Location: Red Top Mountain State Park is located on Red Top Mountain Road in Acworth, Bartow County.
Description: Truth be told, even the roads here are nice to run.
Convenient to Marietta, Kennesaw and Woodstock, this park however, does not see the traffic that Kennesaw Mountain does. You may see only one or two people on the trail in summer and except for weekend afternoons, will hardly run into a single person all winter. Running here feels more like a wilderness than a suburban park.
There are two distinct areas to this park... the Lodge and Visitor's Center area and the Iron Hill Trail and campground area.
The trails around the visitor's center and the lodge are well maintained single track, mostly smooth packed dirt covered with pine needles... just about perfect. If you need hill training, this is the place. You will spend 95% of your time either climing or descending.
There are several shorter trails in this area including the White Tail and Lakeside trails but best bets are the Homestead Trail run from the lodge (3.5 mile loop) and the Sweet Gum Trail run from the tennis courts at the visitor's center. Running the Sweet Gum Trail from the visitor's center, then the Homestead loop and returning to the visitor's center is a very nice 5.5 mile loop.
The Iron Hill Trail in the vicinity of the campground is open to mountain bikers but not to worrry, it is wide and actually quite flat made of packed gravel in most spots and I've never actually seen a mountain biker on the trail. Run from the parking area off Red Top Mountain Rd. (Glade Rd.), the Iron Hill trail is 3.9 miles and very scenic. Bushwacking over to the campground (or running Red Top Mountain Rd) and then over the short trail to the visitor's center adds about 3/4 mile each way.
Once you get used to how the trails are laid out, it is very easy to combine the Iron Hill area with the area surrounding the lodge to come up with a run of as much as 15 miles.
Cooling off in the lake after a long hot summer run is a treat. Given the lake, the trails and the nearby roads in the horse country south of Emerson, Red Top would make an excellent place for triathlon training if it wern't for all the drunk boaters on Lake Allatoona and that is really a shame.
It's $3 to park with Wednesdays free but $30 gets you a parking pass good at any Georgia state park for one year. Officially open 7:00 am to 10:00 pm but I have never heard of closing times being enforced and have never personally been bothered. quite the opposite is true... the rangers at the lodge once gave me some batteries for my headlamp when mine went dead!
If you see an old slow guy with a headlamp running at night, say hello. This is my favorite nearby place to run.
Pics: Images are clickable.