Memorial Day weekend at Fort Mountain State Park called for rain all weekend, but it was beautiful!
This was our second trip to Fort Mountain State Park; we managed to pick up a cancellation for the holiday weekend 5 days beforehand. Check out my first post on the park for other details.
We drove back roads to get to Chatsworth, Georgia from Acworth and it was only about twenty minutes longer than taking highway 75. Heather took off Friday and we left around noon. We timed it just right to arrive after a big storm. This time around we were able to pull off on the side of the mountain for the epic view. We even went back with just the truck for more photos. Around 1 p.m. it was not busy, only one other car.
They had no-contact check-in at the visitors center where we found the map and tag with our name on it. We did call the visitors center to purchase firewood, a park sticker, and get our 10% discount for the friends of Georgia State Parks program.
Site 21 is a pull-thru in the creek side campground (we were in the lake side campground last time.) Both campgrounds are gated which was nice with all of the day visitors coming into the park. Site 21 is at the very end of the loop right before the entrance/exit. Most of the sites in this campground provide lots of shade and have plenty of room between each site. Sites 13-21 on the outside have trails to a small creek that we could hear from our campsite at night.
There are two negatives to campsite 21, but in no way ruined our trip. The trashcans are between site 21 and the entrance/exit to the creek side campground. Between 9:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. everyone (and I mean everyone) in the campground loop comes to throw away their trash. We personally don’t keep an outside trashcan, therefore we only emptied our trash once when it was full. It put a damper on the ambiance around the campfire and made our dogs upset, but again wasn’t that big of a deal.
Beyond the creek is a pavilion and the parking lot for day use visitors. This site is great for people-watching. You can see who is coming in and out of the campground gate, what cars are flying down the hill, and who uses the pavilion. Sunday afternoon a large family set up to grill out and played their music rather loud. It seemed to be amplified through the woods and over the creek.
If booking way ahead of time, I would try to get site 13 or 15 in the creek side campground. Both are pull-thru, private from the rest of the campground, and a great view of the woods. There was a small trail to the creek, not sure what the exact access was.
We set out to hike Big Rock Trail (one we did not do last time) Saturday morning. We ventured around the lake first on Lake Trail. Both of these trails are loops and we went clockwise around both. Big Rock Trail has a small parking lot near the entrance of the trail. If you want to hike the Gahuti Trail you could also get on by entering here. We saw small multiple waterfalls and a great spot for photos on the rocks. From our campsite (front of creek side campground) to the parking lot, up to the beach–left to go clockwise around the lake, clockwise around Big Rock Trail and back onto the Lake Trail– then to our site was 2 miles.
Sunday morning we drove to the other side of the park to hike West Overlook Trail and the CCC Stone Tower trail. Both of these we did last time, however one of our dogs freaked out near the overlook. On this hike we decided to leave the dogs in the camper. Not sure Cedar would like the metal stairs down to the outlook anyways. We hiked up the Stone Tower trail, lots of steps to climb. You can also get to the tower and the overlook from the West Overlook Trail. We rested at the Stone Tower and then hiked down to the overlook. It was a beautiful day and not many people on the trails yet so we were able to get some great photos without the crowds.
After this hike we got back in the truck and hoped to find a parking space at the Cool Springs Overlook. This parking lot only has 8 spaces, one or two of those being handicapped. Saturday lunch time it was completely full and we knew we could not park on the side of the road so we headed back to the campground. Monday morning before we packed up we drove to the overlook and got there at a great time. Only two cars were parked and no one was at the overlook. You can get on Gahuti trail from this parking lot as well. The Cool Springs Overlook is all mountains, whereas the West Overlook is a mix of mountains and town. Both are epic and a must see when visiting Fort Mountain.
Camping during Covid-19 was not much different than before the virus. Georgia State Parks have been open the entire shelter-in-place and many people have been enjoying their trips. We had multiple Corp of Engineer sites canceled (they keep pushing back opening dates) and canceled a trip ourselves because of our elderly dog. The contact-less check-in was nice and we noticed rangers driving around more frequently Friday while people were checking in. Too bad they were not driving around as much Sunday when that family was blasting music from the pavilion. Families gave each other space on the trails, but the beach was still full on Sunday. Georgia State Parks are limiting the number of people entering the park so that social distancing is possible. They set up rangers and employees at the gates to the trails, the gate to road that accesses the cabins and Big Rock Trail, and near the beach. We personally sanitized the picnic table, water/electric hook-up, and used hand sanitizer after taking our trash to the dumpsters.
We did not think that our first trip of 2020 would be in late May, but many things are out of our control. Hope to have a summer full of camping.
Things we learned:
- This was our first camping trip with our baby girl (7 months old) and it went very smoothly. She seemed to love our camping adventure. We learned so much about what will work and won’t work. Coming soon will be a specific blog post about camping with babies and all the gear we are so glad we have.
- We did take two cars on this trip because of the car seat and two large dogs. Going to figure out if it is possible to get all three in the back of the truck. Anyone do this?
- The weekend called for 80% chance of rain on Friday, 60% on Saturday and Monday, and 40% on Sunday. Thankful to have had a beautiful weekend. Do not cancel for rain!