At least 60%
No more than 40%
Accessible from the Chief Ladiga and Silver Comet Rail Trails, the playful and rolling Dugger Mountain gravel routes are available in 41, 52 and 63 mile lengths. All three traverse ridges and climb the sometimes punchy hills in the pine glades of the Talladega National Forest near Piedmont, Alabama.
Gravel in Alabama’s Talladega National Forest is sublime. In fact, the first route ever published on SoutheastCyclingRoutes.com was in the rolling hills of the Talladega National Forest. The Dugger Mountain routes revisit the forest from a more accessible perspective and add a few surprises to keep things interesting. 41, 52 and 63 mile options will satisfy riders of all abilities.
All three Dugger Mountain routes start at the Eubanks Welcome Center on the Cheif Ladiga Rail Trail in Piedmont, Alabama. The Chief Ladiga Trail connects to the Silver Comet Trail in Georgia and one could start anywhere along either to increase mileage. Piedmont has most modern conveniences and the welcome center has restrooms, space for about a dozen cars and a couple of very friendly cats.
The first 8.5 miles is an out-and back followed by loops of various lengths depending on how far you want to ride. All three routes run concurrent for the first 18.5 miles and the two longer loops share the same GPS track for another 7.5 miles.
The routes start on the rail trail followed by a few miles of local roads which take riders to the base of Dugger Mountain. If you are not warmed up at the bottom, you will be at the top. While not insanely long, the climb is steep. This is arguably the toughest part of the route and the feature from which the route gets its name. Keep in mind that the outbound climb will be a blistering descent on the return. Gravel greets you on the other side of the ridge where the federally protected Dugger Mountain Wilderness will be on your right. A paved crossing of Rabbittown Rd is an obvious regroup point and signals the start of the loop section.
The loops feature a couple of one or two mile long climbs but terrain is mostly rolling and open views through Loblolly Pine glades abound. Gravel quality is generally excellent but you may encounter a little gnar on steeper parts where washout has occurred. Like most national forests, the forest service may dump fresh gravel in advance of hunting season, typically in the early fall. The amount of gnar and chunk are below average however and the roads tend to roll fast. It’s super fun!
All three loops converge at the Shoal Creek Church which was built circa 1895. Two other buildings preceded it but one of them burned. The churches served a long-gone population of settlers but the location is now, quite literally, the middle of nowhere. Unhook the latch and head inside. The place is fascinating. You can learn more about the building and it’s people at the Shoal Creek Preservation Society website.
Coleman Lake Recreation Area is a short distance from the church and getting there may require a brief CX style carry. The campground’s day use area has restrooms, the route’s only water and an outdoor shower! In winter you may be able to ride the walking trail around the back side of the lake but take care on the wooden bridges as they are as slippery as ice. There’s no prohibition against bicycles on the walking trail but its best to leave it to families in warmer months when the campground is full. Either way, the turn for the trail is indicated on the maps.
Try not to burn all your matches early in the loops, especially if you are doing the longer routes. It’s easy to get carried away hammering Alabama’s fun gravel roads but the route gets noticeably more punchy heading north from Coleman Lake. Lots of steep kickers in this section have taken their toll on more than one rider! In contrast, the final six miles back to your car are an absolute delight as the descent off Dugger Mountain gives way to a flat finish on the Chief Ladiga Trail.
Close proximity to the Chief Ladiga and adjoining Silver Comet Trails makes the Talladega National Forest a prime bikepacking destination for those riding in from Georgia. Organized racing in the forest has dramatically increased the area’s popularity and with good reason. The riding is simply fantastic.
Check the tabs below for links to important information such as hunting dates and prescribed burns. Please post a comment if you ride one of the Dugger Mountain routes. Your feedback is a great way to help the cycling community stay up to date about cycling routes across the southeast. We would love to hear how the routes works out for you.
- Cell service will be spotty or non-existent in the National Forest.
- Keep in mind the time zone change if driving in from the east. Piedmont AL is in the central time zone.
- Alabaman's love to hunt and the Talladega National Forest is very popular. Hunters are deep in the woods so stay on the gravel roads if you ride on dates when hunting is allowed. The Coleman Lake Recreation Area is absolutely off limits to hunters. SoutheastCyclingRoutes.com experience is that hunters are friendly and curious. Just keep in mind that there may be additional traffic on the forest roads during firearm deer hunts.
- The Duggar Mountain routes are in the Choccolocco Wildlife Management Area. WMA hunting maps and schedules can be found at https://www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/wildlife-management-areas.
- The National Forest Service sometimes performs prescribed burns in the Talladega National Forest. You will see evidence of burning out on the routes. The US Forest Service however, has a uniquely and supremely frustrating inability to provide a succinct source of information and often does not post dates on their notices. This makes it impossible to find current information. Your best bet is to call the Talladega Ranger District. The phone number can be found at https://www.fs.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsinternet/cs/contactus/alabama/about-forest/contactus/.
- Parking at the Eubanks Welcome Center is free but space is limited. You may need to park elswhere on busy summer afternoons.
- The Eubanks Welcome Center caretaker typically opens the restrooms around 8:00 AM. Before then they will be locked.
- Piedmont, AL has modern conveniences such as ATM's, fast food stores and medical care. Sandwich shops and fast food are located along Highway 278 on the north side of town.
- Apart from filtering from creeks, the only source of water on all three routes is at the Coleman Lake Recreation Area. Plan accordingly with extra bottles or a hydration pack if riding the longer routes in warmer months.
- Restrooms are located at Coleman Lake. Pine Glen Campground on the two longer routes has pit toilets.
- Bring your own calories because there are no stores on the Dugger Mountain routes.