch together and a place where we can meet up and play with friends.
Best of all, there are no fees and it is easy to access! This is a park we can enjoy year round and we love to take visiting friends and family for an afternoon getaway. As many times as we go, we are always still discovering new things and learning more about the environment and history of the mountain.
It is also a park that will grow with my daughter as she grows. There are still parts of the trails that are just to far for her to hike right now, but we will be discovering them as she grows up. The park rangers are always offering a wonderful array of programs and the environment changes with the seasons so no two trips are ever the same.
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