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Level: Intermediate
Length: 5 mi (8 km)
Surface: Singletrack
Configuration: Loop
Elevation: +158/ -183 ft
Total: 37 riders

Mountain Biking Lake Russell Loop

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#49 of 397 mountain bike trails in Georgia
#1,225 in the world

This trail circles the entirety of Lake Russell. AND, it is AMAZING! The
quality of the trail is stunning, it is truly epic-quality singletrack! The views
are great, as at many times you are riding RIGHT ON the edge of the
water... i.e. if you fell the wrong way you would be going for a swim. there
is not a whole lot of elevation gain or loss (there are a couple of short hills
to mix things up) as this trail runs pretty much on the water's edge the
entire time. I thoroughly enjoyed this ride, and it kept a smile pasted on
my face! I can't believe I found this by accident (when I was trying to find
the Ladyslipper trail) and that I've never heard anyone talking about this.
it is awesome!

First added by Greg Heil on Jun 11, 2009. Last updated May 1, 2020. → add an update
Before you go
  • Drinking water: unknown
  • Lift service: unknown
  • Night riding: yes
  • Pump track: unknown
  • Restrooms: unknown
  • Fat bike grooming: unknown
  • E-bikes allowed: unknown
  • Fee required: unknown
This trail information is user-generated. Help improve this information by suggesting a correction.
Getting there
From Cornelia, head North/Northeast on Dick's Hill Pkwy (Hwy 13) and hang a
right on Lake Russell Road across from the Lake Russell Convenience store.
go 2.5 miles, and hang a left at the sign. go left at the fork and park at the
trailhead near the old dam. Then just follow the signs and head around the
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Lake Russell Loop Trail map

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Local Info

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Trail checkins

dukebike01 (on Sep 21, 2019)
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Trail conditions

Wet (on Dec 1, 2020)
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Mountain Bike Trails Near Cornelia, Georgia

Beginner | 11 mi
Intermediate | 3 mi
Intermediate | 7 mi
Easiest | 5 mi

Rider questions

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  • Fabricator

    I am rating the Lake Russell loop as "advanced"; because at the time I rode it (4-22-2017), the conditions/maintenance suggest it is not regularly maintained; the lack of maintenance at the time of writing has a strong impact on ridability and safety. Additionally, there are several short intense grades and numerous "chainring scarred" trees to cross. The volume of chainring marks AND the growth of mature underbrush around the downed trees suggest some of the fallen trees have been down for many months and may remain so. Aerobically, Lake Loop nothing, as the sum elevation gain is negligible, but the width of the trail is such that it resembles a "fishermans' trail" that a skilled rider can navigate a bike through. There are several bridges you will need to cross as well; one was in such condition as to have 4ft of planking gone; I was able to straddle the void and hand bikes over while the rest of my group hiked the detour; another bridge was too narrow for the narrow modified handlebars of my wife's bike to pass through---forget my 29-er; this bridge was also leaning at such an angle as to make one wonder if it could tip over; a third bridge was somewhere between the other two. Lastly, though picturesque, parts of the trail were so narrow and banked that an inexperienced rider could easily wash out their wheel on the ample pine straw and drop 8-10ft down the lake bank into some fairly deep water.

    All this to say, we still had fun, and encourage others to ride the trail, but be advised that the lack of maintenance and trail width make an otherwise simple beginner-trail a "different experience". Lastly, bring quality soap, water and wipes as well. Most of the lower parts of the trail are LINED with poison ivy. My crew washed up and scrubbed within two hours---so far we are "rash free".

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  • villi

    Totally missed the steps right in front of the parking area and started by ladyslippery trail which it definitely adds more challenges. The leaves this time a year made it a bit tricky to see and avoid roots. The were section were we literally had to get off our bikes and walked, even climbed but that added to our adventure. In my opinion is a more technical trail but fun. The views are beautiful. I'll do it again. ????

