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Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Now is the time to put your hiking boots on and take advantage of Lake Martin at lowest pool. Did you know in 2010 the Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail Association (CRATA, an all volunteer hiking organization) obtained title to Smith Mountain, the tallest elevation on Lake Martin?

They have worked over the years to enhance the historic fire tower, adding signage, displays, exhibits, and restoring the tower itself. Not only is the tower fully restored, it is more sound than originally constructed. To see the ultimate, idyllic panoramic view of beautiful Lake Martin, set your sights from the cabin of the tower. You don’t need binoculars, but either way the view is breathtaking.

CRATA has over 26 miles of well-maintained hiking trails around the Lake Martin and Tallapoosa River areas:

  1. Smith Mountain Fire Tower and Trails
    • Walker Bynum Smith Mountain Tower Trail – 1 mile
    • Lakeshore Trail – 2.4 miles
    • Island Hop/Boat Dock Trail – 1.4 miles (more in Winter)
    • Little Smith Mountain Loop Trail – 2.6 miles
  2. Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail at Overlook Park – 3 trails of interconnecting loops totaling 7.2 miles:
    • Chimney Rock Loop Trail – 2 miles
    • Kowaliga Loop Trail – 1.15 miles
    • Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail – 3.84 miles
  3. The James Scott Deadening Alpine Trail – 4.2 mile loop with views of the Tallapoosa River, the Needles Eye, and Jasmine Bluff (most challenging of all the trails)
  4. Trails at Yates Lake Forever Wild WMA
    • John B. Scott Trail – 4.7 miles – along Tallapoosa River
    • Cherokee Bluffs Dam Railroad Trail – 5.4 miles along the historic dam railroad to Channahatchee Creek or to Saddle Rock Mountain (highest point in Elmore County)

The seasonal trail at this time of year is the one to take advantage of now—The Island Hop Trail. This takes hikers to four islands and ends back at the top of Smith Mountain. This can only be hiked when the lake levels are low. From Parking Lot it is approximately 1.4 mi. to the boat dock. When Lake Martin is lowered to winter pool levels, it is possible to walk another quarter mile crossing a series of islands inaccessible at full pool. The return trail from the boat dock to the parking lot is approximately 1.2 mile.  Look for signage along the shoreline for this one, and enjoy Lake Martin’s natural beauty, a true Winter Wonderland!

For more details, including trail maps and elevations, see the CRATA website.


Scenic Overlook

Smith Mountain Fire Tower