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Stone Mountain Christmas Lights Hike - Meeting OUTSIDE the Park!

The Basics:
Event Type:Hike
Event Location: Red Caboose Welcome Ctr, OUTSIDE the PARK in Stone Mtn Village   Hike: Stone Mountain Christmas Lights Hike - Meeting OUTSIDE the Park!  National Weather Service Forecast
Date(s) & Time:Sat, Dec 5 2015  3:30 pm >> Sat, Dec 5 2015 6:30 pm
Registration Opens: Wed, Dec 2 2015 12:00 pm
Registration Cut Off: Sat, Dec 5 2015 1:00 pm
Event Duration:3 Hours
Difficulty Rating:D3: Moderate
Distance:7 Miles
Trip Leader(s):
Charlie Cottingham
Tricia S.
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Member Cost:None

Participant Info:
Who's Invited: Members Only, 21 And Older Only
Maximum Group Size:20
Minimum Group Size:2
Number Registered So Far: 21 / 0 (To see who's signed up, log in to the Member Area)
Are Dogs Permitted: Yes


IN a NUTSHELL:   Hope you can join us for this moderately-paced late afternoon and partly-after-dark Stone Mountain hike that will feature lots of Christmas lights and decorations toward the end of the event.  The weather is expected to be very nice, in the mid-50's with mostly clear skies.   We won't hike to the summit but instead will circle the mountain via portions of several different trails and stop occasionally along the way to observe the scenery and wildlife.  Much of our planned route (see more detail below) has only rarely been offered by the AOC and we'll enjoy some gorgeous scenic areas that don't appear on the Park map.  Exploring these "wilder" places can be fun and exciting for those who have been only on the most popular and well known marked trails.  Winter is a special time at the Park, with colorful Christmas scenery, esp. in the vicinity of the main train station and "Snow Mountain" sledding attraction below the huge carving.

WHERE & WHEN:  We’ll gather a few minutes before 3:30 PM in the FREE parking lot of the "Red Caboose" Welcome Center, OUTSIDE THE PARK in the quaint Village of Stone Mountain.  (See detailed directions below.  Additional free parking is available nearby along Main Street.)  As pedestrian visitors we'll have FREE entrance into the Park via the quarter-mile "PATH" Trail, similar to Atlanta's "Silver Comet Trail."

HIKE PLAN:  During our ~3 hours together we'll hike a total distance of about 7 miles with about 1000 feet of total uphill elevation gains.  After introductions we’ll enter the Park on foot as discussed above via the half-mile paved "PATH" spur trail.  We'll then pick up the orange-blazed Connector Trail that will take us eastward to the green-blazed Nature Garden Trail.  While in that area we'll enjoy the special displays of native GA wildflowers, trees and shrubs.  We'll then enjoy a pretty lakeside trail through the Youth Camping Area that connects to the white-blazed Cherokee Trail.  After a short walk up the shoulder of Stonewall Jackson Drive we'll explore some of the red-blazed Songbird Habitat Area via its Meadow Trail and Woods Trail.  From there we'll hike down to a waterfall on the Cherokee Trail via a lovely short unmarked creekside trail and continue counterclockwise (partly via the Cherokee Trail) all the way around the mountain.  Off-trail stops will likely include the old Train Yard and the outdoor Quarry Museum.  The museum's fascinating displays depict the history of the mountain's granite quarrying industry, which thrived from the late 1800s until the 1960s.  After a short restroom break at the old Grist Mill we'll continue around the mountain via the Cherokee Trail and may visit the lovely Carillon peninsula just beyond the Marina.  When we reach the vicinity of the huge Confederate Memorial carving we'll enjoy the Christmas lights & scenery and watch dozens of sledders having fun at "Snow Mountain."  We'll return to Stone Mountain village mainly via the street-lit sidewalks.
Along the way we intend to avoid disturbing the flora or fauna and to leave the mountain and its surrounding terrain in even better shape than we find it by picking up and carrying out some of the bits of trash left by previous hikers.  I'll bring a few small bags along for this worthy AOC "spruce-up" effort.
We'll target arriving back to our vehicles at the "Caboose lot" by 6:30 PM and if there's enough interest I suggest that we gather
 optionally for a round of drinks and/or dinner at the nearby "Sweet Potato Cafe." (It's just 1 block north of the Red Caboose in Stone Mtn village at 5337 Manor Drive.  I've made a 6:30 reservation for our group which we can adjust by cellphone during the hike depending on how many wish to join us.)

