March 2014: Burnt Mountain Preserve

Jasper, Georgia

After the Cherokees were rudely dispatched in the early 1830s, Scotch-Irish from the Carolinas made their way to Georgia to settle in the southernmost mountains of the Appalachians. They raised what they needed to survive but the soil on the 3,000-foot mountains was thin and the growing season short. Nevertheless, by the Civil War Burnt Mountain Community boasted a church, a school, a grist mill and the mark of existence - a post office. This mountain, which has two peaks, was also known as Burrell Top since the brothers Joseph and Grandville lived here. But the future lay in the developing valleys not on the mountaintops so the Burrells sold out to George Marble tycoon Sam Tate and moved to Alabama to raise cotton. Tate had grand plans to develop the “prettiest town on a mountain in the South” with a lodge, a golf course, and an airfield all designed by the leading architects of the day. Connahaynee Lodge opened on Burnt Mountain peak but the Great Depression lurked around the corner. Tate Mountain Estates filed for bankruptcy in 1934 and the lodge burned to the ground in March of 1946. There has been no further development on the mountain for three-quarters of a century and the trail system on Burnt Mountain, now owned by Pickens County, was built in 2006 by the Mountain Stewards, a private advocacy group. 

The canine hiking on Burnt Mountain comes from three stacked loops that with satisfy any level of trail dog. You will start out at an elevation of 2,500 feet and how far you drop off the mountain will determine your dog’s hiking day. The log-lined trails travel through stands of second-growth hardwoods (most of the trees were cleared for the Connahaynee Lodge) with little understory so during the winter months there are impressive south-facing vistas. The Crest Trail stubbornly defies sliding down the hillsides and will be completed in an easy 15 minutes by any canine hiker. The yellow-blazed Preserve Trail winds 400 feet down Burnt Mountain but just before it appears you are on a never-ending descent it makes a sharp left-turn to return to the mountaintop after a mile. These are just warm-ups for athletic dogs to bound a full 800 feet down into Champion Creek Valley. There are some switchbacks cut into the two-mile Champion Creek Trail but this hike will set any dog to panting.  

The south-facing views off Burnt Mountain look down to Marble Hill and the heart of Georgia’s marble industry. Gleaming white Georgia marble was used to craft the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial. Closer to home Georgia marble was used to build the Tate Elementary School, government offices and the 19,000-square foot Tate House constructed by Colonel Sam Tate, president of the Georgia Marble company. This is one of the few places in the world where pink marble is found and you can see it used in Tate’s classically-flavored, Renaissance Revival mansion.

From GA 53 in the center of town take Burnt Mountain Road north out of town until it joins GA 136 in three miles. Bear right and continue east another three miles to the parking area on the right.