Ashish Gandhi, 2nd-year Health Policy and Management Student
I’ve been at Emory for five years now – and in the Atlanta area for even longer. It seems almost a rite of passage for Emory students and ATLiens to partake in – what I think to be, at least – one of the most fantastic ways to start a normal day: the Stone Mountain sunrise hike.
Located about 20 minutes from campus, Stone Mountain is a Georgia state park spanning roughly 3200 acres. It is most well known for the large, quartz dome protruding roughly 900 feet above the red Georgia clay – often dubbed as “the largest exposed piece of granite in the world.”
From a historical perspective, Stone Mountain serves as a memorial to the Confederate army from the American Civil War. This is quickly evident in many ways. Most notably, a side of the mountain contains a large relief of Confederate leaders Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. This is the largest relief sculpture in the world and was started by Gutzon Borglum – the man who also started the carvings on Mount Rushmore.
(It should be said that the carving and park serve as a memorial to Confederate soldiers and a reminder of, for better or for worse, an important part of Georgia’s history. It does not, however, serve to glorify slavery, racism, or other abhorrent institutions.)
(On another side note, there is a large lawn in front of this carving. During summer nights, the park offers a fantastic – and quite American – laser show with music and fireworks. If you are in Atlanta over the summer, it is definitely worth checking out with friends.)
But, back to the hike! There are two ways to get to the top. First, you can buy a ticket for a cable cart which takes you to the top. Or, you can hike up the side of the mountain.
In March, a couple dozen of us students did this hike, hoping to reach the top before sunrise. We met at Rollins at 5:45am on a Sunday morning and drove to the park, arriving by 6:00am. Entrance to the park is only $5 per car – so only $1 per person if you fill a normal five-seat car.
The hike to the top takes about 30 minutes. It is easy enough where pretty much any able-bodied person can complete it, but difficult enough where you will definitely feel good about yourself upon completion! Don’t worry, you won’t need any special equipment – just a solid pair of tennis shoes and a water bottle will serve you well.
We reached the top around 6:30am, being treated to increasingly spectacular views of Atlanta, Buckhead, and the surrounding areas along the way. About 15-20 minutes after reaching the top, and with the city of Atlanta just behind us, we watched the sun peak out from the horizon. It was a beautiful and incredible way to start the day.
Of course, we took plenty of pictures, but I would rather you experience the hike yourself to see the views. I will, however, share the standard jumping picture a few of us took!
Soon after, we hiked back down the mountain and returned to campus, reaching the Emory area by 8:00am. In this sense, the Stone Mountain hike is great because of its proximity to campus. We did it on a Sunday, but plenty of people will also do it during the weekdays. You will have plenty of time to see the sunrise, shower, and make it to campus by 9:00am.
But, because this was the weekend, we decided that any calories burned should quickly be compensated for (and then some!) with a large brunch. We headed over to the Highland Bakery in Inman Park. I got the peanut butter French toast (as did the person to my left):
You will also quickly see trips like these are fairly common at Emory. Students are always posting on various Rollins Facebook groups about hiking and camping trips like this. Stone Mountain is only 20 minutes away and can be completed in a few hours. On the weekends, you can drive an hour or so up to north Georgia, around the area where the Appalachian Trail starts. There are beautiful mountains and rivers which certainly warrant a weekend trip or two during your time at Rollins. Definitely take advantage of these trips!