You're welcome to bring your well-behaved dog on the hike provided he/she is leashed and under your control at all times. Please so indicate in your signup notes if you'd like to bring a canine companion.

FOR  MORE about STONE MOUNTAIN and its TRAILS & ATTRACTIONS:  Below are three suggested Internet links.  Perhaps too often we Georgians "take Stone Mountain for granite!"  It rivals almost any other natural area in the country with its spectacular rock formations, beautiful lakes, rare native plants, and abundant birds & wildlife. The park has a fascinating human history as well that includes of course its legacy as a Civil War memorial.:

FOR PHOTOS from our (more difficult) Nov 2010 AOC Stone Mountain Adventure Hike:  Check out Marcus Kubota's nice photo album by clicking this link:

Required Items to Bring:

1.  Wear well-broken-in Hiking Boots or Athletic Shoes with a good rock-gripping tread and sturdy heel & ankle support - also preferably synthetic or wool-blend Socks.

2.  Wear comfortable Clothing appropriate for the weather.

3.   Hydrate well (in advance) and bring at least a Liter of Water in bottles, or in your "Camelbak-style" hydration system, etc.

4. Consider bringing in a light Daypack or Fanny Pack some light emergency Rain Gear - also a few Snack items such as an apple, trail mix, etc.  You can munch on them at occasional scenic stops along the way.

Recommended Items to Bring:
Use our Event Checklists to make sure you have everything you need.

1.  Trekking Poles are a good idea for extra stability on rocky inclines, etc., esp. if you already have a pair and like to use them.

2.  Bring your Camera (or SmartPhone) and a Headlamp for after dark..

How to Get There:
Event Directions:

"RED CABOOSE" WELCOME CENTER OUTSIDE the PARK in the Village of Stone Mountain: (For a zoomable color online map & satellite view of our exact meeting spot and its surrounding area near the "PATH Trailhead" into the Park click on the rectangular blue & green "Event Location" icon near the top of this article.)

1.  From "Spaghetti Junction" (the I-285/I-85 interchange in NE Atlanta) take "I-285 East" (actually southward) toward Augusta about 4.7 miles.

2.  Take I-285 Exit #39B (bearing Right off I-285 in a clockwise loop).  Merge onto Stone Mountain Pkwy/US-78 E (toward Snellville/Athens), and go about 5.9 miles.

3.   At Exit #5 bear Right onto the Memorial Drive/Stone Mountain Bypass, and go only about 0.6 milethen bear Right again at your first opportunity up the E. Ponce de Leon Ave. access ramp.

4.  Turn Left onto E. Ponce de Leon Ave. and go 0.5 mile to the first traffic light.

5.  Bear slightly rightward at the light onto Main Street and continue southward through Stone Mtn village for about 0.5 mile to the Red Caboose Welcome Center parking lot on your Left, beside the paved PATH Trail into the Park,   (It's just 200 feet beyond the traffic light at Mimosa Drive and also adjoins the Police Station.)

6.  Plenty of free parking is normally available within a minute's walk of the Caboose lot. If the spaces directly beside the PATH Trail and Caboose are filled there's more nearby free parking on Main Street and other side streets in Stone Mtn Village.

GPS or USERS:  To augment the above written directions to our "PATH Trailhead" meetup spot beside the Caboose, enter as your destination either of the following.
Lat/Lon:              33.8053,-84.1700
Street Address:  891 Main Street, Stone Mountain, GA 30083

* We encourage all members to follow our Etiquette Guidelines while participating in AOC events.

Cost Includes:

Free Event with Free Parking and Stone Mtn Park entrance!

Cancellation/Partial Attendance:   Please review the AOC cancellation policy.