North Georgia’s 46 mile mixed-surface Swinging Bridge routes crosses the Tocoa river twice, first an antique non-swinging steel bridge in the quaint town of Aska and again on the cable suspended bridge which really does swing. The route features broad valleys with mountain vistas, an uninterrupted 24 mile gravel sector and the blistering “High House” descent. This is one of the prettiest routes in the state.
The first 19 miles of the Swinging Bridge route are mostly paved. Gorgeous country settings and quaint villages punctuate the miles leading to the town of Aska as the route meanders through back roads, up and down a few punchy gravel hills and past horse corrals. Dial Rd runs along the bank of the Tocoa River and Doublehead Gap Rd runs through a broad valley. Both are paved and come with views of the surrounding mountains. Both will rank among the nicest roads you will ever ride.
24 miles of gravel follow, interrupted only by a photo or two as you walk across the swinging bridge. The gravel approach road to the swinging bridge is well used by motorists who can sometimes be spotted smashing Toyota Camrys and Ford Fusions through its minefield of pot holes. There will be a short section of hike-a-bike to get to the north end of the bridge itself. At the south end of the bridge, conditions on the ground don’t make the route back to the road 100% clear so bring your GPS and trust it.
One sustained six mile climb leads to a long traversal of a ridge. This sector uses some of the same roads as the Gravel Reaper and Nimblewill Gap routes, running through thick forests, often along rushing streams and paralleling the Appalachian Trail in places.
The “High House” descent ends the gravel in a big way – expect both your brakes and your cornering skills to be tested.
A fish hatchery is operated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service along Rock Creek Rd, just prior to the big gravel climb. It’s an impressive place and if you time your ride to arrive before 3:00 PM on a weekday you can chat with the staff and see how they hatch and raise the fish.
If your legs complain, the route can be shortened by turning right onto Forest Service Rd 58 at Winding Stair Gap (mile 33.8 on the map). It cuts only a few miles off the route but eliminates significant additional climbing late in the ride and is almost all downhill to the end.
- Water is abundant on the route except during times of drought. Consider filtering before climbing or traversing a ridge.
- There may be significant automobile traffic at trailheads for the Appalachian Trail, especially at Springer Mountain (mile 36.6 on the map)
- Parking for the route is at the Fellowship Primitive Baptist Church on Doublehead Gap Rd. You may have to park at a convenient place further along the road on the first and third Sunday morning each month.
- There are no facilities at the start.
- There is a store in Aska and Van Zandt’s grill is indicated on the map. Both are some early on the route and there are no other services apart from vault toilets so plan accordingly.