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Mountain Biking
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by Kim UrquhartExclusively for About North Georgia

North Georgia’s mild climate makes mountain biking a year-round activity. From relaxing rides to serious singletrack, there are mountains of trails to explore. The three trails featured here are close to metro Atlanta and geared for beginners, though they are enjoyed by all levels of riders.

Yellow River
Taking a rest along a mountain bike trailIf you like fast, technical downhill, you’ll love Yellow River’s Creek Loop. If mellow riding is more your style, the River Loop is for you. If you are a fool for fitness, do both. Either way, you can’t lose. Yellow River rocks for riding and offers something for everyone.

The parking lot may appear crowded, but the trail rarely seems to be. Be sure to follow posted arrows on both trails, which start on either side of the parking lot. Watch out for horses –equestrians also share Yellow River’s trails– and the occasional water moccasin.

The five-mile Creek Loop begins with a bang. The trail starts with nearly a mile of uphill. But what goes up must come down, and the rest of the ride is full of screaming downhills, terraced singletrack and technical rocky sections.

The River Loop is a great warm-up and cool down after climaxing on the Creek loop. Because it is much less technical than the Creek Loop, it’s a great place for newbies to get into the groove. Beginners should stay to the right at the fork after two bridges. This trail offers approximately five miles of interesting scenery ranging from the gurgling river to a “Deliverance” type array of discarded appliances and rusted automobiles.

If you are new to the sport or new to the area, join a beginner group ride guided by Atlanta SORBA. Rides meet and leave from the Yellow River parking lot at 6 p.m. each Thursday.

Directions: The Yellow River Park is located at 3232 Juhan Road in Lithonia. From Atlanta, take Highway 78 East past Stone Mountain to the West Park Place exit. Turn right and go approximately 3.5 miles to Juhan Road. Turn right on Juhan Road. The parking lot is 1.5 miles on the left.

Carter’s Lake
Mountain bike fun in north GeorgiaHigh above the aquamarine waters of Carter’s Lake near Ellijay lies a trail with more twists and turns than a murder mystery. The six-mile Ridgeway Bike Trail may be classified as “expert”, but with a little pedaling power, anyone with grit, gumption and good cycling skills can conquer it.

Trail information is posted at the Ridgeway Recreation Area boat ramp, a good place to park your vehicle and start your ride. The trail can also be accessed from several points along the main road. With more than 1,000 feet of elevation gain per lap, Ridgeway is an up and down roller coaster of a ride. Even experienced riders will find they sometimes have to walk their bike over a wall of short steps.

Severe descents, steep climbs, creek crossings and technical downhill sections make this ride fun yet challenging. Alternating between root-studded single-track and the dual tracks of an old logging road, the trail follows the contours of the low ridges and then dips down to skirt the shore of the lake.

Allow 35 minutes to an hour to complete one loop. The trail is clearly marked by orange posts. Advanced (black) and intermediate (white) sections challenge any skill level.

If you are not comfortable riding down steep sections of rocky trail, look for a second beginner-friendly trail called Woodring Branch. Designed to be kinder and gentler than the rigorous Ridgeway, only about a quarter mile of this new trail is finished. Woodring Branch hugs the shoreline of Carter’s Lake and the tall trees give lend an air of openness.

The trails are rarely crowded, save for twice a year. SORBA hosts the Carter’s Lake Mountain Bike Classic each spring and fall as part of the Georgia Mountain Bike Series.

Directions: Carter’s Lake trails are eight miles west of Ellijay. Take I-75 North to I-575, which turns into GA Highway 515. Turn left onto GA Highway 382/76 at the Ridgeway Recreation Area entrance sign and follow the half-gravel, half-paved access road into the park.

Blanket’s Creek
The seven miles of scenic trails at Blanket’s Creek are popular as a fun, fast ride close to metro Atlanta, so expect a crowd. Overall, the ride is fairly flat with a little bit of everything from rocks to logs; water and mud. Ride multiple laps to increase your workout.

The first thing to do before riding Blanket’s Creek is to remember what day it is and check the sign at the trailhead for the direction of the day. The second thing to do, if you want to support your favorite sport, is to drop a buck into the donation box at the trailhead. Using the handy porta potty is optional.

Ready to ride? Head about a mile down wide, rocky doubletrack then blast through stream crossing. Then it is on to a decent climb, some fast technical downhills and great views of Lake Allatoona. A highlight of Blanket’s Creek is navigating the half a dozen or so log crossings. The trail is tight in some spots, gently rolling in others.

Because it is not very technical, Blanket’s Creek is a great place for beginners to grow bike legs. Practice on the newly-completed beginner’s loop, dubbed Mosquito Flats because it follows the contours of Blanket’s Creek. The trail is just over one mile and is flat yet fun. A good place to practice before tackling the more advanced Dwelling Loop. Blanket’s Creek is closed in wet weather.

Directions: Blanket’s Creek is located in Woodstock. Take I-75 North to I-575 North to Exit 11. Turn left on Sixes Road and go about 1.8 miles. Follow the signs to the parking lot entrance on the left.

Switching Gears

  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Conduct a pre-ride inspection to make sure your tires have air, your seat is adjusted, etc. After the ride, always clean your bike and inspect it for any additional maintenance.
  • Be prepared. Avoid having to hike-a-bike and bring a tool kit that includes a patch kit, pump, spare tube, allen wrench, chain tool and spoke wrench. Multi-tools are pocket-sized and convenient.
  • Bring a first aid kit.
  • Stay hydrated. Bring a water bottle. Better yet, buy a hydration
    pack to carry lots of water and keeps your hands free.
  • Don’t forget the food! Feed your soul with energy bars, especially on longer rides.
  • Pay attention to trail direction. Many trails are marked with directional arrows designating days or times for different trail users.
  • Follow the rules of the road. Ride on open trails only, control your bike, always yield the trail, never scare animals and plan ahead
  • Stay on track. Riding off trails can cause erosion.
  • Respect other trail users. Use a verbal warning when approaching pedestrians from behind, and yield the trail to horses.
  • Call ahead, when possible. Checking schedules and closures may save you a trip.
  • If you go alone, tell someone. Be self-sufficient by bringing basic tools and supplies. I even bring my cell phone.
  • Avoid riding at night. This can be dangerous, but can also be fun. Local clubs often schedule guided night rides.
  • Support the cause. Much of the trails you ride are built and maintained by local organizations. Throw in a dollar or two at trailheads that accept donations. Or, donate your time with trail-building projects.
  • If you don’t already belong to a mountain biking club, join
Mountain Biking MagazineEnjoy the excitement of Mountain Biking
Additional Resources for Mountain Biking in North Georgia:

Mountain Biking Georgia (FalconGuide) Written by a former president of SORBA, this book is considered the source authority for mountain bikers in north Georgia

The Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association promotes all areas of mountain biking.
MTB Review offers trail reviews in North Georgia as well as product reviews.

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