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 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
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
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 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
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?
Can’t argue with that list but a couple of additional trails are The Multi-Use Trail and The Pine Torch Trail in Bankhead National Forest. The Multi-Use Trail is shared with ATV’s, dirt bikes, equestrians and hikers but doesn’t see a lot of use during the week. It’s comprised of an 11 mile loop and a 5+ mile loop, both flowing but also feature some technical areas. The Pine Torch Trail is also equestrian and hikers, both of which have the right-of-way. This set of trails also flows well yet has some good technical features as well. Both trail systems should be ridden dry to just damp; they can be pretty slimy and muddy after heavy rains.
Another trail that could have made this list is Sylaward. The trails there are fast and flowy without any real tech but the last time I was there everything was buff and a blast to ride. Supposedly about 15 miles of singletrack if you ride it all.
Recently road Sylaward, it really is a ride worth listing and trying. Smooth, fast and while not too long, still a lot of fun. Except for a few spots someone new to the sport (not beginner, just new) can enjoy the trails and if really experienced you can push yourself and for both it will be challenging and fun.
Definitely check it out.
Not sure your article gives Minte Sano and Land Trust trails the credit due. The Trails are located just a few minutes drive from downtown Huntsville with 3 bike shops nearby should you have forgotten something or the trail claimed a part of your bike as its own. IMO…They are hands-down the most technical trails in the state. If you are looking for flow and jumps go to Anniston. Want to rip out XC laps go to Birmingham. Monte Sano Is ijust ncredibly rocky terrain that eats tires and tubes as snacks. An 18 mile ride here is much more taxing than elsewhere in the state. As mentioned, trails on the top of the “mountain” are the most beginner friendly and quickly get much more difficult as you start to drop down any of the sides.
I think I’m going to try out one of these this weekend even though everything other than Chewacla is at least two hours away.