If you are looking for the best opportunity to see plants and trees that normally aren’t found near one another, along with waterfalls and springs, rock outcroppings, and beautiful vistas of a valley below, the Pine Mountain range in southwest Georgia is the place to go. Yes, that’s right, southwest Georgia.
While most mountains and lodges are in northern Georgia, Pine Mountain is unique, as it is a 20-mile long-range approximately 80 miles south of Atlanta stretching southwest to Alabama. The Mountain Top Resort and Inn in Warm Springs is in the heart of it all, located on Pine Mountain and offering views of the land below, from within the resort itself.
Pine Mountain is the most southerly mountain in the eastern United States, the first one you encounter coming up from the Gulf of Mexico heading east. Because it lies at a geological junction between the Piedmont region of Georgia (hills and valleys generally in the middle of Georgia) and the Coastal Plain (flatter and sandier in south Georgia), the region has an unusual mix of habitats and plant life. There is a fall line that runs northeast to southwest across the state, roughly dividing the geography and impacting waterways nearby. Rivers change from being faster and more narrow in the north to slower and broader ones in the south.
Pine Mountain gets its name from the longleaf pines on it, but there are also Georgia red oaks, chestnut oak, Allegheny chinkapin, and bigleaf magnolia trees. Plants and shrubs also show this mix of population: you will see mountain laurel, normally found in north Georgia mountains, next to titi, a shrub residing in the Coastal Plain. You can also discover galax, trillium, trailing arbutus, gallberry, redbay, and doghobble. On some of the trails, you may also come across rhododendron minus, a less common rhododendron with pink and white flowers.
If all these trees and plants sound interesting, but if you can’t distinguish between them, don’t worry. There are several great apps in Google Play and the Apple App Store to help you identify what you’ve discovered. One in particular, Georgia Wildflowers, has great photos and allows you to search for plants and trees using distinguishing characteristics (color, flower petals, leaves), habitat, and location.
There are a variety of birds and animals in the area also, including the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, the brown-headed nuthatch, and more common birds found throughout the state like robins, cardinals, blue-jays, swifts, and turkeys. While you probably won’t see any bears, you may see beavers, raccoons, foxes, and smaller animals like squirrels and chipmunks. Depending on the time of year you visit, you may see reptiles like lizards and snakes. No matter what you’re hoping to see, stay alert, and have your camera ready!
Of course, if you simply want to view nature in a more stationary manner, you can always take in nature from the views on the grounds of the Mountain Top Inn & Resort, including from your lodge or cabin window. This is always great with a glass of wine from one of the local wineries, either sitting next to the firepit or from a jacuzzi on your deck!