Red Top Mountain State Park - Visiting Georgia State Parks - Hiking, Sightseeing and Camping in a Class B RV
On a sunny weekend in late February, after what seemed like weeks and weeks of rain and gray skies, we quickly “bolted” for Georgia’s Red Top Mountain State Park. Red Top Mountain State Park is near Acworth and Cartersville, Georgia, just one-and-a-half miles off I-75. Unlike other winter camping trips, we did NOT have the park at Red Top Mountain all to ourselves. In fact, when I signed on to the park website to make a reservation the campground appeared to be nearly sold out. When we arrived at the registration office the parking lot was full, so I had to get creative to find a parking place for our RV while I registered for the weekend.
Altoona Lake Camping
A Popular Outdoor Destination
I suspect that one reason for the heavy competition, besides the weather, is that Red Top Mountain is only 45 minutes North of Atlanta. In reading reviews to prepare for the trip, I learned that this park is a popular weekend escape for urbanites from Atlanta who are looking for a quick outdoors fix. For that reason, and based on our own experience of barely getting a spot even in February, I would highly recommend making advance reservations - a recommendation that was confirmed by the helpful check-in staff.
Large Lakefront Campsites
I had reserved a 40 foot back-in campsite. My thinking in doing this was that our Class B campervan is 23 feet long. The next size down from the 40 foot site was a 20 foot site. At 23 feet, it was logical to assume that our RV would not fit on a 20 foot site. At least, this had been my experience at most parks, and especially older parks and those smaller ones built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). However, I was pleased to see that the sites at Red Top Mountain appeared to allow room for both the camper and for a car. Because our RV is self-contained and we don’t tow a car, we got to enjoy about 20 extra feet of room. I now understand, should we ever return in the future, that our RV would fit nicely on what the park refers to as a 20 foot site and still have several feet to spare.
"Unusually Private . . . Massive Lakeview"
The sites at the Red Top Mountain campground are marked with color coding according to their size. When you check in you will be informed what color your site will be, and also instructed to look for a colored reflector that corresponds to your reservation. Our 40 foot site was coded green, and the person checking us in informed me that we could set up at any green site. She pointed out the green sites on a park map, showed me which ones were lakefront, but also cautioned me not to get my hopes up because the lakefront sites might all be taken.
Upon entering the campground, which has keyless electronic access control like other Georgia State Parks we have visited, I was impressed by the landscape. We were surrounded by a forest of mostly tall pines, with some hardwoods, and many large boulders. The underbrush was either cleared out, or had never developed, so that you could see for a great distance through the large trees.
Meandering through the campground we rounded a corner and the lakefront campsites began to appear in front of us. Perched on a hillside overlooking the 12,000 acre Altoona Lake, the lakefront campsites were amazing, huge, and unusually private due to what seemed to us like larger than average distances between them. Incredibly, we found a “green site” (the type assigned to us), with a massive lake view, vacant and waiting for us. The site was mostly level, and leveling the RV was fairly easy and worth the work in return for the view afforded by the site.
Your Own Private Lakefront
It is hard to explain the large size of the lakefront sites at Red Top Mountain. Not only is there quite a bit of woods on each side of the sites, but there is also a gently sloping hillside running from each site down to the lake shoreline. I am terrible with distances, but it felt like it was at least 100 feet to the water and the same open distance on each side of our campsite. Class A RVs, however, appeared to be relegated to a single area of pull through sites at the edge of the larger campground. This is likely due to a combination of the site sizes, curvy campground roads, and overhead trees. We walked through that area and noticed that the big Class As, and some Class Cs, were lined up and parked quite close to one another. Avoiding such “parking lots,” and the ease of making the sharp turn near the park’s entrance, are additional advantages of our Class B campervan.
At the water’s edge, we found that the lake level was down for the season. Many lakes in this area of the country are drawn down below their “full pond” level during the winter. However, unlike many other lakes that I have visited, I was pleased to find that the Altoona Lake shoreline was largely free of trash.
An "Otherworldly" Shoreline
Georgia? Or, Maine?? Where Are We?!
Speaking of the shoreline, when I saw the shoreline that went with our lakefront campsite it took me a minute to remember that I was in Georgia rather than Maine. You see, when the lake level is down the shoreline that is exposed (at least around the park) is the type of rugged, rocky shoreline that is usually associated more with Maine than Georgia. I am used to lake levels being down in winter, and where I live I am also used to seeing up to 30 feet of unsightly mud around a lake’s edge. However, Altoona Lake’s rocky wintertime edges were an unexpected bonus, giving the lake an exotic, otherworldly feel.
Dog Friendly Means Happy Dog!
Fantastic Dog Friendly Trails
Most of our Saturday was spent on the Iron Hill Trail. This trail is four miles long and topped with an easy-to-walk combination of gravel and natural pine needles from the surrounding forest. With plenty of gradual inclines, this trail is not quite an easy stroll, yet not quite a hiking trail either. Beautiful views of the lake abound, and at one junction we briefly diverted onto an unmarked trail and found one of the most interesting old trees we have ever encountered. Accompanying us on this walk, and also enjoying it very much, was our canine companion (overall I have found Georgia’s State Park system to be very dog friendly). A note of caution, the trail is also open to bicyclists who can come up behind you quite quickly. With that in mind, you will need to keep a close watch to prevent your pup’s leash from tangling with a speeding bicycle.
A Recommended Visit
During our Friday – Sunday stay at Red Top Mountain State Park we got to see most of the campground, several bathhouses, the park store, playground, picnic shelters, trails (though not the entire 15 miles of available trails), RV dumping station, and the boat launching area. Overall, I would say that the park facilities are clean and in top notch. I did notice that some of the bathhouses were starting to show some wear. This is to be expected considering the visitor pressure that this park experiences. However, during our visit, one bathhouse was closed to the public for what looked like an extensive remodeling project. It was nice to see that the staff was on top of the upgrades that were needed. I plan to return, and would definitely recommend this park for a visit.
How to Get There
Red Top Mountain State Park is located just a half-mile off Interstate 75, at 50 Lodge Rd SE in Acworth, GA 30102. The contact number is 770-975-0055. For additional information visit http://gastateparks.org/RedTopMountain.