Berry College has a campus of 30,000 acres - the largest in the world. It was Martha's Berry dream to create a good school for mountain children, and it started way back in 1902. 20 years later, the grateful students of Marta's school built her a resort house on the summit of Lavender Mountain. While she would rarely spend the night in the house, she would often invite guests to the house and spend days with them together. From the house, you have good views of the Oostanaula River Valley, as well as some views of Berry College's campus. Below the mountain, the Old Mill is a historical attraction that attracts many people on good days. The Longleaf Trail goes through an experimental longleaf pine forest - controlled burns along that trail open up various views. This hike occurred on Saturday, December 13th, 2014. My plan was to park at the Old Mill, then go down the gravel road to Longleaf Trail. Next, I planned to hike the steep Longleaf Trail to the House O' Dreams Loop. My plan was to turn right and follow first the old forest road, then the gravel road, to the House O' Dreams. From there, I would follow the Hike/Bike Trail over Lavender Mountain back to the old forest road, and turn left to go back to Longleaf Trail and close the loop.
R/T Length of Trail: 6.1 Miles
Duration of Hike: 2:20
Type of Hike: Lollipop
Difficulty Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Historical features; good views
Cons: Plenty of old road walking
Scenic Views: Views from Longleaf Trail - 3 out of 10; Views from Lavender Mountain - 4 out of 10
Water Features: None
Trail Blaze Color(s): None
Best Season(s) to Hike: Winter
Beginning Point: Old Mill on Berry College's Mountain Campus
Directions: From Rome, Georgia: Follow US Route 27 north for 4 to 5 miles. Take a left at the traffic light for Berry College. In 0.3 miles, reach the roundabout. Take the first right, and in 0.3 miles, take a left onto Memorial Drive. Drive for 3.5 miles until you reach the Mountain Campus. Here, take the road that goes diagonally right. In 0.2 miles, reach a T-shaped intersection. Turn left here, and in 0.2 miles, bear left again. Follow this road for 0.7 miles until the parking area - the last 0.3 miles are unpaved.
If you like historical hikes, this short one is for you. There are plenty of historical features, starting from the Old Mill right at the parking area. The Old Mill is pretty high - with a height of 42 feet! There are no trails to set foot on right from the Old Mill though. You have to walk down the road a bit from the parking area, reaching the start of the Longleaf Trail on the left at 0.2 miles. The star of the trail is marked by an informational kiosk. There will be several more of these interpretive kiosks along the Longleaf Trail. Most of the Longleaf Trail is steep climbing - interrupted by the occasional eroded switchback. Luckily though, the trail is short. At 0.3 miles, a short spur trail leads off to the left with a view of the Old Mill below. I didn't take this trail. Take a right to follow the main trail. At 0.4 miles, views open up into the Oostanaula River Valley and Berry College's campus. These views are more or less visible for the remainder of the Longleaf Trail, due to the thin woods. In winter, the views are enhanced. The trail rounds a small hill and reaches a gap at 0.5 miles. One more short, stiff climb brings you up to a junction with the House O' Dreams Loop at 0.6 miles. This is where the loop section starts. There is barely ant difference in the direction you choose for the loop, but this description will describe the loop counter-clockwise.
At the junction with the old road at 0.6 miles, take a right. This old forest road provides good winter views and also partial summer views at a powerline cut. Then, there will be an old gate, just before the old road dead-ends at a gravel road at 1.2 miles. I believe this road is open to vehicles. If you turn right, it will lead you back down to Berry College's Mountain Campus. Turning left leads to House O' Dreams, so turn left. You should shortly see a sign for House O' Dreams - 1.8 miles left to get there! The gravel road ascends more than the old forest road, but still gradually along the slopes of Lavender Mountain. At 1.9 miles, the road makes a U-Turn up onto the ridge, while an old road goes off to the right down the ridge. That road also leads down to Berry College. Keep following the gravel road through the gates for House O' Dreams. The road is now ascending along Lavender Mountain's main ridge, but soon, the ridge gets too steep, so a couple of long switchbacks ease the climb. After the switchbacks, you're almost there. You will know you are getting close, when you see the open lawns ahead of you. The gravel road makes one final climb up to the summit of Lavender Mountain. This is the site of House O' Dreams. There are views to both the south and north, with the artificially-cleared views to the south being the better ones. Take a minute and peek around the house. It is a very simple house, but in a beautiful place. I really like the garden in the front. Behind the house is an old water tower that also served as an observation tower. Public access is restricted to the tower.
Once you've seen everything at and around the house, take the Hike/Bike Trail on the west side of the summit. The trail may be marked as a Biking Trail, but it's for both hikers and bikers. The trail first rounds the west end of the summit then follows the ridge to the west of Lavender Mountain. This ridge provides excellent winter views. I managed to get a good picture of the sun setting over the reservoir that is the source of Berry College's water. There is a trail that leads to the reservoir as well, but it was not on the agenda on this day. From Lavender Mountain's summit, the trail crosses several small knobs on the ridge, but mainly descends. The descent is steep without any switchbacks. After the steep descent, reach the familiar dirt road at 4.2 miles. There is a signpost here, but nothing on the post - one day there must have been a sign indicating where the road and trail go. As far as I now, the road to the right (up from the gap) leads towards the reservoir. Meanwhile, the left way (downhill) is the way the hike goes, back to Longleaf Trail. This section along the old road is flat to downhill. Good winter views continue. The road follows the slopes for most of the time, thus the views to the south. Just past 5 miles, the old road starts rounding a ridge, rounding it at around 5.3 miles. Then, the valley with the college comes in view. You know you're close to Longleaf Trail now. Don't miss the turn - it can be esy to miss. The ridge is one of the facts that the trail is close - also there is a nice view at the intersection. At the intersection, you have hiked 5.5 miles and you have closed the loop. Turn right on Longleaf Trail and come back to your car the way you came, finishing the hike at 6.1 miles.
This short hike can work as a stroll after work during the longer daylight months, and a good short hike any time of year, although best in winter with all the winter views. And if you're a fan of historical features, you shouldn't miss this hike. There are ways to extend it west too, past the reservoir, if you're interested in doing so to add mileage. Below are my pictures.
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