One of the most popular parks in the state Red Top Mountain State Park in Cartersville offers a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities that make it attractive to thousands of people a day.
The availability of iron ore was one of the earliest attractions to Bartow County, and its visibility gave Red Top Mountain its name. Here this land was used by the Stroups, early north Georgia ironmasters, to produce "clay iron." Mark Anthony Cooper purchased the business from them, including the land south of Stroup's mill on Stamp Creek and his furnace on the Etowah River. When the iron ore in the area became too expensive to mine, Cooper began to import ore from northwest Georgia on the Western and Atlantic Railroad and the land returned to agricultural use.
In 1947 the Etowah River was dammed and Lake Allatoona was formed, encircling the peninsula on which Red Top Mountain State Park now resides. The original plans for I-75 called for it to cross the lake here. Local citizens fought the proposal and the state of Georgia changed the plan to run further west, near the town of Cartersville (History of Cartersville, Georgia).
Tour The ParkRed Top Mountain is surrounded on three sides by Lake Allatoona and always ranks as one of the most visited parks in the state. Its popularity derives from its proximity to Atlanta and I-75, easy lake access from its public boat ramp, and popular daytime activities. The park is 6 miles east of I-75, Exit 285 (Red Top Mountain Road). This winding road crosses Bethany Bridge (a narrow two-lane bridge) and immediately on the left is the Bethany Boat Ramp. On the right are additional "day use facilities." A second public boat ramp, and considerably less well-used, is Webster Ferry. This ramp is past the visitors center and Park Ranger's office on the left (Webster Ferry Road).
Further down Red Top Mountain Road to the left are beach facilities. This gated area has an attendant who will collect the current fee for Georgia State Park usage. Inside are picnic tables and pavilions with nearby lake access, or you can walk down a healthy set of stairs to a white sand beach. Miniature golf is also available.
As the road winds deeper into the park, a log cabin "visitors center" appears on the left, just passed the left turn to the lodge, cottages, and marina. This is the center of activity for hikers and check-in point for campers. It marks the start of the 5.0 mile Homestead Trail and is near the mid-way point of the 3.5 mile Sweet Gum Trail that serves as a connector between the camping area, visitors center and tennis courts, and the lodge and restaurant. Stop here to purchase your park pass, required if you intend to spend any time in the park itself. Visitors who are spending the night in the camping area or at the lodge will receive a complimentary park pass.
A short (.75 miles) trail, the "Visitors Center Loop" offers a brief look at Red Top Mountain and can be walked to get an idea of what the longer trails are like. In fact, the loop shares its footpath with the longer Sweet Gum Trail for about half the hike. Both the Homestead Trail and the Sweet Gum are longer hikes. No biking is permitted on these trails.
Exit the visitors center to the right and return to Park Marina Road. Between Red Top Mountain Road and the marina are wildlife viewing areas (best times: dawn and dusk). Turn right at Lodge Road and park at the end of the lodge lot, past the check-in. This provides access to the Lakeside Trail, a wheelchair accessible .75 mile trail that winds through a lightly-wooded cove to the lodge's boat dock and The Vaughn House, a restored post-war cabin relocated from nearby Peoples Valley. The White-tail Trail (1 mile) takes you out to a scenic view of Lake Allatoona. Please note that Lake Allatoona is a watershed lake, designed to hold the spring run-off of the Etowah River, from which it is formed. During the Fall and Winter lake levels are purposely dropped to make room for Spring run-off.
If you are planning a stay at Red Top Mountain the facilities are among the best in the area. Campsites are large and wooded, with a tent pad, grill and fire ring. The lodge and conference center is popular, especially on weekends, so make reservations early. At the lodge is a conference center and restaurant. When we last ate there food was served buffet-style and was good, but ownership has reverted to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources since that time. A good idea for couples with older kids: Let them camp while you spend a night in the lodge.
Red Top Mountain State Park
For park information call 770.975.0055
Red Top Mountain State Park Lodge & Conference Center
50 Lodge Road
Cartersville, Georgia 30120
Location: Red Top Mountain Road
Directions: Take I-75 to exit 285. Go east on Red Top Mountain Road, then follow signs to your destination. The turn for the lodge is just before the Visitors Center
Reservations: 770.389.7275 or 800.864.7275
Date added: November 16, 2003
Last update: December 18, 2004
Other Attractions in Cartersville
Allatoona Pass Battlefield
Etowah Indian Mounds State Park
Allatoona Lake Visitor's Center
State Park Listing
Fort Yargo State Park
Watson Mill Bridge State Park
Fort McAllister State Park
Etowah Indian Mounds State Park
New Echota State Park
Dahlonega Gold Museum