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TIPS on Hiking the PMT
Backcountry Campsites Along the PMT in FDR
Backcountry Camping & Campsite Descriptions - PMT/FDR
Download pdf of this FDR/PMT information
The Pine Mountain Trail System
- This lovely and well maintained over 40 miles trail system is rated one of the best in the Southeast and one of the jewels of Georgia Park System. The trail was begun in 1975 and still maintained by volunteers of the Pine Mountain Trail Association. The PMTA leads a monthly group led hike and workday trip. Some 50-60,000 hikers a year use the Pine Mountain Trail. Hikers are urged to purchase a trail map (available at the park office/information center.) The main 23 mile trail is marked/blazed with blue rectangles, all connector trails and access trails blazed in white. The Mountain Creek Nature Trail in blazed in red. The main trail starts at the west end of the park on GA 190 near the Gardens Country Store and ends at the WJSP-TV Tower Parking Lot on Alt 85. Hiking is FREE but you must obtain a Daily Use Parking Permit for vehicles parked anywhere within the park. Day hiking is permitted all year round (during day light hours only.)
Many hikers enjoy hiking a “down and out hike” to a specific point. If they have 3 hours they will hike in on a trail section about an hour or so, rest and hike back the same route. The hike to scenic Cascade Falls from the WJSP TV Tower Parking Lot is a 2 mile hike in. There are seven loops along the Pine Mountain Trail, all of which make good day hikes and hikes along them start from named off road parking areas. These are described below (ask for further information at the Park Information center or contact the PMTA via
This loop is formed with the 2.1 mile Chestnut Oak Trail and 1.3 miles of the main PMT. You may begin at the Gardens Overlook Parking Area on Hwy 190, or at the beginning of the trail and park at the area across from Callaway Country Store (which is off the park property.)
Mountain Creek Nature Trail:
This red blazed loop trail starts at the Trading Post in main RV camping area near Lake Delano. Though less strenuous, it is also one of the prettiest as it passes through several plant habitats. A trail guide is available online on the PMTA website for a self guided nature hike.
This loop has the most trail connections and a map is a must for hiking this loop. There are six highway crossings and one on the campground road for a total of seven paved road crossings. Also it has at least five trail connections that you must make. Most hikers use the Park Office or Fox Den Cove Parking Lot as a starting point for hiking this loop.
Big Poplar Loop:
This is the longest loop and is named for the large poplar tree close to mile marker ten. It is formed with the 2.7 mile Sawtooth Trail and 5.1 miles of the main Pine Mountain Trail. It has a number of rock formations and springs to cross. It has two entry points on Highway 190, one near trail mile six at the Fox Den Cove parking area and the other near mile eleven at the Mollyhugger Hill Parking area.
Dowdell Knob Loop:
This loop is formed with the 1.3 mile Boot Top Trail and 3 miles of the main Pine Mountain Trail. It can best be accessed by parking at the Dowdell Knob Trailhead Parking Area (which is 1.3 miles S off GA 190). The main, blue-blazed trail can be reached via a 400' connecting trail leading away from the trailhead shelter. Once you reach the main trail, if you go west about a mile or to the east about 2 miles you connect to the white-blazed Boot Top Trail for some 1.3 miles. Hiking in either direction from the connecting trail will bring you back to the trailhead access trail at Dowdell Knob. The Boot Top Trail crosses Dowdell Knob Road. NOTE: The gate to Dowdell Knob off HWY 190 closes 5:00 PM October 1 to March 31 and at 8:00 PM April 1 to September 30. Backpackers can leave their vehicles overnight, with a backcountry permit on the dash, at the Dowdell Knob Trailhead Parking Lot.
Wolf Den Loop:
This is considered one of the most beautiful stretches of trail in the Southeast and is the most popular section of trail. The loop is formed with the 1.7 mile Beaver Pond Trail and 5 miles of the main PMT. There are two entry points to this loop. One is at the parking lot near the WJSP-TV tower on Alt US 85w just north of Ga. 190 and the other is at the mile 18 crossing on Ga. 190 at Rocky Point Parking Lot. From the WJSP-TV Tower Parking Lot it is 2 miles west to Cascade Falls and you pass four other small falls.
