Visit this underrated gem in the Georgia mountains!
On a recent visit to Chatsworth, Georgia, we were fortunate enough to stay only five minutes away from Fort Mountain State Park. Before we visited, I didn’t have any expectations regarding the park. It didn’t seem to carry all the fanfare that places like Amicalola Falls and Tallulah Gorge had. But it should.
Fort Mountain State Park has amazing views, great hiking, seasonal beach access/swimming, camping, fishing, historic structures, and more. During our October visit, the air was crisp and cool, accompanied by a kaleidoscope of autumn colors everywhere we went.
History of the Park
Before the arrival of European settlers, the Cherokee lived in the area for hundred of years. Their legends even mention the “Moon-Eyed People” who proceeded them. By the 1930s, the property was owned by prominent businessman Ivan Allen Sr., who sold it to the state of Georgia.
Thanks to the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) - a group of young men hired through President Roosevelt’s New Deal Program to improve infrastructure - the park received many of the features it has today. The CCC boys constructed the lake, stone fire tower, several buildings, and the trails that provide recreation for visitors to the park.
Despite its name, Fort Mountain State Park does not have a fort. Its name comes from the long, mysterious stone wall built near the top of the mountain prior to the arrival of the Cherokee.
The Visitor’s Center at Fort Mountain State Park has a small camp store, restroom, information about the park, and a large black bear that state wildlife officials confiscated from a poacher, stuffed, and put on display with information about illegal hunting practices. You can also get a park map when you stop in.
The Lake Area
The CCC constructed a 17-acre lake at Fort Mountain State Park, which is open seasonally for fishing, swimming, kayaking, and paddling. Visitors can rent kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, and pedal boats during the warmer months.
There’s a mini golf course (requires additional fee) near the lake that’s also open during the busy season. And next to that is a playground that’s open all year.
All kinds of campers will appreciate this park, which has tent, RV, trailer, pioneer, and backcountry camping sites available. The campground is open year-round and can accommodate RVs up to 50ft in length (according to their website). However, upon my visit, I noticed that the campground seemed a bit cramped for larger RVs because of the overhang from the trees.
A Park Pass is required for all vehicles and is not included in the site rental fee. See below for information about admission prices. These sites have electric and water hook-up available.
Visitors who’d like to spend the night, but don’t have tents or an RV, can rent a cottage on site.
CCC Fire Tower
CCC Camp #468 built the fire tower at Fort Mountain from 1934 to 1935 to serve as a warning system for forest fires. The tower was in use until the 1960s, when the state constructed a new metal tower on a nearby mountaintop.
Starting in 2014, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources began restoration on the top of the old fire tower, which burned in 1971. Despite the fire, the original stonework still stands nearly ninety years later.
Though the park does not allow visitors inside the fire tower, you can view the craftsmanship of the young men who built it from the outside. If you look at the wall to the right of the tower entrance, you can see a heart-shaped rock that local stonemason Arnold Bailey crafted for his wife.
When you visit Fort Mountain State Park, you won’t want to miss the mysterious stone wall that runs through the property. Archaeologists have dated the rock pile to the Woodland Period (1000 BC – 1000 AD), but the reason for its construction is unknown.
Today, much of the wall looks like a line of tumbled rocks that runs over 900 feet long (including the gaps). Interpretive signs near the wall tell of the Cherokee legend of the “Moon-Eyed People” who built the wall, before being driven out by the Cherokee.
We couldn’t pass up the amazing hiking trails at Fort Mountain State Park, which range from 0.75 miles to 8.7 miles, with the possibility of combining different sections of trails.
Each trail was moderately challenging and rocky, with amazing views. The park does a great job naming the trails so that you know exactly which ones have the features you’re looking for, like the CCC Stone Tower Trail and the West Overlook Trail. For a copy of the state park’s map, including trails, click here.
We’ve embarked on many epic hikes in north Georgia, but these were some of my favorites. The park was bursting with fall colors and the cool afternoon temperatures made for a wonderful experience. It left such an impression on us we visited it twice during our stay. And, as a bonus, this state park was not crowded like the more popular ones.
Other Multi-Use Trails
Besides hiking, Fort Mountain State Park has horse trails and mountain biking trails. You can find more information about these activities here.
Nearby Scenic Overlooks
If you enter the park by heading west on Highway 52, you will pass the Cohutta Overlook about ten minutes before reaching the park. Roadway signs lead to parking on the right side of the road (westbound) for a great view of the mountains.
Know Before You Go
181 Fort Mountain Park Road, Chatsworth, GA 30705
N 34.7613010 | W -84.702702
Hours & Fees
Park Hours: Daily 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Office Hours: Daily 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Fees: $5/vehicle (FREE entry with a Georgia State Parks pass)
Georgia State Parks rules allow for pets on a leash no longer than six feet. They do not allow pets inside buildings or historic sites. They have separate rules pertaining to service animals.
The following areas are considered wheelchair accessible by the Georgia State Park website: Visitor's Center (aka "The Trading Post"), group pavilion, the beach, picnic shelter #1, cabins #1 and #5, campsites #25 and #51, and campground comfort station #3.
What’s your favorite Georgia State Park? Do you plan to visit this one? Drop a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!