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Level: Advanced
Length: 11 mi (17.7 km)
Surface: Singletrack
Configuration: Loop
Elevation: +703/696 ft
Total: 13 riders
 

Mountain Biking Hightower

***   Add a review
#278 of 395 mountain bike trails in Georgia
#11311 in the world

Out of the church parking lot, turn right and head up hill on Cooper Gap Road. Climb all the way up to Cooper Gap, and take a hard left along the forest service road along the ridge toward Hightower Gap. You eventually come screaming down a hill towards Hightower Gap, and if you kept going straight/left uphill, you'd continue on to Winding Stair. Don't do that. First time through here I missed the trail. The unmarked Hightower trail drops off the left side of the road, right inside of the turn. This is a sweet trail that drops away quickly and contains many rocks, loose rocks, just a few downed trees, roots, several stream crossings, and a sweet, fast, steep (technical) descent! Bring your Big Hit bike and hit the 10' (ft) ladder bridge drop towards the bottom end of the singletrack, which shoots off to the last side. (Easily bypassed if you have less travel.) At the bottom, continue onto the forest road, head left at the junction, and ride out through Frank D. Merril, and out the front gate to the church and your car. This is a sweet ride!

Before you go
  • No Drinking water 
  • No E-bikes permitted 
  • No Fat biking allowed in winter 
  • No Fee required 
  • No Lift service 
  • Night riding allowed 
  • No Pump track 
  • No Restrooms 
Getting there
From Dahlonega, Head west out of town on HWY 9. Take a right on HWY 52, and then a right at Grizzle's Store onto Nimblewill Church Road. Take a right at the Bull Mountain sign (not Jake Mountain), and continue right up FS 28-1 all the way to Camp Frank D. Merril. Park at the white church outside of the camp gate.
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Brad Beadles (on Jul 14, 2018)
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Dusty (on Apr 20, 2016)
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Mountain Bike Trails Near Dahlonega, Georgia

*
Intermediate | 8 mi
***
Beginner | 25 mi
**
Easiest | 6 mi
****
Intermediate | 20 mi

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Reviews

  • Renegade33
    Reviewing Etowah River Trail:
    ***

    Went back out on this trail "Post Ride" at CFM. I equipped myself with a bow saw & pruning shears. There are currently 2 bridges that are ride able, some of the low creek crossings can be ridden, some are a carry over. I marked the general route with neon yellow caution tape every 200 /- meters. I ride this south to north from the key hole and it's ride worthy up to Simmons LZ (Landing Zone) which is a huge open area on trail right. At this general location I cross over the Etowah and head south on the opposite side of the river. I recommend turning around at this point. The south bound lane need serious attention, with many folks and power tools. Still tons of blow down from Irma & the snow & Ice storms late last year. There is a huge fire ring at the end of the marked section. Not a bad camping spot if so inclined.

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  • Renegade33
    Reviewing Etowah River Trail:
    *

    I ventured out onto this trail today to see how well it had been cleaned up and whether it was still ride able. I would have to say this is now a junk trail due to all of the blowdown/dead trees. A lot has been cleaned up, but much more work needs to be done to make this trail worthy of mention. At best it's a foot path. I would say two FULL days with several folks and power tools (Chainsaws) to get this in riding condition. There are a few footbridges that need some work and a few more added on the north bound lane. I had a very difficult time staying on/finding the south bound lane on the west side of the Etowah. This used to be a great cool down/warm up trail when we did MTB PT at the Ranger Camp.

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  • Renegade33
    Reviewing Etowah River Trail:
    ***

    Amazing! When I was at CFM in the late 90's early 00, we started riding on A Co STX lanes. Up the Etowah almost to Blackfarms. We crossed the "creek" and headed back towards the airfield on the opposite side of the river and finished on the down wind side of the track. That was my last ride in 2001, End-Oed heading back to the "Keyhole"

    Now that Camp Frank D. Merrill (CFM) is owned by the Army there are property lines between CFM and the National Forest. The way we rode this in the end of the last century, We always did the Montgomery Trail ride first. Coming down the mountain we would head north up the airfield towards the keyhole. Cross the foot bridge to be on the East side of the river. The rest is the same as already written. Riding down "Hightower Express" would be quite hairy IMHO. If you have access to CFM you can ride past the motor pool to the end and pick up the trail as described. Commonly referred to as Black Farms Turn Around.

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  • scotthanson
    *****

    The trail has recently seen a lot of love and is in great shape. All of the downed trees have been removed. The trail is steep and rocky as it leads down to the end of FS142 that takes you to the Ranger base. It is all rideable uphill as well if you want a challenging climb.

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  • Josh L
    **

    The potential for this trail is great however it's in dire need of some love. A lot of trees have fallen along the trail and there is no one that really maintains it so it's a mess. If someone finds time to clean this trail it will be an amazing downhill.

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  • MTB Crackfox
    Reviewing Etowah River Trail:
    **

    This trail has many down trees due to the bad winter. It is maintain by the Rangers as I am an Instructor out there and can confirm they walk it alot. It has a trailhead at the end of Mosby Army Airfield where the Rangers refer to the Key Hole. It has a few Challenging spots but overall is pretty easy. Some Great Views of the river

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  • MTB Crackfox
    ***

    The trail has awesome potential. I work at the Ranger Camp and a few buddies of mine are going to try and restore this trail to it's former glory. The trip up Coopers gap and across the TVD are all forest service roads so no worries there. It's not until the Hightower Intersection that needs repair. It's still rideable, but it's rocky and slighly dangerous right now. If your looking for a serious white knuckle ride with high probability of injury go ahead. I'll keep the site posted on our progress. Hopefully one day this will be as awesome as it once was.

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  • Greg Heil
    Reviewing Etowah River Trail:
    **

    This is a fun jaunt in the woods, and if you live locally and ride everything else in the area on a regular basis, I'd recommend checking it out for a little change of pace. If you're traveling from a ways away, I wouldn't recommend driving for this trail specifically. If you're interested in Hightower and then want to tack this on at the end for fun, then by all means.

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  • Greg Heil
    ***

    A better route to the church: Head north out of Dahlonega on old Highway 60 (not the bypass), out past the middle school and the high school. Turn left onto Camp Wahsega Rd. and drive all the way up until it dead ends into Camp Frank D. Merril. Turn hard left and park in the church parking lot.
    ----------------------------------------
    This trail is as rocky and as gnarly as ever, and perhaps even more so. Unfortunately, it is in need of maintenance as there are several large trees down across the trails. Next time I ride it I'm definitely bringing my handsaw to clear some of the medium size stuff, but there are one or two massive oaks that have fallen and need some serious chainsaws to get moved.* Review edited 1/29/2012

    * Review edited 1/29/2012

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  • Greg Heil
    ****

    Wet/sketchy rating for the exit road after the singletrack. There is currently some logging going on on that road, so I would recommend possibly only riding this trail on the weekends at the moment (or just whenever there is no logging). They've seriously torn the exit road up: it's a muddy mess right now. But the singletrack is in good condition.

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