42 to 60 Miles
3300 to 5800 Feet
North Georgia’s mixed-surface Swinging Bridge routes come 42 and 60 mile versions. Both cross the Tocoa river twice, on an antique non-swinging steel bridge in the quaint town of Aska and again on the cable suspended bridge which really does swing. The 60 mile version adds the infamous climb to Winding Stair Gap. Take a moment to visit the US Fish and Wildlife Service fish hatchery on Rock Creek Rd if you have the time. This is one of the prettiest routes in the state.
Two versions of the Swinging Bridge routes have enough in common that it makes sense to describe them together. Both are mostly gravel and include the town of Aska as well as the Swinging Bridge itself. Both feature biscuits at Van Zandt’s Grill if one is so inclined and you get there before 11:00 AM.
Where the routes differ has to do with start location. The 60 mile version starts further south and climbs the ridge twice, once to get to the swinging bridge and another to get back to the start. The 42 mile version starts further north, climbing and descends the ridge only once and just for fun. Speaking of fun, the climb on the 60 mile version is none other than Winding Stair Gap Rd with its sustained 12% grade.
Some of the gravel Forest Service roads on the Swinging Bridge routes are also used on the Duncan Ridge Loop and Nimblewill Gap routes. These run through thick forests, often along rushing streams and parallel the Appalachian Trail in places.
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 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.
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 follow the line.
As a final note, a fish hatchery is operated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service along Rock Creek Rd, just prior to the final 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.
- 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 Three Forks located on Forest Service Rd 58 (Noontoola Creek)
- Parking for the long route is at the Jake Mountain Trailhead in Nimblewill. Parking for the short route is at the Fellowship Primitive Baptist Church on Doublehead Gap Rd. Riders opting for the short route may have to park at a convenient place further along the road on the first and third Sunday morning each month.
- The Jake Mountain Trailhead has a porta-pottie. Bring a trowel and TP if you park at the Baptist Church.
- There is a store in Aska and Van Zandt’s grill is indicated on the map. Other than that you are on your own.