It wasn’t easy getting Northwest Georgia designated as the Mountain Bike Capital of Georgia. But Mike Palmeri is a hard man to discourage. He set out on a mission. Every time anyone would come into his Ellijay store, the Cartecay Bike Shop, Mike would ask them to sign the visitor’s log – and people came there from all over the country.
Thousands upon thousands of bikers – stating the trails around Fort Mountain State Park were the best they’ve ever cycled. Mike hand delivered the document to then-Governor Sonny Perdue (R-GA) and Speaker of the House David Ralston (R – Blue Ridge), and Northwest Georgia became the crown jewel of the nation’s biking community.
It didn’t happen overnight. The mountain bike trails people enjoy today have been at least 30 years in the making. A team of land managers, consisting of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Georgia, the U.S. National Park Service-Georgia, the National Forest Service-Georgia and the Department of Natural Resources have worked in tandem to build and maintain the trails since the 1990’s. Today, there are numerous trails to challenge every cyclist’s skill level. Mike suggests Stanley Gap for the most advanced riders; Woodring Branch for intermediate and Bear Creek for intermediate to beginners. He also suggests the Pinhouti Trail, Sections I, II, III and IV. You’ll find a more detailed description of each below, courtesy of Cartecay Bike Shop.
• Stanley Gap – 16 miles; Skill level: Intermediate/Advanced
We like to ride this trail from the Stanley Gap (not Aska Road) side and add Flat Creek for some more miles. This trail has steep ridge lines, narrow tree openings, more spectacular scenery, narrow, off-camber technical down hills and did I forget to mention the extremely difficult climbing? What a great trail!
Directions to trail: Take Hwy 515 north from Ellijay to Rock Creek Road; turn right and follow road approx. 3 miles (past the game check station) to the Stanley Gap parking lot.
• Bear Creek – 14 miles Skill level: Intermediate/Beginner
This trail has technical single track, a few stream crossings, the Gennett Poplar tree (400 years old) and a spectacular view from the overlook. The ride is 7 miles uphill (not too steep) to the overlook, and a killer 7 mile descent back to the car!
Directions to trail: From the shop, take Hwy 52 west to mile marker 8 (on left side of the road); turn right onto Gates Chapel; go 5.4 miles to small bridge; park on the side of the road.
From the parking area, ride up the gravel road, bearing left at the sign for the Bear Creek trail approx. 1 1/2 miles to the trailhead (there is a small parking area at the trailhead, but we always ride the gravel road as a warm-up). Follow the sign at the trailhead onto the single-track. After crossing a small, rocky creek, stay left at the sign for the Bear Creek Loop trail. After climbing two short whoops right beside the creek, follow the hard left switchback uphill (do NOT cross the logs and continue straight). Continue up the single-track to the forest service gate. At the grassy clearing, continue to the LEFT, uphill on the double track. After crossing through a wide but shallow creek, go left downhill to the gate and onto the gravel road. Turn right on the gravel road and continue up approx. 1/2 mile to the overlook. Enjoy the view! Continue to ride up the gravel road another couple hundred yards to the sign for the upper parking lot. Turn into the lot and follow the single-track trail downhill. There are several hard switchbacks and the trail will dump you out back at the wide shallow creek. Continue the ride back downhill the same way you climbed up! Whooo … isn’t this what you signed up for?
The Woodring Branch Trail-Three miles Skill Level: Beginner
The Woodring Branch Trail is a 3.5 mile loop that is of easy to moderate difficulty. Walking time to complete the trail is approximately 1 hour. Trailhead parking is located on a short dead end spur road approximately 3.2 miles after turning into the Woodring Branch Recreation Area off Hwy 282/76. Good lake views and two small streams are found along the trail The trail is open to hiking and mountain bikes. For more information, click here.
This trail is short and sweet. The front half is fast single-track with a few short quick hills to climb. The back half is a series of slow climbs that closes with a nice leg burner at the end. Great trail to loop a few times while camping at Carter’s Lake with Ridgeway close by for variety.
• Pinhoti – Cohutta Sections I, II, III – 140 miles (About 100 miles is off road; the remaining 40 are blazed road routes Skill Level: Varies
Think of it as a “Super Epic.” The Pinhoti Trail covers about 140 miles of prime terrain in northern Georgia — nearly 100 miles of this is off-road, the other 40 are blazed road routes. The Georgia Pinhoti Trail Association (GPTA), in conjunction with the Conservation Fund, is continually acquiring land and easements to move as much of the trail to off-road status as possible.
The Pinhoti crosses the Blue Ridge fault line south of Chatsworth. East of that you will find the big mountain climbs of the Cohutta. Head west for the Ridge and Valley sections, with numerous ridge climbs and long stretches of ridge-top riding. On the west side there is a current project to build 20 miles of multi-use trail on the Pinhoti at Dry Creek. There’s an 8-mile loop in the Pocket area between Horn and John’s Mountain; on the east side the MTB community recognizes 4 major loop rides between Fort Mountain and Bear Creek. In short, the Pinhoti is a unique, long and extremely varied trail that could keep any mountain biker entertained for several riding seasons.
• Long distance trail
• Point to point
• Out and back
• Varying terrain
• Various skill levels
• SORBA/IMBA involvement
• Various user groups
• Various governments
• Easy access
• Sustainable trail bed