Last month I wrote about a somewhat disappointing MTB trail recon trip to middle Georgia and I actually got a lot of sympathy (though that wasn’t my intent at all). The fact is I love riding new and unfamiliar trails and even the stinkers give me satisfaction since I get to check another MTB trail off my list.
Yesterday morning the weather was cool and dry so I snuck out to scope the newly constructed trails at Harbins Park in rural Gwinnett County about 35 miles east of Atlanta. The reviews I read on singletracks gave conflicting information and I really wasn’t sure if there were 4 miles or 11 miles of trail and whether there was even any singletrack at all. This time I packed info on a “backup trail” nearby just in case Harbins Park was a dud.
Harbins Park is only about 4 miles down the road from Tribble Mill (and 8 miles from Ft. Yargo as the crow flies) but the two trail systems couldn’t be any more different. For one thing, all the mountain bike trails in Harbins Park are purpose-built for biking and are single-use meaning you won’t run into any hikers or equestrians on the trails (they have their own dirt). The loops closest to the parking lot feature fairly wide trails with sharp, twisting turns being the only real “technical trail features” (TTFs).
All the trails were cut using machines so they’re a couple feet wide right now but over time will become more narrow as vegetation fills back in. From what I could tell there wasn’t a lot of hand work done on the trails after the machines came through and there are several rough spots where things aren’t quite smoothed out yet.
Most of the main, large loop is solid beginner territory but I pressed on to the far loop marked with a dashed line on park maps. I wasn’t sure if this meant the trails were still under construction or what but they ended up being some of the best I’ve ridden in a while. To enter this section you have to ride over some large rocks piled up on the side of the paved path which seems like a good way to weed out the newbs – kinda like the “you must be this tall to ride the ride” signs at Six Flags. If you fall on the rocks, you’re not ready
The back section features much steeper climbs and some short downhill runs with jumps and bermed turns – an unexpected surprise for sure! In fact the entire back loop is really just a miles-long pump track through the woods and has incredible flow – I felt like I could ride around and around for hours. There’s even a super steep granite downhill that transitions into a bermed turn and for about 100 yards you feel like you’re riding somewhere in Utah.
The park facilities are top notch with restrooms, a bike wash area, and great maps and signage throughout. In fact I think I may have found the nicest MTB Trail sign anywhere in the world – and there are two of these in the main parking lot! There’s also a paved multi-use trail that intersects the mountain bike trails in a couple places making it easy to skip ahead or take a shortcut after a long day.
Harbins Park is a county park and the trails were built with the help of the Gwinnett Area Trail Riders (GATR). This place is a great example of how sustainable trails can be built with all MTB skill levels in mind and how destination trails can potentially benefit the local economy. I know I’ll be back soon – and next time I’m bringing my friends!