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Best of Atlanta: Name That Pluton!

LOL, Universe! What a random place to put a massive intrusion of igneous rock!

Stone Mountain profile view

The aptly-named Stone Mountain, located just east of Atlanta, is a ridiculous but pretty incredible sight to behold. It is quite literally a giant mount of rock seemingly plopped on top of what otherwise appears to be a flat, wooded expanse of land.

Actually, Stone Mountain is an igneous pluton, meaning it formed millions of years ago (specifically 325-260 million years ago during the Alleghenian Orogeny – the mountain-building event that brought us the Appalachian Mountains) beneath the earth’s crust. Magma surged up from below and hardened into rock below the earth’s surface. Over the course of millions of years, the other rocks and soils surrounding the hardened intrusion eroded so now Stone Mountain is exposed in plain sight.

That being said, apparently the formation continues NINE MILES at its longest point below the surface. Talk about tip of the iceberg…

Walking up Stone Mountain
Lunar landscape on my way up the mountain.

So yeah, Stone Mountain is geologically fascinating and the eastern US doesn’t have much to offer in terms of geologically fascinating things.

But did I mention that you can climb it?

It’s just about a mile up; depending on your fitness you could probably do it in about twenty or thirty minutes, and the views from the top are fantastic…

While Stone Mountain Park doesn’t actually have an entrance fee, you do have to pay $10 to park your car for the day. It might be worth considering buying the $35 annual pass if you think you’ll go a few times.

The view from Stone Mountain
The view from the top. Haaay Atlanta.
On top of Stone Mountain
Super windy up there but worth it

It was only after I descended the mountain and was driving in circles through the park that I remembered Stone Mountain has a massive bas-relief carving on its side. In fact, it’s the largest bas-relief sculpture in the world. The entire carved surface is 3 acres, or larger than the size of a football field. Say whaaaaat. It doesn’t look that big at all from the ground!

Stone Mountain bas-relief
My terrible photo of the bas-relief carving. You get the idea though.

Interestingly and somewhat embarrassingly, the carving is of three Confederate leaders of the American Civil War: President Jefferson Davis, and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.

I’ll let Jefferson Davis speak for himself, when he once said, “You cannot transform the negro into anything one-tenth as useful or as good as what slavery enables them to be.”

“What a hero! Let’s carve him into our pluton!”??????


And they didn’t even finish the bas-relief until 1972 so it’s not like they didn’t have time to change their minds about who was going on it.

All I’ll say is, there was something ironic and very satisfying about all of the free 2013 Atlanta African-Americans stomping up and down Stone Mountain’s slopes but might I suggest we at least remove the Confederate flag waving around high and proud at the base of the hiking trail? I mean, really.


  1. Forrest says:

    When you say you can climb it, do you mean people hike to the top, or do you mean people go up the face of the rock with a rope? If it’s the second one, it looks like it would be a lot of fun!

    • mishvo says:

      Hi Forrest! Haha, I imagine you could have a go with a rope if you wanted but there is a well-worn hiking trail that will take you to the top. It does get quite steep at one point, but they’ve installed handrails so it’s definitely still manageable.

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