Five2Ride: The Best Mountain Bike Trails in Alabama

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Alabama may not boast the big east coast mountain ranges that can be found in nearby Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina, but the Appalachian Mountains actually do extend into northern Alabama, providing an amount of topographic change that those unfamiliar with the state might find quite surprising. Even in central Alabama large hills and rolling forests can be found, providing the perfect canvas on which to draw expansive networks of mountain bike trails.

Thanks to Alabama’s temperate climate, this time of year it’s the perfect winter getaway, providing legit mountain biking yet warm weather, and even relatively-easy access to the Gulf Coast, if you’re into that sort of thing.

If you do decide to head south this winter, here are the 5 Alabama trails that you can’t miss:

Coldwater Mountain, Anniston

Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Jeff Barber.
Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Jeff Barber.

Coldwater Mountain is the newest trail system on this list, but it’s already arguably the best. Still a work in progress, this network is ever-expanding, and offers some of the greatest trail diversity you’ll find in the Southeast. With everything from mellow, flowy cross country trails, backcountry-style singletrack, flow/jump trails, and a black diamond downhill track, this expansive system has something to please everyone. Eventually the goal is to pack some 60+ miles of trail onto this mountain, turning Coldwater into a destination in its own right.

“An excellent trail system that just keeps getting better. The trails are good for riders of all abilities. There are a couple of tough rock gardens though.

Lots of rock out here, which makes the trails drain well. I rode out here after a few days of rain and there were no puddles to speak of. The wet, gritty sand did make riding rocks sketchy, but not too bad.

Riding here is a full body workout. I’m thoroughly waxed after a 20 mile loop with all the pumping and jumping.

While there isn’t a ton of elevation, the trails are designed to squeeze every foot they can into a descent.

Parking at the Anniston trailhead and riding clockwise is my preferred route. That way you finish with a 4-mile descent back to the car. If you park at the Coldwater trailhead, you finish with a climb.” -Aaron Chamberlain

Oak Mountain State Park, Birmingham

Photo: Michael Paul
Photo: Michael Paul

This 18-mile trail system is conveniently located close to the population center of Birmingham. While it’s best known for its fast, flowy trails, there’s plenty of chunky, technical singletrack–as evidenced by Michael’s photo above. For more information on Oak Mountain, be sure to read Michael’s ride report.

“I live about 2 miles from the entrance to the park. Coming from New England I thought I wouldn’t have any good places to ride. Was I wrong.

Oak Mountain State Park, maintained by BUMP, is such an excellent trail system. You can start at the North Trailhead, South Trailhead, by the canoe rentals, and about 5 other different places. Whether you plan to do a loop or an out and back, you have tons of options.

The trails are never busy and even on a busy day you will normally see maybe 4 or 5 other riders.

The trails to have a lot roots so my new 29er with full suspension is more fun to ride than my old 26er. But regardless of your bike, it is a fun ride. The trails are set up to give you a decent climb and just about when you tired there is a downhill.

Great job. If you love to mountain bike and are in Alabama, do not miss this set of trails.” -wh400

Monte Sano State Park and Land Trust, Huntsville

Photo: Midnight_Specialist
Photo: Midnight_Specialist

This state park reportedly offers about 60 miles of mountain bike trails, ranging from easy to technical. Some of Monte Sano’s high points provide stunning views of the surrounding area, and interesting geological features like the Natural Well are worth stopping to investigate. Not sure where to begin your ride? There’s a recommended “Epic Route” that forms an 18-mile loop to help you get the lay of the land.

“There is pretty much a little of everything on Monte Sano. The trails on the south end of the plateau (South Plateau Loop, Bucca Family Bike Trail, and Firetower Trail) are the easier trails, and the trails on the east slope down from the plateau (Sinks Trail, Mountain Mist Trail, Goat Trail, Kieth Trail, and Logan Point Trail) offer more elevation change and technical challenges. For even more technical challenge and elevation change, the trails off the west side of the plateau (McKay Hollow Trail, Natural Well Trail, and Arrowhead Trail) are for you. It all adds up to about 30 miles. The best views are from the South Plateau Loop at O’Shaugnessy Point, as well as from various rest shelters along the South Plateau Loop. Unusual geological features lie along the Natural Well, Sinks, and Mountain Mist Trails.” -ZackRockhopper

Chewacla State Park, Auburn

Photo: Mack_Story
Photo: Mack_Story

Chewacla is yet another expansive trail system that offers tons of trail options in a choose-your-own-adventure style. While you shouldn’t expect to find technical, advanced trails here, the local IMBA chapter (Central Alabama Mountain Pedaler) is extremely invested, meaning these trails are well-maintained and you can find cool features like the bridge pictured above, big berms, and a pumptrack.

“Great little trail system that’s growing. Lots of fun wood trail structures. The system makes great use of a relatively small area. Lots of fun for riders of all skill levels. There is even a dirt jump area. The park is a beautiful scenic area with waterfalls and a lake at the center. Not a destination trail but it’s more than worth the ride if you are in the area.” -rpmarheine

Tannehill Historic Ironworks State Park, Bessemer

Photo: bAwesome
Photo: bAwesome

Tannehill Historic Ironworks State Park is best-known for the historic buildings on the property–as the name indicates. However, the lesser-known singletrack trails actually provide some excellent mountain biking, putting this park on the map for shredders across the state. You can find at least 11 miles of trail here to keep you entertained. If that’s not enough to make a day of it, head on over to the better-known state park in the area: Oak Mountain, discussed above.

“Trails are an absolute blast, rode CC on red, left on purple, and left on green. With all the downhill was expecting a big climb out but it was a piece of cake. The trails are routed exceptionally well. If you’re looking for a place to test your skills this isn’t it. But if you want to go fast and have fun this is your place.” -Jason7641

Your Turn: What’s your favorite trail in Alabama?

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