The official start of the Perimeter Trail is at the Visitor Center on Windeler Road, However, there are several places to leave from, and we enjoy the Environmental Center off Georgia Tavern Road. Before hiking stop in at the Center to see the exhibits on local plant and wildlife, the birding area, and the Eagle Cam (a video camera filming the bald eagle nest in the area). There is also a...
The official start of the Perimeter Trail is at the Visitor Center on Windeler Road, However, there are several places to leave from, and we enjoy the Environmental Center off Georgia Tavern Road. Before hiking stop in at the Center to see the exhibits on local plant and wildlife, the birding area, and the Eagle Cam (a video camera filming the bald eagle nest in the area). There is also a short nature trail around the building, which is a brief section of the Cove Trail. Note: Bring your binoculars!
After leaving the Environmental Center, go back toward the parking lot and then bear slightly to the left onto the clearly identified Perimeter Trail. The hike consists of one long loop counterclockwise around the reservoir on a wide gravel or dirt pathway. In about a quarter of a mile, you have the option to bear left or right [on the trail map, linked below, the turn is obscured by a blue square]. Left will keep you on the Perimeter Trail; right will take you on a little detour around a wetland area. This is a continuation of the 1.1-mile Cove Trail mentioned above; it has some nice places to see wildflowers in spring, and birds all year. It also has significantly fewer hikers. It will re-join the main circular trail further ahead. Note: don’t pick the (endangered) lady slippers if you are lucky enough to see one, or any other wildflowers.
If you stay on the Perimeter Trail, you will pass Milepost 1 in about a half a mile (these posts will be going backwards since the hike markers officially start at the Visitors Center and in the opposite direction). The wetland area will now be on your left. Stop and look over the shrubs and bushes and you might see some egrets wading in the marshland.
After passing over a dike, the trail goes away from the shoreline, curving to the left (as it will for most of the trail) and into a forested area. You will pass a ranger station and maintenance facilities on your right. In full summer foliage you may not see much, but the buildings should be visible in late fall through early spring. After another 0.4 mile is the Visitor Center at Milepost 5 (this is actually about 1.4 miles from where the hike started). The Center offers boat rentals, a playground, vending machines, restrooms and a wildlife viewing area.
Continue past the parking lot entrance along the Perimeter Trail. Once again you will be moving away from unobstructed reservoir views into a wooded part of the park, with areas of marshland. If it has been a wet season, you can sometimes hear a variety of frog species in the pools alongside the trail. After about 0.5 mile you will see Old Tavern Road on your right and Bear Swamp Tract on the left. For next 1.3 miles or so, the trail goes behind both Main Dike and then Reservoir Dam. Once the trail curves toward the left again, the views will be back.
As you approach Milepost 3 (about 3.4 miles from the start) be on the lookout for fish swimming in the shallows near the shore, for egrets, cormorants, and osprey flying overhead. There is a rock outcropping and a bench for taking in the views. About a quarter of a mile past Milepost 3, a pathway bears off to the right leading to a wildlife viewing blind. Depending on the time of year and time of day, you may see turtles, raccoons, white tailed deer, a variety of waterfowl and other birds. Follow the trail back to return to the Perimeter Trail, turn right and soon you will enter another wooded area which extends for about a half-mile, with the reservoir peeking into view now and then. You will start to notice signs warning you not to go off trail on your left -- this is the bald eagle nesting site.
Just beyond Milepost 2 turn left to hike along a section paralleling Georgia Tavern Road, which is open to traffic. There is a guard rail for safety, but there will be car noise – this is not a spot to stop for a quiet lunch. Cross over a large dike on your left, with more inspiring views of the reservoir. Tree trunks in the water make for some excellent photos. Once you are about a quarter mile along the dike, turn back to face the trail from the direction just hiked. At about 3 o’clock, in an area of some tall pines, look for a large eagle’s nest; this is where the binoculars will come in handy. If you are hiking from February through about September, you may see the bald eagles that raise their chicks here every year. (Eaglets are hatched in mid-February). Maybe you will even see a young eagle! Once eaglets hatch at least one parent is often on or nearby the nest at all times.