East End Loop:
The main portion of the loop is the 2.4 mile White Candle Trail which runs along the south side of GA 190 on the eastern end of FDR State Park and connects with the Beaver Pond Trail to form a loop. There are three places one can park to hike this loop, but we suggest the two paved named areas. One is at the Rocky Point Parking Lot near mile 18 (park here and hike from the PMT and Beaver Pond Trail intersection east on the Beaver Pond trail just about .3 mile to the intersection with the White Candle Trail). From this point you can hike in either direction. You can also park at the WJSP-TV Tower Parking area and follow the PMT to the Beaver Pond Trail and then .2 mile along the Beaver Pond Trail to the White Candle Trail intersection. The third place to park is on GA 190 where the Beaver Pond Trail crosses Ga. 190. This crossing is about ½ mile east of Rocky Point Parking Lot.
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TIPS for hiking on the Pine Mountain Trails in FDR State Park.
Buy study and carry a trail map. Ask questions before you head out on a hike as to hike route and length. Besides dressing for the weather, carry essential hiking equipment (water/drink, snacks, small first aid kit, flashlight, toilet paper.) Note: Water in streams and springs must be treated or filtered before drinking.
Most people can hike about two miles per hour. With children plan on the slowest ones pace. If you have say 3 hours to hike, figure the distance you can hike at 4-5 miles, but don’t plan more hike than daylight. Give yourself some time to spare. Please bag and pack out trash. Currently the only trash containers along the trail are at the Dowdell Knob Trailhead and the WJSP-TV tower Parking Lot trailhead. Please leave the trail even better than you found it by packing out your trash and picking up litter left by someone less thoughtful than yourself.
It is always a good idea to let someone in the park office know of your intended hike route, vehicle information cell phone number, and when you plan to come off the trail.
If you have an emergency along the trails call the park 24 hour emergency number 706-801-5006 first (not 911).For general trail information, call 706-663-4858.
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BACKCOUNTRY CAMPSITES ALONG THE PINE MOUNTAIN TRAIL:
In early 2012 two new backcountry campsites were presented for consideration to the managers of FDR State Park, who endorsed the presented sites. After review by various Georgia Department of Natural Resources departments, the campsites were approved. Volunteers working with the Pine Mountain Trail Association helped clear the sites and access trails including carrying in parts for a bridge the PMTA provided at one site. The wooden name and directional signs for the two new sites were installed on May 26th. Both camps were ready for use on May 27, 2012.
Turtle Hollow Campsite:
(A large group size camp with 2-tent sub camp Turtle Bluff).
The start of the access trail to Turtle Hollow Campsite is 1.4 miles east of Fox Den Cove Parking Lot on the Pine Mountain Trail. From Molly Hugger Hill Parking Lot it is about 3.6 miles west. There is a wooden sign and brown strip sign at the head of the of the access trail to the camp off the PMT. Follow the white blazed access trail down west some 780’ to another brown strip sign. To the right of this sign is the main campsite which can accommodate a large group of backpackers (12-15 tents or around 30+ backpackers) but there is only one established fire ring. Water for this group size camp is a small spring stream that runs by the camp.
For 1-4 people with 2 tents max use Turtle Bluff. At the brown strip sign is a footbridge. Cross the bridge and follow the trail up a short ways to Turtle Bluff. This small sub camp, overlooks the spring stream below. There is room for only two tents and there is an established fire ring there.
Even if there is a group staying at the main Turtle Hollow Campsite, Turtle Bluff is across the spring and up the hill enough to offer “privacy” for backpackers away from a group at the main campsite.
While scouting out the location for this new campsite, a turtle shell was found near the water. The name Turtle Hollow seemed to fit, and was chosen as the name.
Big Oak Springs
The access trail to Big Oak Springs Campsite, starts off the Pine Mountain Trail about .8 of a mile west of Rocky Point Parking Lot. If you are coming east from say Dowdell Knob it is just about 500’ east of the PMT Mile 17 marker (which is east of nearby Sparks Creek Campsite.) Follow the white blazed access trail off the PMT 495’ down to the main part of the camp and the one established fire ring. Just west of the fire ring is a large pile of rocks. There are two signs telling do not move/use the rocks nor camp within 50’ of them (they are part of historic old home place.) The water source for the camp is further down the access trail just 250’ to a beautiful spring head. There are actually a couple of springs coming out of the ground at this point. One spring has a neat rocked frame around it. Across the stream is evidence of two “whiskey stills.” Above the springs you will see a HUGE white oak tree. Hence the name of the camp, Big Oak Springs. This area for this new campsite was found and suggested by PMTA Board and LIFE member Eddie Hall.
At both camps there is a lot of dead, on the ground fire wood to use (where there is not a FIRE BAN and campfires are allowed.) The main thing is that like at all Pine Mountain Trail backcountry campsites, use the established fire rings and do not build or move them. At these two new camps there is only one fire ring at each. Noted with red signs at each camp is the boundary of the camps telling do not camp beyond the signs (as those areas are not part of the established camp.)
