Escape to Cartersville, Georgia

Written By: Visitors Bureau

Head to a small Northwest Georgia town to get a big taste of the outdoors, with surprising city-style amenities. In Cartersville and in the foothills of the North Georgia mountains in surrounding Bartow County, Georgia, it’s possible to have both, just 45 minutes north of Atlanta off I-75. 

Cartersville offers two Smithsonian-affiliated museums and a beautifully restored and renovated downtown filled with antiques, galleries and boutiques. Plenty of dining options include casual eateries and independently-owned restaurants whose chefs present innovative twists along with most-loved traditional fare. 

The Smithsonian-affiliated Booth Western Art Museum

Cartersville and Bartow County offer excellent outdoor adventure, much of which is intertwined with intriguing Northwest Georgia history. Explore an Ancient Native American Indian mound, hike to a Civil War battlefield, and climb a ridge to a hidden ironworks that was once the backbone of an 1860s economy. 

Rivers and creeks running down from the Blue Ridge Mountains feed into the recreational centerpiece, Lake Allatoona, a 12,000-acre water-sports and fishing paradise. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this 1950s U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control and hydro-electric power project is the oldest Corps lake in the southeastern U.S. The free visitors center at the dam tells the story of Bartow County’s geology, Native American culture and the Civil War. Around Allatoona’s 270 miles of shoreline are public and Corps-managed campsites, marinas and recreational areas, a state park and an exceptional Bartow County park with an extraordinary history of its own.

To get a wilderness workout and a bird’s eye view of Allatoona southwest to Kennesaw Mountain and beyond without even leaving town, take the Pine Mountain Trail–just a two-mile trek off Main Street. The summit of Pine Mountain overlooks Red Top Mountain State Park, the Etowah Indian Mounds and the Etowah River Valley below. This area is the largest single landmass on the National Register of Historic Places and includes such hidden gems as the Euharlee Covered Bridge, the Allatoona Pass Battlefield and the Etowah River Water Trail.

Head back to town to the Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site for a closer look at a major Native American Mississippian era cultural center that thrived here from 1000 to 1500 A.D. Six earthen mounds, a plaza, village site and an impressive archaeological artifact museum interpret life in the period. Climb the steps to the tallest, at 63 feet high.

From the Pine Mountain trail-head are connectors to several of the more than 20 trails within an hour’s drive of Atlanta, with shady, scenic, historic and rugged escapes. A variety of height and difficulty enable the wanna-be and the fittest to find their favorites for walking hiking, biking, mountain biking and running. For an intriguing surprise, follow Cooper’s Furnace Trail, a 19th century mining railroad bed hidden along the banks of the Etowah River at the base of the Allatoona Lake dam. Looming ahead are the pyramid-shaped tower and remains of the Coopers Furnace Iron Works Site, all that’s left of the town of Etowah below the lake.

Hike into history on the old railroad bed of the Allatoona Pass Trail through the solid-rock cut into the mountain to a nearly untouched Civil War battlefield. Interpretive signs lead to earthworks and a star fort, undisturbed trenches and outworks, all remaining since the Battle of Allatoona Pass on October 5, 1864. 

Peruse additional ways to enjoy the lake. Red Top Mountain State Park covers 1,776 acres around Lake Allatoona, with 15 miles of hiking and bike trails, boating, fishing and water-sports, including rentals, a sand swimming beach and playgrounds. Activities include archery, geocaching, miniature golf and tennis. Programs include night hikes, movies under the stars, re-enactments of pioneer life and more. Many activities are free with $5 parking. A kid-friendly, paved, ADA-accessible trail behind the park office welcomes guests to explore a reconstructed 1860s homestead.

