Trails: Spruce Pine and Trillium TrailsHike Location: Kolomoki Mounds State Park
Geographic Location: north of Blakely, GA (31.46451, -84.92052)
Length: 4.2 miles
Difficulty: 5/10 (Moderate)
Last Hiked: December 2020
Overview: A pair of loops exploring bluffs and wetlands along Lakes Kolomoki and Yohola.
Park Information: https://gastateparks.org/KolomokiMounds
Hike Route Map: https://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=850432
Summary Video: (coming February 26)
Photo Highlight:
Directions to the trailhead: From the courthouse square in Blakely, head north on Main Street, which becomes First Kolomoki Road after it leaves Blakely. Drive a total of 7 miles from the courthouse square to the signed entrance for Kolomoki Mounds State Park on the right. Turn right to enter the park, stop at the Visitor Center to pay the entrance fee and pick up a trail map, and drive the park road to its other end at Second Kolomoki Road. Turn right on Second Kolomoki Rd. and park in the gravel boat ramp and trailhead parking area on the left after another 0.3 miles.
The hike: For my general comments on Kolomoki Mounds State Park, see the previous hike, which features the site's largest mounds. This hike explores the park's two nature trails, which in turn explore the wooded areas around the park's two lakes: Lake Kolomoki and Lake Yohola. While there are no mounds on this hike, this hike showcases the land in its natural state, the way the people who built the Kolomoki mounds might have seen it.

Trailhead at Lake Yohola dam

These two trails form independent loops both of which start at this parking area, so you could hike them in either order you wish or hike just one of them. I chose to hike the Spruce Pine Trail first, so I started by hiking south around the sign for the Spruce Pine Trail and across the dam that creates Lake Yohola. A metal grate bridge carries you across the dam's spillway. At the south end of the dam, the trail splits to form its loop. I turned left and aimed for the sign that marks where the Spruce Pine Trail enters the woods, thus hiking the loop clockwise.

Start of Spruce Pine Trail's loop

Marked with orange paint blazes, the trail climbs moderately up the bluffs on the south side of Lake Yohola before embarking on a rolling blufftop course. The lake remains downhill to the left, but dense forest obscures the lake most of the time. The forest is dominated by white oak, sweet gum, loblolly pines, and spruce pines with some magnolias mixed in.

Hiking the Spruce Pine Trail

At 0.75 miles, the trail curves right to leave the bluff line and begin looping around the ridgetop. Soon you enter a dense shortleaf pine planting, which provides a sunnier environment compared to the oak/pine forest. At 1.1 miles, you cross Second Kolomoki Road and reenter the forest on the other side.

Shortleaf pine planting

The trail heads out a narrow finger ridge before beginning its descent to the lakeside wetlands. Several wooden footbridges carry you over shallow ravines. Near 1.8 miles, the trail curves right as the cypress-strewn wetland comes into view on the left. This area should make for good wildlife viewing, but I only saw a few deer and a woodpecker on the cool winter afternoon I hiked here.

Lake Kolomoki

2.3 miles into the hike, you reach a wooden observation platform that juts out over Lake Kolomoki. Fantastic lake views open up in all directions, and only a kayaker shared these views with me on my visit. Past the platform, the trail goes up and down some steep white sandy bluffs, and this section may be the hardest part of the hike. Take your time and watch your footing on the steep loose soil.
After passing a blufftop wooden observation deck, the Spruce Pine Trail ends at the west shoulder of Second Kolomoki Road at 2.75 miles. Turn left to hike the road back to the parking area. If you are getting tired or running out of daylight, you can end your hike now. To hike this park's full complement of nature trails, the signed start of the Trillium Trail is located on the left across the road from the parking area.

Start of Trillium Trail

Marked with yellow paint blazes, the Trillium Trail goes about 100 feet into the woods before splitting to form its loop. To hike the steeper terrain first, I turned right here and used the trail going straight as my return route, thus hiking the loop counterclockwise. Brown numbered signs on metal posts correspond to a trail guide developed by naturalist Carol Schneier that may be available in the Visitor Center.

A younger shortleaf pine planting

The trail climbs gradually through the usual oak/pine forest with some hickory before coming out at a burgeoning shortleaf pine planting that was logged only a few years ago. Cross the pine planting, continuing to climb slightly, and look for the wooden sign stating "hiking trail" that marks where the trail exits the planting. The trail traces the edge of a steep bluff before reaching the park's hammock camping area at 3.3 miles. Turn left to begin heading down a narrow finger ridge; watch carefully for the yellow blazes to avoid confusion here.
The narrow trail drops steeply to cross a small spring-fed creek before climbing steeply to pass behind a pioneer camping area. At 3.6 miles, you come out at the park's picnic and playground area. Rather than crossing the paved road, turn left and head downhill toward Lake Kolomoki, then look to the left to find where the signed continuation of the Trillium Trail begins its return route.

Exiting the picnic/playground area

The last 0.6 miles heads east along the north shore of Lake Kolomoki. More short but steep ups and downs need to be negotiated. Just shy of 4.2 miles, you close the Trillium Trail's loop, and the parking lot that contains your car lies ahead and across Second Kolomoki Road. While you are at this park, be sure to check out the ancient ceremonial and burial mounds that form this park's centerpiece; you pass them on the main park road just east of the Visitor Center.