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  • Bike Preacher

    I'm a newbie to this but, I loved this track. The views (during fall) are wonderful. I look forward to going back.

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  • koltanp

    Good ride around the lake. Don't follow trail clockwise from Nancytown Parkin area. Go down the steps and cross wooden bridge and pick up the trail. Lots of trees to carriage over and several areas are quite overgrown, but it's definitely rideable.

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  • nicomyth

    Start at Nancytown Lake and travel clockwise along the shore. The trail goes below the dam, along the stream, then circles Lake Russell.
    There are lots of roots and narrow sections - some precariously close to the lake edge.
    After crossing the spillway, the trail becomes double track with a long ascent. Turn left when you reach pavement and follow the road back to Nancytown. While there is a trail that crosses the pavement, you don't want to ride it. The North side of Lake Russell is but a memory of a trail. It has been abandoned and is barely suitable as a deer and small game trail. The only clear sections are where the trail is used by foot traffic around picnic and swimming areas. It then quickly becomes swallowed by brush and fallen trees.

    The trail is getting cleaned up. The north side from the top of the double track to the swim area is now opened and a nice addition to the trail.

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  • bikezilla

    Sucks! Not much of a ride. It is very hard to stay on the trail. It's not marked well and very grown up.

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  • Josh L

    At the moment I'm rating this trail low but it has the potential to be a 3.5 to 4 star, with that being said I was very disapointed with this trail system. The camp ground was shut down (I'm assuming for the winter) so the only parking was at the boat launch which was ok but probably annoying to the people coming to use it. I initially went North from the boat launch towards sourdough and the trail just disapeared into the woods at the location where a bridge use to cross the creek. So I just rode down the road to access sourdough and Lady Slipper. After riding those trails I returned to the boat launch and headed south to try Lake russel trail yet again, this time the trail was great with the exeption of the many trees laying down across the trail causing me to carry my bike more than ride it. Once I got past the camp ground and beach the trail was amazing with a few damp spots as the lake is high and about to swallow the trail. I only made it to the point where the trail meets the pavement and you have to then ride the road to cross the dam and I was loosing light so i took the road back to the boat launch.

    If the trail was to get cleaned up and maintained, this would be a weekend destination to camp, fish, swim, and best of all bike some awesome trails. I hope to see this happen.

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  • Steve Palmer

    Just rode this trail for the first time today, going clockwise around Lake Russell. The first mile or so is very narrow, full of slippery rocks and roots. The lake is high and a couple short sections are totally submerged. There are several downed trees that had to be portaged over. The trail is so narrow and the dropoff steep enough that one tiny mistake and you are skidding down to a cold lake. The difficulty is pretty high. After a mile or so, the trail goes away from the lake and becomes awesome singletrack. Difficulty is low and fun factor is high. This lasts until you descend to cross the dam. The path across is covered in briars, and looks to be a tick paradise in the summer. Portage down the washed out gully, cross a bridge, then portage back up the other side of the dam. Then you are back on gravel and paved roads for your ride back. The road sections are 'easy' It's hard to give this trail a difficulty rating, since it is so variable. I think I'll stick with the Sourwood trail.

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  • Greg Heil   ✓ supporter

    I rode this trail again this past weekend (3/13) for the first time in three or four years. In retrospect, my initial review was a little overstated: this is definitely a very fun trail, especially the section on the southeast side of the lake. It's definitely worth a visit, but I'd probably only give it about 3.5-4 stars now.

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  • les_625

    The trail would be awesome if it got some maintenance done. Some spots have trees every ten feet.

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  • nvrenf   ✓ supporter

    Dont bother. Trail is overgrown and in bad shape. So much for a nice ride around the lake.

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  • calebgaines

    Beautiful lake trail ride. Not too challenging and a great way to entice friends into mountain biking.

