In the hot and humid armpit of southeastern Georgia, an unexpected mountain biking “Mecca” of sorts awaits adventurous riders of all skill levels. With over 50 miles of tight, twisting singletrack within a 45-minute drive from Augusta, the Sumter National Forest offers a great place for an adventurous mountain biking road trip.
While most of the trails in the Sumter National Forest offer little in the way of technical riding, the fast tight singletrack will fulfill your need for speed and pique your interest as you approach every turn. Trails like the Modoc trail (a.k.a. Stevens Creek) and Turkey Creek are relatively smooth and follow a ridgeline along two large creeks. These trails actually come within a few hundred yards of each other but make an impossible connection across the confluence of these river sized “creeks.” The Modoc trail is an out and back that eventually peters out after a large drop intoa dry creek bed at around the 6-mile mark. It may be possible to follow the power lines back to civilization but no one knows. The singletrack on theway back is just too sweet to pass up. Harrowing drop offs on the banks ofthe creek provide an added dimension of excitement and the numerous streamcrossings give your technical skills a great workout. Turkey Creek is also an out and back that snakes about 7 miles one way along the creek far intotick country. Both trails cover rolling terrain with small dips, hills, andbridges. These trails are remarkably well maintained considering their remote locations and seeming lack of traffic. On a good day you might see 2 groups of riders – most times I see no one.
Directly across the road from the Turkey Creek trail lies Wine Creek trail. This is really the same trail but in a different direction. This is also an out and back good for a total of about 10.6 miles. These three trails can be combined with a little road riding for an amazing sorebutt-a-thon consisting of over 36 miles of singletrack riding (plus about 8 miles on the road). There is even a race held each year covering thesetrails called the Long Cane Massacre Ride.
Other trails in the area offer a bit more or a bit less difficult riding, depending on your mood. Further north on the South Carolina side ofthe border lies Baker Creek State Park. These trails are relatively new and are still a bit rough in places. This trail provides a huge 10-mile loopthat weaves and drops throughout the park. Like all of the trails mentioned here, there are plenty of trees to keep the trail shady and cool on hotdays. The pine needles and leaves in fall make these trails difficult to follow at times and add a bit of challenge to the ride as you try tomaintain your balance around the sharp curves.
In the opposite direction from Baker Creek and closer to North Augusta, SC, lies the trail with one of my favorite sections of trail of all time (second possibly to a run in Chapel Hill, NC). Lick Fork trail is a 6 mile loop through another park in the Sumter National Forest. This trail is more like a trail you might find in the mountains with sustained climbs and descents. The trail starts out with a small climb but leads quickly to a fast, dipping downhill to the small creek below. From here the trail remains flat until it turns up a rather large hill leading to the high pointof the trail. From the point where the trail crosses a gravel road it isone screaming fast smooth downhill with jumps and turns galore. The trail is covered with small pine trees that shield most of the sun and provide an extremely narrow path in places. You will go down for at least a mile before coming out at yet another dirt road that you must cross and begin the somewhat boring climb back to the car. This single 1-mile section makes this trail a “must ride” for your southeastern Georgia mountain biking experience.
If you’re staying in Augusta or just hanging out, the Augusta Canal offers a nice place to get in a training ride or a leisurely pedal with the family. The canal trail starts at the Savannah Rapids Pavilion north of town and leads directly into downtown Augusta. The trail is about 6 miles one way and is a wide dirt path with very little elevation change. There are some trails that branch off from the canal that are worth checking out, most notably the Pumping Station trail found at around mile 4 from the Pavilion. The Pumping Station trails are one of the best (although short) networks of trails in the state. Similar to Yellow River trail near Atlanta, these trails are smooth, fast and fun. The trails are labeled with different colored blazes but it is pretty hard to get lost here. Be sure to combine these with your canal ride or come just to check them out. It is well worth the trip (and you get some good lung work in on the way down and back).
If you’re getting tired of riding the local trails, checking out a “Mecca” like Augusta, GA is a fun alternative to the standard weekend ride. There are plenty of trails here to keep everyone interested and the crowds are non-existent. Just don’t email me and tell me how much fun you had – I might get homesick.
Check out this listing of Augusta area bike trails.