After going to Dalton for about the 100th work related trip, I decided to see if I could find any trails to explore after work. While I've been to Dalton a lot, it tends to be for day trips usually or in winter when it's bitterly cold, but recently I was there overnight and had great weather. From what I've researched, there is a lot of recreation in the Dalton "area" but not so much close enough to drive to after work. For example, places like Fort Mountain, Cloudland Canyon, and the Cohutta wilderness area are in the same general region, but are too far away to drive at 5 pm once the work day is over.
I was looking at Google maps and happened to notice a place called the "George W. Disney" trail that was only one exit away from my hotel. I began to research it online and saw it's only about 2 miles total in length (more on that later), yet has the reputation of being the "steepest short trail" in Georgia. I also learned George Disney was a Confederate soldier whose grave is along the trail. With it being so close by, what did I have to lose?
I had no trouble finding the trailhead; it's literally 5 minutes off I-75 and shares a parking lot with a church (so no driving down remote, unpaved roads). There's also a very clear sign with an actual description of the trail (again stating how steep it is). So far, so good. I began going up the trail and soon noticed another trail diverting on the opposite side, but stayed to the trail on the right. The trail starts out relatively flat but then does begin to go up quickly. I saw beautiful, unique wildflowers all along the trail.
There are several point where the trail splits off but they all reconnect eventually after a very short distance; not sure why these splits are in place but probably because numerous people have tried to do shortcuts and degraded the actual trail. Just keep going up, as there is really no other option. You'll soon see very large rocks ahead of you and this is where the trail disintegrates even further. You can climb onto the top of the rock formation but there is no defined way of doing this, from what I could tell. It seems many people have climbed up and around this rock face, as there are a lot of small, loose rocks to watch out for.
There was only one other person on top of the rock face when I got up there and I would not recommend trying to climb up there if there were lots of people around. One wrong turn or slip could probably be fatal (not really exaggerating). The top of the rock face is gorgeous and the most clear angle faces west. The other sides are surrounded by trees, but still very pretty. I think in winter it would be even better. Sure, you can see/hear I-75 and other traffic below but that really didn't take away from the beauty.
I saw a few other people on the trail, including kids, so it is reasonably easy and accessible. Regarding the "difficulty" of the trail, yes it is hard for a very short period of time. I tend to underrate rails and make them seem easier than they really are. I downloaded a GPS hiking app just before hiking this trail and according to it, I hiked 1.10 miles with 550 feet of ascent. So take from that what you will.
One other thing to note, I didn't actually make it to the grave of George Disney. Oops. I thought it was unmarked/unknown and once I reached the rock formation, I stopped I also started talking with someone else near the rock formation and got distracted. I believe the grave is a little further down the south side of the rock formation. There is a trail continuing in this direction and I believe it goes for several more miles. More on that here
While I would not drive to Dalton specifically to do this trail, it is worth visit if you live in the area or are driving through on I-75 and want to stretch your legs. As is the case with many accessible, relatively urban trails, extra care is needed to leave no trace. The degradation of the trail and some graffiti on the rocks (though not a lot) is evident of this. I'll be in Dalton again in the upcoming weeks and I would love to give this trail another shot around sunset to enjoy the view even more.