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  • GoldenGoose

    Surprising climbs of rooty singletrack mixed with a little bit of forest road and a very short piece of pavement. On the back side of the lake, opposite the camp grounds, the trail is a relaxing ride around the water's edge with a few semi technical climbs to keep you on your toes. At the half way point you'll cross a dam and spillway and pick up the trail as gravel road on the other side. This will change back to single track after the climb so don't worry. The trail section on the dam is VERY overgrown and we almost turned back because we couldn't find it. Dont give up. I assure you, it's there. Ride this one clockwise or you'll climb the cool singletrack and descend the boring forest road. :( My only major complaint about this one is the short paved section (500 yrds at the most), the downed trees, and the constant pedestrian bridges that you have to cross. These bridges were clearly not made with bikes in mind as they are too tight to walk next to your bike. They also have no transition from the ground to the bridge so you either walk them every time or get really good at hopping up an 18 inch ledge to get onto them. Oh well, it was a hiking trail first. Maybe one of these days they'll fix this issue and I might change my rating to a 5. Link it to the Sourwood trail and Ladyslipper for a longer ride.

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  • bchboy1206

    Let me start by saying it has been three years since I have been on my mountain bike in which time I have been a roadie. I began mountain biking around the Macon Ga. area then a little bit in California. OK to Lake Russell. I started from the parking lot by the dam and it goes into a wooded area which has some nice single track about 2-3 foot wide covered with pine straw and it winds thru to some hilly areas. Then you have to ride the road for a few tenths of a mile and you descend into the beach area then back into the hills. This leads to another damn where some logging is going on so the trail can be missed and there is loose dirt around from the dozers. I am not sure if I went off the trail a little at this point. I descended beside the dam which is a pretty treacherous rocky downhill, I almost bit it so I walked the bike down. Beyond the dam the track seems to change. Lots of up and downs, and the width is about a foot with some great great switchbacks. Unfortunately there are probably 5 deadfalls to watch for and stairs.... There are rock stairs going up small uphills and also about 4-5 bridges you have to carry your bike up unless you can bunny hop pretty high. Some of the bridges are only two feet wide so after you lift the bike up there you kind of have to push it and follow because you cant walk beside it. The singletrack on this side is right next to the water and it is really fun I would say moderately difficult due to roots and the narrow trail. All in all it is a good place to go but I wasn't expecting to portage the bike so many times. The scenery is really beautiful there, (I ran/walked after riding it). RIght now I would say it is a 3.5 out of 5 but maybe after I get used to it I may start liking it better, especialy if I can figure out how to get around some of the obsticales. Oh and dog walkers too.

    * Review edited 4/4/2010

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  • Greg Heil   ✓ supporter

    Rode this trail today, and the sign at the top of the paved road leading down to the park stated that the Lake Russell recreation was closed. I drove down anyway, and the gates leading to the day use parking lot were open, and when I left there was about 5 cars there. The campground is definitely shut down, but the trails are still accessible. There was a large number of sizable trees down all around the trail, some of which looked rather recent. Needs some maintenance, but it was still a good ride!

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  • RJackson

    Lake Russell Loop Trail is an old hiking trail that now allows biking as well. Be careful in the first mile or so as some of the creek crossings have bridges that were designed with hikers in mind. Park at the Nancytown Lake parking area, head out of the parking lot back down the paved road and take an immediate right and follow the signs to the trailhead and turn right next to the Nancytown group campground. Cross the wooden bridge and bear right onto a singletrack trail to follow the loop in a clockwise direction. After a few miles, cross the dam and spillway and travel back up a forest service road until you get back to a paved road - go straight across back onto single track, follow the trail past the swimming area, then up a hill to near the road where the trail will disappear back into the woods on the right just past a water fountain. When that singletrack emerges back onto a paved road, turn right and follow the edge of the lake for about 1000 yards. Just past where the lake ends look for trail to disappear back into the woods for the short finish.

    Tight, twisty, rolling singletrack with some FS road* Review edited 11/3/2009

    * Review edited 11/3/2009

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