One of my favorite ways to break a sweat is through hiking.
I never considered myself an outdoor person, but living in Guam for two years changed that, since the best activities were to explore the jungles or the sea. For me, sliding down muddy hills, getting cut up by sword grass, and using ropes to climb up a waterfall made me realize that I enjoyed taking myself out of my comfort zone for a little while because I got a thrill and sense of personal accomplishment from the challenge. Plus, this is how you experience some of the greatest moments or places in life. Hitting the trails allows you to see places that you sometimes cannot experience any other way. That, to me, is worth the workout.
This was my mentality as I headed into an 8.2-mile hike the weekend after Thanksgiving. Being late November, I figured it would be a great opportunity to see the fall foliage while also burning off the heavy meals of the last two days. Plus, my husband had just picked up a Fitbit Alta HR for me during Black Friday, so I was ready to take my new toy for a spin!
After reading a few of the Atlanta trail guides, I chose the Fort Mountain Gahuti trail for its length, difficulty level and listed features (waterfalls and fall colors). My friends and I like to do trails that will take up most of the day, allow us to earn dinner, and which have scenic views of some sort.
After fueling up at Alon’s Bakery in Dunwoody first, we hit the road, taking an hour and 45 minutes to get to the trailhead. Fort Mountain is about 90-100 miles from Atlanta, depending on the part of Atlanta from which you travelling.
When we parked at the visitors center (parking $5), my spirits were momentarily lifted at the prospect of potentially seeing a black bear along the trail, as the visitors center featured a large taxidermied black bear that had been caught by a poacher on this very mountain. However, I learned black bear presence must still be rare here, as the park ranger told me they hadn’t seen one in months.
The Gahuti trail, which is Cherokee for “Mother Mountain” is a loop. I would suggest starting off by going East so that the hardest part of the trail is done first.
Initially I was disappointed because the trail progressed without any waterfall or vistas from which to view the colors. Up, down, and flat we went with no clearings to view the colors or sound of rushing water to hint of falls. It began to seem as if this would be one those trails with back and forth ascents but very little payoff for the work put in.
Thankfully, I was with a fun group who made the hours and uphill climbs go by much faster.
Eventually, we did make it to a small waterfall and some lookout points that gave us panoramic views of rolling hills covered in specks of green, yellow, orange and red. Very close to the waterfall, if you proceed east along the lake loop, you’ll also get picturesque views of Fort Mountain Lake. Here, we stopped to take a breather as my friends skipped stones over the lake’s surface.
Finally, as we approached the end of the trail about two and half miles later, we were treated to a clear view of the fall scenery from a lookout point, and couldn’t believe that this view had been just a few yards from where we had parked our car to begin with! (This is also why you should start the trail by going East. Otherwise, you will get this view at the very start and not be motivated to go further.)
Overall, my day on the Gahuti trail was a relaxing way to spend a fall afternoon with friends outdoors. There are more scenic trails in north Georgia, but this one wasn’t very difficult so it’s ideal for families or beginners. Though I didn’t burn as many calories as I would have expected, I still tallied up 221 active exercise minutes and 25k steps, so I’d still say it was a pretty active day.
So if you’re trying to get a head start on your health this season or simply looking for a breath of fresh air, don’t wait til the New Year. The mountains of north Georgia are calling, and you’ll be glad you responded.
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