Set a few minutes west of Dahlonega, Georgia on some of the same roads used for the Southern Cross gravel race, the 47 mile Nimblewill Gap route includes an unmaintained US Forest Service road over the gap from which the route takes its name. A mountain bike wouldn’t be out of place on this route.
The Nimblewill Gap Loop uses some of the same roads as the Southern Cross gravel race held yearly in March, but in the reverse direction. Three big climbs, one paved, and and a flyby of Camp Merrill, home to the US Army Rangers 5th Training Battalion are included on this route. Miles 10 to 17 parallel the Appalachian Trail at high elevation.
For a route with many beautiful and interesting features, Nimblewill Gap Road stands out. It is popular with the 4×4 and Jeep crowd and the a significant portion is completely unmaintained, that is to say, very rough. Bikes with 2 inch or wider tires will excel here. The climb and descent come late in the route and the transition to the last pavement section is very pretty.
Thick hardwood forest, impenetrable Rhodedendron groves and mountain streams make this area an outdoor lover’s paradise and the area hosts extensive mountain bike and equestrian trail systems. Expect changeable gravel depending on when the route is ridden. The US Forest Service sometimes dumps fresh gravel on the roads in this area in advance of hunting season while at other times, the roads which see more vehicular traffic can be packed down, smooth and very fast. Ridden slower, the Nimblewill Loop offers many opportunities to take in the views or relax by a waterfall.
- Afternoon thunderstorms are common in the mountains of North Georgia. Consider riding early in the day if you venture out in the heat of summer.
- The route crosses over and traverses a ridge line. The north facing slopes can be several degrees cooler than the south facing slopes. This may impact your choice of gear for riding this route.
- There are no store stops on this route. Bring extra bottles, a hydration pack or plan to filter.
- Free parking is available at the Jake Mountain trailhead parking lot in Nimblewill, eight miles west of the City of Dahlonega.
- The Jake Mountain trailhead has a porta-pottie. Consider a donation to help defray its cost. Information is on the inside of the door.
- The route can be shortened by turning left at mile 17.5 and descending Winding Stair Gap Road. This will eliminate the gnar on Nimblewill Gap Rd.
- The closest town with services is Dahlonega, eight miles to the east of the route start.
Route has significant portion of road. From turning left on Double Gap rd to the bottom of the Nimblewill gap climb (10+mi) and last few mi to the parking lot at Jake Mtn.
Starting the SECR bucket list challenge of riding all the routes, staring with Nimblewill Gap. Much like the old days of following the maps of Jim Parham and dog earing the page after completing a route, I’ll have to find a way to remember which ones I have completed here.
Nimblewill Gap is a great ride. I rode it CCW and decided the mtn bike made for the best rig to handle the rough descents on backside of Nimblewill and bomb down Coopers Gap without a care.
No store stops, so bring your food and water. The spigot at church was dry. Many spots to filter water if needed. I only say this because I rode with one bottle and it was already 3/4 empty. And it was hot. Be prepared.