Yes, We DO Have Mountains in the South

“Do you guys have any good trails there?”

It’s a question I get all the time from other riders and colleagues in the “industry” while I’m on the road. So, for the record, “yes.” We have some amazing trails in Georgia and across the Southeast as a whole. Not only that though, there’s an amazing variety, too.

I live in the Metro Atlanta region where we’re fortunate enough to have numerous trail systems within an hour’s drive from the city center. Depending on your mood or the weather, there’s no shortage of choices. Did it rain yesterday? Head out to Conyers, where the sandy soil drains well and there’s granite to ride on. Feel like dropping the hammer? Fort Yargo is low on elevation change and high on speed. Want to get taint-blasted by endless, hateful roots? There’s Chicopee Woods, if that’s your thing.

Riding the granite side of the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, site of the 1996 Olympics MTB race
Riding the granite side of the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, site of the 1996 Olympics MTB race

And the list goes on…

Blankets Creek, has something for everyone from flowy to tech to short, and eyeball-popping climbs. Rope Mill is chock-full of flow trails. Big Creek has dirt jumps, a pump track, and a freeride area, in addition to a few miles of singletrack. Yellow River is fun as long as you’re okay with getting lost–their signage is terrible.

This doesn’t even cover the random bits of in-town singletrack that the Dirty Mustache Ride hits each Tuesday night.

So, again, yes. We have some good trails here.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, what's this?
Whoa, whoa, whoa, what’s this?

And–wait for it–we have real, actual, no bull shit, MOUNTAINS! I know that may come as a surprise to some, but head a couple hours north of the city and you’re at the southern terminus of the Appalachians. Granted, they aren’t as impressive to look at as the Rockies and views from the trails are few and far between, but the quality of the trails themselves is incredible. The dense tree cover may smooth the overall appearance of the mountains, but make no mistake, lurking under the canopy lies challenging singletrack. What they lack in sheer elevation they make up for with steepness.

Jake Mountain, Dahlonega, GA
Jake Mountain, Dahlonega, GA

Places like Bull and Jake Mountain outside Dahlonega, Bear Creek in Ellijay, and Stanley Gap in Blue Ridge, will work over even the fittest of riders. Not to mention the Pinhoti Trail, which traverses the entire state from east to west. The Snake Creek Gap segment of the Pinhoti near Dalton, GA, in particular requires deft bike handling. Think you’re hot shit? Try tackling the Trans North Georgia route: 350 miles and 56,000 feet of climbing. Yeah, that’s what I thought.

The view from the Mountaintown Overlook near the Cohutta Wilderness in north Georgia

If you can duck out of work early on a Friday, Pisgah is just a three-hour drive north, making an ideal weekend getaway. Although to be fair, Pisgah is finally getting some of the love it deserves. The trails there are world class by any standard. Good views, too.

Then there are other destinations on the rise such as Chattanooga, Knoxville in Tennessee, Louisville in Kentucky, along with Anniston and Birmingham in Alabama.

See Also: Watch: Knoxville’s Newest Trail – Devil’s Racetrack – Looks Sick!

Pilot Rock, Pisgah, NC
Pilot Rock, Pisgah, NC

Riding here is taxing, because you have to be on the gas all the time. There are some extended climbs in the mountains, but nothing like the multi-hour slogs you’ll find in Colorado. The quick changes from grinding up to mashing down are like doing intervals. There’s none of this settling into a gear and squeaking up the hill at a relaxed pace shit.

Throw in the fact that you can ride year-round because of our relatively-mild winters, and it’s no wonder our region is full of legit shredders. There’s no getting soft over the winter. We keep riding.

We’ve got hike-a-bikes, water crossings, and more roots and rocks than you can shake a dropper post at. Trail conditions run the full spectrum from hard pack to mud, often on the same ride.

So the next time one of you westerners gets owned on your home trail by the rider with their demo bike hanging out of the back of a Nissan Versa rental car, ask them where they’re from.

Just don’t be surprised when you find out they’re from the South.