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Roadrunner Trail System Expands Through Volunteer Efforts

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The Roadrunner Trails System (RTS) includes three interconnected trails totaling 2.5 miles for hikers of all ages. The expansion of a fourth trail will almost double the length.

“Nearly all the work on the trail system has been done by volunteers,” said John Lugthart, professor of biology at Dalton State who oversees the trail system. “To date, more than 1,000 students, staff, faculty and community members have volunteered in construction of the trails, totaling well over 3,500 hours of volunteer labor.”

The three completed trails are Big Rock Trail, 0.5 miles; College Creek Trail, 1.1 miles; and Cascade Trail, 1 mile.

The Big Rock Trail originates from a trailhead located near Dalton State’s athletics field and presents the RTS’s steepest climb. The Big Rock Trail connects to the College Creek Trail and features a headwater stream that runs from the ridge through the campus behind Roberts Library. The Cascade Trail branches off the north end of the College Creek Trail, terminating at the Brown Center parking lot. Near the north end of the Cascade Trail is a short side path that leads to the cascade for which the trail is named.

“Work on the newest trail – the Ridge Trail – began in the spring of 2019,” Lugthart said. “This trail will wind its way up to the top of Rocky Face Ridge, then run along the ridge for a way before descending back to the campus.”

Lugthart has been instrumental in the development of the RTS since construction began on the trails in Fall 2007.

“Construction began with the idea of enabling access to the beautiful, forested ridge west of campus,” Lugthart said. “It was thought that hiking trails could be used by various Dalton State classes, student researchers and for members of the college and surrounding community seeking a place for relaxation and exercise.”

To begin work on the RTS, Dalton State hired Walt Cook, a hiking trail consultant and retired UGA forestry professor, to design the College Creek and Big Rock Trails. “The first trail construction workday was held in December 2007, with Walt Cook present to train volunteers on appropriate methods,” Lugthart said.

There have been more than 80 volunteer workdays held since December 2007 to continue expanding the RTS for campus and community use.

“The RTS is a wonderful asset to not just the college community but to the surrounding community at large,” Lugthart said. “From the very beginning of trail construction, community members have played a vital role in making the trails a reality and we welcome members of the community to come to campus to enjoy them.”

Volunteers and frequent hikers have shared excitement over the new expansion that will offer a picturesque view from atop Rocky Face Ridge.

“When I started working at Dalton State in January of 2022, I was delighted to find a trail system on the ridge behind the college. I walk the trails almost every day that I am on campus, unless it’s pouring rain,” said Frances Haman-Prewitt, HSI STEM project director at Dalton State, who frequently volunteers. “The new trail that is being developed goes all the way to the crest of the ridge, which has a beautiful view. I cannot get that far on my lunch hour, but I plan to hike the trail with my husband and dogs one weekend this spring. I can’t wait until it’s finished!”

Ken Ellinger, professor of political science at Dalton State, frequently hikes the RTS with his dog, Hank, and other Dalton State faculty and staff.

“I sent out a campus-wide email in August of 2021 asking if anyone wanted to start hiking on a regular basis. Several people responded and we started hiking two afternoons per week. This year, it’s been more informal,” Ellinger said. “The new trail is going to be amazing because it’s the first time we have started going up toward the top of the ridge. The view will be amazing!”

Ellinger hopes to see more community members using the trail systems.

“These past two years I’ve come to realize that more people from the community use the trails than I ever realized. But with that being said, we need to get the word out more about this amazing community resource,” Ellinger said.

Yes, the RTS is pet friendly, but dogs must be leashed. For additional information on the RTS including maps and rules, visit

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