Continue along the dike and take the opportunity to look right across the road to enjoy views of wetlands; Swans and Great Blue Herons can often be seen. You will pass by the Chestnut Point parking area, and in another quarter mile or so you are back at the entrance to the Environmental Center. You can go back inside to list what wildlife you saw on the hike.
Date of hike: February 13, 2011
Turn By Turn Description:
0.0 – turn left onto Perimeter Trail
0.2 – stay left at fork, remaining on Perimeter Trail.
0.3 – Pass Mile Marker 1
0.7 – Pass wetlands on right, bear to the left staying on trail
1.4 - Pass Mile Marker 5, Visitor Center on left. Bear left after Visitor Center parking lot to stay on trail
2.0 - Trail bears a right for a little bit. Old Tavern Road on the right
2.1 - Trail goes back to bearing left
2.4 - Pass Mile Marker 4
3.0 - End of Reservoir Dam, bears left more sharply
3.4 - Pass Mile Marker 3
3.8 - Wildlife Viewing area on side trail to the right
4.4 - Mile Marker 2, make left onto trail alongside Georgia Tavern Road
4.6 - On dike overlooking reservoir, best bald eagle nest viewing site.
5.1 - Environmental Center parking lotPublication: Submitted by jcoalter on 02/25/2011
This scenic 5.1-mile multi-use trail hugs a reservoir and is popular with families, bird watchers, pedestrians, equestrians and bicyclists. Mile markers make it great for training.
Whether you are going for a day hike or backpacking overnight, it is good practice to carry what we call The Hiking Essentials. These essentials will help you enjoy your outing more and will provide basic safety gear if needed. There may also be more essentials, depending on the season and your needs.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
Water - Two quarts per person is recommended in every season. Keep in mind that fluid loss is heightened in winter as well as summer. Don't put yourself in the position of having to end your hike early because you have run out of water.
Map - Know where you are and where you are going. Many of our hiking areas feature interconnecting network of trails. Use a waterproof/tear-resistant Tyvek Trail Conference map if available or enclose your map in a Ziplock plastic bag. If you have a mobile device, download Avenza’s free PDF Maps app and grab some GPS-enhanced Trail Conference maps (a backup Tyvek or paper version of the map is good to have just in case your batteries die or you don't have service). Check out some map-reading basics here.
Food - Snacks/lunch will keep you going as you burn energy walking or climbing. Nuts, seeds, and chocolate are favorites on the trail.
Sunscreen and insect repellent
Rain Gear and Extra Clothing - Rain happens. So does cold. Be prepared for changing weather. Avoid cotton--it traps water against your skin and is slow to dry. If you are wearing wet cotton and must return to your starting point, you risk getting chills that may lead to a dangerous hypothermia. Choose synthetic shirts, sweaters and/or vests and dress in layers for easy on and off.
Compass - A simple compass is all you need to orient you and your map to magnetic north.
Light - A flashlight or small, lightweight headlamp will be welcome gear if you find yourself still on the trail when darkness falls. Check the batteries before you start out and have extras in your pack.
First Aid Kit - Keep it simple, compact, and weatherproof. Know how to use the basic components.
Firestarter and Matches - In an emergency, you may need to keep yourself or someone else warm until help arrives. A firestarter (this could be as simple as leftover birthday candles that are kept inside a waterproof container) and matches (again, make sure to keep them in a waterproof container) could save a life.
Knife or Multi-tool - You may need to cut a piece of moleskin to put over a blister, repair a piece of broken equipment, or solve some other unexpected problem.
Emergency Numbers - Know the emergency numbers for the area you're going to and realize that in many locations--especially mountainous ones, your phone will not get reception.
Common Sense - Pay attention to your environment, your energy, and the condition of your companions. Has the weather turned rainy? Is daylight fading? Did you drink all your water? Did your companion fail to bring rain gear? Are you getting tired? Keep in mind that until you turn around you are (typically) only half-way to completing your hike--you must still get back to where you started from! (Exceptions are loop hikes.)
Check the weather forecast before you head out. Know the rules and regulations of the area.
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
The Trail Conference is a 2015 Leave No Trace partner.
(c) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.