Bicyclists and kayakers will find even more relaxation and workout trails. Six bike routes, part of a regional network developed by Bike! Walk! Northwest Georgia, are marked throughout Bartow County. Cyclists will welcome the conveniences afforded at Sosebee Cycling Park accessible along two of the northeastern foothills routes. To find these less traveled roads and scenic byways go to VisitCartersvilleGA.org/hiking-cycling-and-geocacheing/. In addition to kayaking and canoeing on Lake Allatoona, paddlers will find five put-in locations on the Etowah River Trail. Guides and outfitters provide rentals and show visitors a Native American v-shaped fish trap used for corralling and netting near the Etowah mounds. For details out outdoor adventures, go to VisitCartersvilleGA.org/outdoors

With so much activity, finding the perfect overnight accommodations is easy. Cartersville and Bartow County’s historic smaller towns offer cabins, B&Bs, quality hotel brands and a luxury resort.

Those looking for ultimate luxury, outstanding dining and service will find their expectations exceeded at Barnsley Resort. Built around Antebellum gardens and the ruins of a storied 1840s stately manor house, well-appointed cottages create a pedestrian- and dog-friendly English village ambiance. Luxurious spa services, championship golf, horseback riding, hiking and biking, fishing, sporting clays, and bird hunting are favorite pursuits. A new three-story inn offers a glimpse back in time with modern amenities.

Hike into history on the old railroad bed of the Allatoona Pass Trail through the solid-rock cut into the mountain to a nearly untouched Civil War battlefield. Interpretive signs lead to earthworks and a star fort, undisturbed trenches and outworks, all remaining since the Battle of Allatoona Pass on October 5, 1864. 

Red Top Mountain State Park

Peruse additional ways to enjoy the lake. Red Top Mountain State Park covers 1,776 acres around Lake Allatoona, with 15 miles of hiking and bike trails, boating, fishing and water-sports, including rentals, a sand swimming beach and playgrounds. Activities include archery, geocaching, miniature golf and tennis. Programs include night hikes, movies under the stars, re-enactments of pioneer life and more. Many activities are free with $5 parking. A kid-friendly, paved, ADA-accessible trail behind the park office welcomes guests to explore a reconstructed 1860s homestead.

Bicyclists and kayakers will find even more relaxation and workout trails. Six bike routes, part of a regional network developed by Bike! Walk! Northwest Georgia, are marked throughout Bartow County. Cyclists will welcome the conveniences afforded at Sosebee Cycling Park accessible along two of the northeastern foothills routes. To find these less traveled roads and scenic byways go to VisitCartersvilleGA.org/hiking-cycling-and-geocacheing/. In addition to kayaking and canoeing on Lake Allatoona, paddlers will find five put-in locations on the Etowah River Trail. Guides and outfitters provide rentals and show visitors a Native American v-shaped fish trap used for corralling and netting near the Etowah mounds. For details out outdoor adventures, go to VisitCartersvilleGA.org/outdoors

With so much activity, finding the perfect overnight accommodations is easy. Cartersville and Bartow County’s historic smaller towns offer cabins, B&Bs, quality hotel brands and a luxury resort.

Those looking for ultimate luxury, outstanding dining and service will find their expectations exceeded at Barnsley Resort. Built around Antebellum gardens and the ruins of a storied 1840s stately manor house, well-appointed cottages create a pedestrian- and dog-friendly English village ambiance. Luxurious spa services, championship golf, horseback riding, hiking and biking, fishing, sporting clays, and bird hunting are favorite pursuits. A new three-story inn offers a glimpse back in time with modern amenities.

On the budget end, groups and extended families can re-create a true retro summer camp experience at the newly-opened Pine Acres Retreat. The former girl scout property (Camp Pine Acres) offers rustic overnight lodging in camping pods with bathhouses and in furnished, air-conditioned cottages with kitchens. Two banquet halls are equipped with food service/caterer’s kitchens, AV and other meeting amenities. A pool, picnic shelters, archery range, pebble beach and other outdoor recreation are geared to simple pleasures. Pine Acres Retreat is adjacent to George Washington Carver Park, which was similarly restored and opened in 2018. Both parks were founded in the Civil Rights era when a former WWII Tuskegee Airman advocated for a place similar to such black resorts as America Beach in Jacksonville, Florida. 

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