Red Top Mountain State Park - Toughest Geocache of the Year for Life Outside My Door

Aggravated, irritated, and tired, I uttered to my son in the midst of a downpour "We're not leaving until we find it!"... And so begins the story of what I deem to be my most difficult geocache find of the year.

In recent posts throughout the year, I've written about many of our Georgia State Parks geocaching adventures.  (For those of you that are new to the blog, feel free to go back and read about some of our experiences, and if you'd like to learn more about the Georgia State Parks sponsored geocaches, click here:  Georgia State Parks GeoTour.   What I don't think I've shared with you, however, is which park we found to be most challenging.  Yet, even though Red Top Mountain State Park easily rates as our most difficult of the year (we've found 30 of 43), the challenge was mostly self-induced.  Nevertheless, after suffering through a bit of aggravation, irritation, ignorance, and an afternoon downpour, our fate was changed by a bit of technology from a smart phone and a lot of persistence.  In the end, we were awarded with that beautiful, oh so beautiful stamp!

The story goes like this...

We were on the second of a five day trip through 11 of our state parks. This would be the third park of our second day (we actually completed four on this day, before spending the night in Chattanooga, Tn.).  We had found the caches at Panola Mountain State Park and Sweetwater Creek State Park earlier in the day.  Our plan was to just keep pressing on and hit as many parks as we could each day, so we had hoped that we wouldn't get too bogged down at one place.  Red Top Mountain was not impressed!

For the sake of this post, here is the description of the cache:

Cache Description: You are looking for an ammo can located inside Red Top Mountain State Park. The hike to the cache is just under a mile one way. You can discover more than 15 miles of hiking trails in the park.

The coordinates listed above are for the parking lot of the Visitor Center at Red Top Mountain State Park. At this location you will have the option to either purchase an annual parking pass or pay the daily parking fee, unless of course you already have a valid annual parking pass. You may elect to pick up a map of the trails too.
After you have taken care of those tasks and you're ready to find the cache hike the Sweet Gum Trail. A short ways down the Sweet Gum Trail you will come to a fork. You will see two colored trail markings on the trees. Continue on following the green markings.

Follow this trail until you reach a paved path, now look to the left and you will spot the next part of the trail. After you cross the paved path, continue a short distance until you reach an old feeding area/small meadow or cleared area. Now start to look for the Campground direction signs.

When you've reached the second campground sign after the meadow, walk 173 feet at a heading of 245° and look for a small residential structure.

Count the number of vertical walls and add 1, call that Y. Now go on a heading of 2Y4° for 169 feet.

Here you will see a few 'rocks'. Look to a heading of 317° and walk 40 feet and you will see a boulder that is approximately 4 feet in diameter resting against a tree.

The cache will be 20 feet away on a heading of 270° from the boulder.

If you're not familiar with the compass feature on your GPS, you might want to bring a magnetic compass.

This cache is a "traditional" letterbox cache. You will find a ink pad and a unique stamp for this park that is used for stamping your passport. Please do not remove these items from the ammo can.
Enjoy your visit at the park and remember to re-hide the cache like or better than you found it and practice, "Leave No Trace." While visiting any Georgia State Park please remain on the marked trails as you make your way to find the ammo cans.

In order to try and shorten this rather lengthy post, I'll let you know that we reached the  "small residential structure" fairly easy (see underlined above), but that is where the difficulty arose.  I found that my first issue was that we/I was unfamiliar with the compass feature on my GPS.  Additionally, I had questions as to whether or not I was supposed to be turned and facing the "small residential structure", or was I supposed to be standing in front of it with it to my left...just as I had walked upon it.  

At this point, my son and I decided to use a bit of our "redneck orientation skills" and try and estimate the degrees that we were supposed to turn.  Both of us knew that there were 360 degrees on a compass, and we were fairly sure we were facing in the correct direction...fairly sure.  Besides, how hard could it be to find a 4 foot boulder resting against a tree?  The answer?  Very hard!  It was very hard due to the fact that there were hundreds of boulders/outcroppings to contend with!

The more we searched, the more frustrated I got!  It became clear to me that we were now searching for a needle in a haystack!  Then, as if things couldn't get any worse, a downpour ensued!  Not just any kind of downpour, but it was complete with plenty of thunder and lightening and we were far too deep to make our way out.  Thankfully, I had packed our ponchos in my backpack.  We simply pulled them out and waited out the short lived storm. 

 Notice the look of joy on Jacob's face as we wait out the storm!

The brief respite actually did me good.  It was during this time that I was able to get my emotions under control and calculate a new plan.  One part of that new plan consisted of me using my iPhone to download a digital compass app.  Once I did that, Jacob and I went back to the residential structure and started over.  Guess what?  For starters, we learned that we were originally off by a couple of hundred feet.  Secondly, once we got to the correct area, it was relatively easy to spot the 4 foot stone up against the tree.  This was definitely a "high-five" moment for us!  We located the ammo can, retrieved the stamp, and then proceeded to make our way back to the parking lot...mission accomplished!!

Click here to read more about the description of the geocache:  Red Top Mountain State Park.  Be sure to take time to read through some of the log entries too.  You'll get the idea that we weren't the only ones that thought this to be a tough, but rewarding cache find. 

Additional information:  During this trip, Jacob and I completed the Geochallenge at the following Georgia State Parks:  High Falls, Indian Springs, Panola Mountain, Sweetwater Creek, Red Top Mountain, James H. (Sloppy) Floyd, Cloudland Canyon, Fort Mountain, Amicalola Falls, Fort Yargo, and Hard Labor Creek.  We also enjoyed a bit of fishing at the beautiful Vogel State Park!

Please take the time to get out and enjoy our beautiful Georgia State Parks.  You'll be glad you did!


  1. OMG - I gave myself a headache just reading the darn cache description. You have more patience than I do. :-)

  2. You're right, Kim! It was definitely tough, but like I told Jacob...we weren't leaving until we found it! I'm glad we persevered.

    I've since learned to do a bit more studying PRIOR to setting out.

  3. Very cool! These are the type of caches that I enjoy the most, in the end, not necessarily during the torture, lol!
    Love this post! Thanks for sharing!


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