North Carolina has Pisgah, Vermont has the Kingdom Trails, and Georgia has Mulberry Gap.
To those outside the state, the name Mulberry Gap probably sounds familiar, perhaps evoking an image of raw singletrack cresting a rolling mountain saddle shaded by leafy mulberry trees. I’ve met plenty of mountain bikers who tell me they’ve ridden Mulberry Gap, unaware that it’s not actually a trail but a unique hub, offering mountain bikers of every stripe everything they need to explore the most beautiful, wild, and often challenging singletrack in Georgia, along with providing a base in the mountains for adventure-seekers in all outdoor sports and activities.
So what exactly is Mulberry Gap? That’s not so easy to define.
Mulberry Gap is a Place to Play
Of course the real reason mountain bikers visit Mulberry Gap is to ride trails, and the surrounding forest is chock full of them. Two of the most popular mountain bike trails in Georgia are accessible right outside the front gate and the possibilities for putting together an epic ride are pretty much endless.
For first-time visitors, the Bear Creek – Pinhoti 1 – Pinhoti 2 loop (also known as Bearhoti) is an excellent place to start. This 20-mile loop strings together some of the best singletrack trail riding in the region, all of it friendly to riders with intermediate skills and fitness. The 4-mile gravel road climb to the start of Bear Creek may be a little intimidating at first, but it’s over before you know it and the descent is worth the effort. Mulberry Gap also offers shuttle service to the start of the Bear Creek descent, eliminating the worst of the climbing on this iconic ride.
Gravity riders will enjoy taking a shuttle to the top of Windy Gap, a ripping, wide-open descent that drops 2,400 feet in just four miles. The first bit is technical and challenging, while the rest is fast, fast, fast!
Mountaintown Creek is a trail with a unique backcountry feel hidden in a secluded ravine. It takes some effort to get there, and their “no shame in shuttling policy” helps those with limited time (or fitness). Riders will lose track of the number of cold-water stream crossings along the way down this beautiful, skinny sliver of singletrack.
Heading south from Mulberry Gap, the Pinhoti trail unravels miles of singletrack starting with a section known as Pinhoti 3. The singletrack here is rarely technical, but the switchbacks and stiff climbs make for a challenging ride. Mountain bikers can ride up to 20 miles before the trail gives way to roads, at which point they can return to Mulberry Gap for a 40-mile round trip, or arrange for a shuttle pick up at the end.
Seemingly endless miles of gravel roads branch out from Mulberry Gap, making it a convenient starting spot for a rainy day gravel grind. There are also singletrack trails and a skills area on the Mulberry Gap property that are perfect for messing around at the end of the day. The pump track and skinnies are particularly entertaining for both kids and adults alike.
Plus, outdoor lovers of all kinds can explore the area right from Mulberry Gap. Easily fill the weekend activities with trail running, backpacking, hiking, swimming in a nearby swimming hole, or just enjoy a laid-back camping experience.
Mulberry Gap is a Place to Stay
Billing itself as a “get-a-way” catering to mountain bikers and other active travelers, Mulberry Gap has nearly a dozen cabins and eight campsites. In many ways, it’s set up like a summer camp where guests can book as much or as little space as they need depending on the size of their group. And like summer camp, it’s a great place to make new friends too.
Cabins at Mulberry Gap
The Squirrel’s Nest is the newest cabin at Mulberry Gap and the loft-style layout can accommodate up to 6 guests. It’s got a clean, bright, and airy feel to it which makes this a great place to relax after riding all day.
Koi Cove and Pond Nook sleep up to five and six guests, respectively, and are located right next to the bath house with hot showers. There are four more cabins that sleep up to four, one that sleeps up to three, and two that sleep one or two mountain bikers. All cabins are clean and simply furnished with linens and towels to make packing easy. Cabins start at $65 per night per person, per night (inquire about child rates).