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Backcountry Camping and Campsite Descriptions
The Pine Mountain Trail – FDR State Park
Below is a description of 14 designated campsites along the trails. Backcountry camping is by permit only, only in the designated named campsite areas. Each site has established fire-rings. Please do not move a fire-ring or build new ones. When there is not a fire ban, build fires with dead, downed wood (no cutting of any trees, dead or living.) Whiskey Still and Grindstone Gap have little water nearby. Sassafras Hill Campsite does not have any nearby water (consider it a dry camp and campfire there is not suggested.) Be very cautious if you have a campfire at any site and drown all campfires with about 5 gallons of water.
Most backcountry campsites will hold around 15 persons. Some less as noted below.
Little Bridges Campsite
This campsite is located on the Chestnut Oak Trail section just off the main PMT. You can get to this site from the west end of the Chestnut Oak Trail by parking at the Gardens Country Store, hiking up Ga 190 a short ways to the rock wall entrance way of FDR State Park. The Pine Mountain Trail sign is on the south side of the road on the right. Look for a sign for the Chestnut Oak Trail on your left. Hike the Chestnut Oak Trail east 1.7 miles to the campsite. (The entire Chestnut Oak Trail is 2.1 miles long.) If you are hiking from Mile 1.4 of the Pine Mountain Trail at the Garden Overlook Parking Area, you cross GA 190 to the north. Just after you cross the road, there is a junction with the Chestnut Oak Trail that goes to your left (west). Little Bridges Campsite is located just down the mountain .4 mile from this junction. Large hardwoods are all around this beautiful camp. This camp was built to allow backpackers a close first or last night's camp. The distance to GA 190 will make it a good choice for first time backpackers or those with younger campers. There is a nice year-round spring beside the camp.
Dead Pine Campsite
This is the first site from the west end of the main PMT. The site is located past Mile 2 about .4 mile. The next site to the east is Big Knot, about 5.5 miles along the trail. Dead Pine has a small spring nearby.
Broken Tree Campsite
This campsite is located 1.6 miles east from the FDR Park Office on the main PMT. If you park at Fox Den Cove Parking Lot, cross GA 190 and follow the PMT back to the west. Broken Tree Campsite is .6 mile west of Mile 6. From the Park Office, if you hike east you cross paved roads twice before you reach the camp near Mile 5. The camp is on south side of the trail (heading east) in a small bottom just before you start back uphill. There is wooden sign on your right. This is a small camp for three tents at the most. There is one fire ring. In winter this is a warm camp, as a hill north of it should block the wind. There is an ample supply of downed, dead wood for campfires. There is a year-round spring on the edge of the camp. This is NOT a group size site and is limit to 3 tents.
Grindstone Gap Campsite
Of the fourteen backcountry campsites, twelve are located on the main Pine Mountain Trail, however, Grindstone Gap is located on the white-blazed Sawtooth Trail. To get to the site, you can go west on the PMT (south of HWY 190) from Fox Den Cove Parking Lot and then east on the Sawtooth Trail. From Mollyhugger Hill Parking Lot go across GA 190 to the south and onto the PMT just a short ways, then right (west) on the Sawtooth Trail about .8 of a mile.Grindstone is located in a bottom, off the trail to the south in a rather flat area. Water has not been reliable recently.
Big Knot Campsite
From Fox Den Cove parking lot, go east on the PMT (north of Hwy 190 away from the parking lot). The hike to Big Knot takes you past a large rock cliff near Indian Mountain. Down the slope away from the top of the mountain, the trail views to the west are spectacular. The trail crosses a small wooden bridge just before a uphill climb and trail to the right for the site. Mile 8 is just past the site sign. The site is on small ridge with three fire rings to choose from. Water, in a clear spring, is located just at the bottom of the ridge to the east of the site about 100 yds or so.
Jenkins Spring Campsite
Our newest campsite, established October 2008, is .3 miles east of Mile 8. From Fox Den Cove Parking Lot, hike east 2.1 miles. You will cross a small spring with bamboo on your right. The access trail is just beyond on your left. From Mollyhugger Hill Parking Lot, hike west 2.8 miles. The access trail will be on your right. Follow the white-blazed access trail across a small bridge to the site. Water source is marked with a sign in the northwest corner of camp. The boundary of FDR State Park is approximately 200 yards north of the campsite. This is private property. Please note the marks on the trees and stay within the park.
