The Fried Green 27/42/50 routes explore the extensive network of gravel roads in and around the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge near Juliette, Ga. Located little more than an hour south of Atlanta, three lengths provide options for riders of all abilities. All feature pristine pine glades and hardwood forests, rolling and sometimes playful terrain, a few creek crossings and postcard perfect gravel.
The Fried Green 50 gravel route has become a classic and several shorter versions are posted on the internet under various names. All share a common denominator – the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge. That the area gets so much attention is a testament to its idyllic setting and high quality gravel. The three route options are:
|Fried Green 27|
27.0 mi/1697 ft
|Fried Green 42|
41.9 mi/2564 ft
|Fried Green 50|
52.0 mi/3013 ft
The Piedmont NWR is administered by the US Fish & Wildlife Service as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Unlike public lands which are often managed to support competing interests, the refuge system exists for for a singular purpose – conservation. Everything about the Piedmont NWR, including what’s permitted for recreation, serves that purpose. Riding here is a privilege.
Piedmont NWR was established in 1939 as a “combination wildlife and game-management demonstration area” to demonstrate that wildlife could be restored on worn out, eroded lands. Ira Gabrielson, Chief of the Bureau of Biological Survey, predecessor agency of the US Fish & Wildlife Service, selected Piedmont from a list of Resettlement Projects. He stated that if the Bureau could take a piece of completely worn out and useless land, like Piedmont was at the time, and make it into a productive wildlife area, then he would know that any kind of land could be managed for wildlife.https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Piedmont/about.html
The universally accepted start location is the boat ramp/park near the rough assortment of buildings known as Juliette, GA. You may spot a bald eagle soaring above the Ocmulgee River after sunrise and probably won’t be the only cyclist getting ready on a nice weekend. Take a moment to soft pedal through town and check out the old mill. The movie Fried Green Tomatoes was filmed in Juliette.
All three options use pavement only when absolutely necessary. The 42 and 52 mile versions extend further east for a bottle refill in the hamlet of Round Oak where an adventurous and fit cyclist could pick up the Red Clay Ramble route. The two longer options will necessarily spend more time on county maintained gravel and include a few extra miles of pavement.
Gravel maintained by Uncle Sam within the refuge is superb, ranging from glassy smooth boulevards to gorgeous doubletrack. The place defines the phrase “Well groomed” and the photos below show typical conditions. Terrain is gently rolling with a few kickers here and there. Several creek crossings keep things fun as they seem to pop up out of nowhere rounding a curve or on a short descent. Heavy rains might necessitate crossing on foot for the sake of your bottom bracket.
The road system within the refuge is a labyrinth so bring and trust your GPS. Some roads look great on the map but are actually closed to all but foot traffic. Signs make the rules very clear. SoutheastCyclingRoutes.com always respects land use rules and the Fried Green routes are no exception. Check the Must Know and Logistics tabs for links to important information such as hunting closure dates and facilities hours so that there are no surprises.
The only possible services on the Fried Green 42/52 routes is a water spigot located at the Georgia Forestry Commission fire tower on Monticello Highway. The location is indicated on the map but you really can’t miss the fire tower. The Fried Green 27 route has no refill point and all three routes are without store stops so expect to be self-sufficient.
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|Special thanks to SoutheastCyclingRoutes.com contributor GREG HANCHAR for assistance scouting the Fried Green 27/42/50 routes.|
- Vehicles (including bicycles) are prohibited from a significant portion of the roads in the National Wildlife Refuge. The Fried Green 27/42/50 routes respect the rules and utilizes only roads where cycling is permitted.
- The refuge is closed to everyone except permitted hunters during firearm deer hunts in the fall. Check the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge rules and regulations page for a link to the complete list of all rules and hunting dates.
- Little Rock Wildlife Drive is typically closed from Nov 15 through Feb 15 and will not be accessible between these dates. The road is located at Mile 11.5 on the 42 mile route and mile 14.9 on the 52 mile route. Continue east on Round Oak Julette Rd instead.
- Some websites incorrectly state that a Georgia Land Pass or hunting/fishing license is required. The NWR permits page however states, "A Georgia WMA license is not required since the refuge is NOT a state area." The Fried Green 27/42/50 routes do not pass through any Georgia Wildlife Management Area and so a Georgia Land Pass or hunting/fishing license is not required to ride the Fried Green routes.
- Free parking is available at the start location. There are a few picnic tables and a garbage can but no restrooms or water.
- Water is available at the Georgia Forestry Commission office/fire tower located at mile 27.5 on the 52 mile route and mile 24.2 on the 42 mile route. When asked whether the spigot was left on during the winter, a member of the Ocmulgee Mountain Bike Association replied, "It’s always been on year round." The spigot is at the corner of the main building. There is a second spigot behind the rear buildings.
- Water is not available on the 27 mile route apart from filtering.
- The only other possibility for water is the NWR visitor center which is only open Monday to Friday.
- All three routes lack store stops so bring whatever food you need.
- Convenience stores are located about 1 mile west of the start location at the corner of Julette Rd and US 23 (GA Hwy 27).
- The nearest full service town is Forsyth, located about 10 miles west of the start location along the I-75 corridor.