Camping at Mulberry Gap
In addition to the cabins on site, Mulberry Gap also offers a few campsites on the property. The two larger sites can fit a small RV, popup camper, or a couple of tents and include a fire pit and picnic table. The six smaller sites also include a table and fire pit.
Unlike camping in the surrounding National Forest, Mulberry Gap campers have access to the bathhouse with hot showers and flush toilets, in addition to wi-fi. Campsites start at $19 per night per person, per night (inquire about child rates)..
Meals at Mulberry Gap
Meals are what make Mulberry Gap much more than just a campground or vacation rental. Communal meals are served in the Barn daily, and guests can customize meal plans to fit their activities. The staff at Mulberry Gap are generally able to work with any dietary restrictions guests may have.
A hot breakfast is a great way to start the day, and to-go lunches offer convenient trail fuel. If you’re only going to get one meal a day while at Mulberry Gap, I highly recommend dinner. There’s always something delicious on the menu, and it’s the best opportunity to hang out with other mountain bikers and relive the day’s adventures.
The town of Ellijay is about a 25 minute drive from Mulberry Gap and there are a few restaurants to choose from. Campers may also choose to cook at their campsite. Just consider the time and hassle involved in driving and/or cooking during your stay. While it might cost a few bucks more to get a meal plan, it’s more than worth the minimal added expense.
Mulberry Gap is dog-friendly so consider bringing your furry friend along for vacation, plus you’ll save on kennel fees.
Mulberry Gap is a Waypoint and a Hub
The surrounding Chattahoochee National Forest is massive and densely forested. While there are dozens of small trailheads scattered throughout, most can only accommodate a couple of vehicles, so many mountain bikers choose to base their day rides out of Mulberry Gap. A parking pass gets riders a spot for a vehicle, access to wi-fi and restrooms, and even showers for an extra fee.
Mulberry Gap is a bikepacker’s dream, sitting directly on or near several established routes including the Trans North Georgia, Southern Highlands Traverse, Cohutta Cat, and Pinhoti Trail routes. In addition to their refrigerator full of craft beer and hot meals served 5 days per week, Mulberry Gap stocks items like snacks, tubes, and supplies to keep riders moving down the trail. They can help with minor bike repairs and are happy to give riders a place to dry out after a soggy day on the bike.
Throughout the year Mulberry Gap hosts fun community events like skills clinics, races, media camps, and group rides. This year the Bikepacking Summit is being held at Mulberry Gap October 4-6, bringing bikepackers from all over the country to ride together, swap stories, and share tips.
The owners and operators of Mulberry Gap are mountain bikers and adventure seekers who love riding, and it shows in their embrace of the mountain bike community and the services they offer.
Book your visit for the fall to enjoy generally warm, dry days and cool nights. With little winter snow, spring is another great time to visit since the trails tend to dry out quickly and wildflowers dot the trails. Summer is actually considered the low season due to the heat, but the upshot is even better rates are available.
If you haven’t visited Mulberry Gap, you haven’t really experienced mountain biking in Georgia. It’s truly a hub for mountain bikers and gateway to the best trail riding the state has to offer.
It’s ok, everything is al la carte so expect to pay a bit more just to tent camp, a lot more if you plan on using their shuttle and meal service. It’s the only game in town for this type of experience so it gets talked up big. We stayed there once for a weekend, I’d say we had a less than ideal experience. We felt for what we paid, it just wasn’t worth it. I guess if you don’t know the area it works but for me there’s way to much free camping in the area (and on trail) to warrant this option.
I went to Mulberry Gap for a weekend with a group of 10 women. We all had a fantastic experience. The food and service was great.
If you don’t stay at Mulberry, it’s worth stopping by bike shop (Cartekay) in Elijay to help with routes (or join a ride) if you’re unfamiliar with the area. If you’ve got a group, there are nice houses to rent in this area for reasonable prices and right on the trails. Whatever you do — bring your climbing legs.