Beech Bottom Campsite
Just to the east of the Mile 9 marker the trail runs alongside a stream and makes a slight turn uphill (east) and the campsite location sign is on the north side (left) of the trail. This site was relocated in May of 2010 to the current location. Be aware the old location is not to be used (signs noting relocation and old site area closed.) If you leave Molly Hugger Hill Parking Lot and go west on the trail, you have about a two mile hike in. You go down and up several times with some pretty good switch-backs west of Mile 10. The site is a flat cleared area under tree cover. Be aware of the signs at the back (north side) of the site that mark the boundary of FDR State Park. There is not usually much dead firewood at this camp. There are two established fire-rings at the camp. The water source for the site can be counted on all year long.
Whiskey Still Campsite
If you park at Mollyhugger Hill Parking Lot and cross the road (south of Hwy 190) you are going east on the trail down the mountain. About .4 mile in you come to large rock and a sign on the right. Follow the site trail to the three tent sites on the hillside. This site was reworked in 1998-1999 as an Eagle Scout project. In 2001, Scouts reworked the access trail. There are only three tent sites and small fire rings. There is one larger fire ring just below the three tent sites with a nice sitting area. Water: It is a 1/4 mile down a marked water trail to a small spring southwest of the site. Note: There is still some evidence of a forest fire north and west of the campsite. It was burned in the spring of 2010 (campers left a smoldering fire that caught up and burned 15 surrounding acres.) This is NOT a group size site and limited to 3 tents.
Bethel Creek Campsite
(Full Sun) The site is located about Mile 12.5. You can park on Hines Gap road and hike about .3 mile in or from Molly Hugger Hill Parking Lot it is still only about 1.5 miles or about 2 miles West of Dowdell Knob. This site is just of the trail (south of it) and like all sites it is marked with a wooden sign. The site was totally wiped out by the tornado that hit FDR State Park and the Pine Mountain Trail in late April 2011. The campsite reopened at the location as part of an Eagle Scout Project in March 2012.
Brown Dog Campsite
Built in 1998 and is north of the trail just west of Mile 16 just east of the small waterfall near Brown Dog Bluff. Uphill past the entrance sign about 80 yards you find a nice flat area and three fire rings. There is ample wood all around the site. To get to Brown Dog Campsite you can hike in from the Dowdell Knob area east about 1.5 miles or park at Rocky Point Parking Lot and hike in west about 2.1 miles. You can also hike in from the Dowdell Knob Road on the Sawtooth Trail to the east end of it, then west on the PMT to just past Mile 16. The water source is the spring and waterfall mentioned above.
Sparks Creek Campsite
Located in a bottom alongside Sparks Creek just west of Mile 17. To get there go east of Dowdell Knob about two miles, or west of Rocky Point Parking Lot just over a mile in. The hike from Rocky Point in is the best, as the trail comes down through the cliffs at Rocky Point and it is down hill all the way. Just west of Mile 17 the trail turns left and you cross Sparks Creek on stepping stones and the trail continues along the stream to the sign marking the campsite and a small wooden bridge. Cross the bridge and turn right and you will see three fire rings along the stream.
Sassafras Hill Campsite
Most hike to the site starting in from the WJSP-TV tower and heading west on the trail some 4.6 miles to the site. You can also take a easy hike in from Rocky Point Parking Lot (cross Ga. 190 from the parking lot ) and head east some .4 of a mile. West, just before the site is small wooden bridge that you cross and continue uphill on the blue-blazed PMT to the site on the left. The site has several fire rings located on this large flat hill top. This is a large site and a favorite of scout units in the past but be aware it is NOT suggested for groups use now as there is no water at the present time west and east of the site for the last couple years (only some runoff water after a rain at times.) This camp is to considered a DRY camp and stove use is suggested. Due to lack of water nearby, be cautious: if you have a campfire here, you will need to be sure and have brought in enough water to drown the fire out.
Old Sawmill Campsite
Most people hike in to this large site from the WJSP-TV tower parking lot (about 2.7 miles) The hike in to Old Sawmill is one of the most scenic, with lots of varied hiking over water crossings and hills, past cliffs and waterfalls. At current time, there is not a lot of dead downed firewood for campfires at/near the camp. The site has ample water from a good sized stream near the entrance to the camp right by the trail.
Bumble Bee Ridge Campsite
Most people hike in to this site from the WJSP-TV tower end of the trail. The site is located at the end of nice climb up a hill about 1.5 miles in from the WJSP-TV tower parking lot. The site has some large pine trees as cover. Water source is back down the trail at the bottom of the hill. Please stay on the marked blue-blazed trail in and near the campsite area when going for water.
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