TALKING ROCK, GA
The 45 mile mixed-surface Talking Rock Gravel route is an absolute blast. Portions beg to be hammered and lots of climbing adds spice. The route starts one hour north of Atlanta and features impressive views of Rich and Burnt Mountains, meadows, orchards and genteel countryside. For those so inclined there’s even mid-ride charcuterie and tasting available at a winery right on the route.
This route is fun. We’re talking big grin, high-five fun. If there are gravel and paved equivalents to mountain bike “Flow” trails then some of these roads are it. Much of this route makes riders race each other just because. You won’t be able to help yourself.
The Talking Rock Gravel route shares a few roads with the Talona Creek route but starts further south and avoids the gnar inside the Rich Mountain WMA. The Talking Rock route is more genteel, but don’t confuse “Genteel” and “Fun” with easy.
Maps claim 4100 feet of climbing but most riders end with their GPS showing 4600 to 4800. There are many smaller climbs on this route but two are notable. The gravel Raven Cliff Rd climb comes early and is locally infamous – you will spend a minute or two at 12% and woe to those who climb it when the gravel is fresh! Yukon Rd climb comes late in the ride and pavement tilts up at 5% for about a mile. Twisty descents, fast sweepers and transitions from pavement to gravel and back again will test your technical skills. Of these, the descent on Price Creek Rd at mile 38.7 stands out with its perilous drop, hairpin, and long finish.
Sporadic logging and land cleared for livestock give this route a much more open feel than routes in the densely wooded national forests. Surprisingly “Big” scenery will suddenly pop into view when cresting a hill or rounding a bend. One particular view of Rich Mountain will have you on the brakes. Wineries, meadows, lakes, horse and cattle farms, dozens of creeks… There’s no shortage of things to look at. Even the store stop at mile 19 has lots of character.
The route starts at a gravel parking lot in the Talking Rock Nature Preserve. “Nature Preserve” is a actually a local term which roughly translates to “Mountain bike park.” Bigun’s Barbeque on highway 515 is an alternate starting point but private parking signs threaten towing so check with the owners before riding off. This is Georgia wine country and those so inclined may want to stop at the Ott Farm & Vinyard which is on the route at mile 29.
A great time for the Talking Rock Gravel route is in May when honeysuckle and ligustrum perfume the air and the meadows are full of yellow-tops. The orchards are gorgeous in April when the apple trees are in bloom. The mountains reveal themselves in winter when the leaves are off the trees – a special treat for those who venture into the cold.
- Both Google and OSM maps contain significant errors and the route map has been manually corrected in several spots based on satellite view and GPS tracks from actual rides. Even so, don't be surprised if a turn notification fails to pop up or you get an off course warning once or twice.
- Traffic is a fact of life and there will be a few cars the 0.3 mile section of Highway 52 immediately after the store stop. Highway 52 is a popular motor-touring route and several apple orchards have retail shops in the area so you may encounter more traffic during fall apple season. The upside is fried pies!
- You may see some additional nuisance traffic around mile 31 which passes near the Chateau Meichtry winery. Motor vehicles themselves are not a much of a problem as is the dust they kick up on the gravel roads.
- Expect to see an ATV or two on the gravel back roads. Operators are typically respectful and slow down for cyclists. They are probably more surprised to see you than you are to see them and a rear blinky helps alert them to your presence.
- Parking at the Talking Rock Nature Preserve is free.
- Some park at Bigun's Barbeque on Highway 515. Check with the owners before doing so.
- The store stop at mile 19 and Ott Farm & Vineyard at mile 29 both have restrooms.
- Water may be available from the spigot at Pleasant Valley Church at mile 33.4.
- The nearest towns with any services to speak of are Elijay five miles to the north and Jasper eight miles to the south where you will find big box stores, fast food and gas stations. Canton is further south and will be the nearest large town with full services.
- The nearest bike shops are Cartecay Bike Shop in Ellijay and Outspokin' in Canton.
Rode this Jan of 2023 and had a blast. I would echo some of the below comments and avoid the stretch of John Call Rd. at the NW corner of this route. There was one house with multiple dogs that felt unsafe, and is a minimal detour without missing much. With the exception of the John Call Rd. stretch, all other dogs were harmless or friendly.
Pleasant Valley Baptist Church water was accessible under the lower canopy on 05/27/21.
Rode this a second time and dragged my riding partner along this time. I was worried it might not be enough gravel for him but I love the mix of gravel and nice road on this one. The chicken coops do smell but for me it was a small price to pay for the route. Last time I did this I get hassled by dogs that were not really too aggressive but this time there were none. I did this on March 21st and have been meaning to leave a note. I just now did that on two other rides on the site.
Rode this for the first time yesterday — great route and I agree with/appreciate all of the comments above. My only recommendation is to ride this before the weather gets too warm and the poultry farms get more pungent. There are many chicken coops close to this route and there a few where you can feel the breeze of the exhaust fans — wheeew! I can’t imagine how bad these would be on a 90-degree day.
A heads up, pretty spicy dog encounter on John Call Road today. Large young male dog on a yard tether snapped his buckle and aggressively chased. I unclipped just in time (to move leg out of the way) and he bit something on the bike. A few loud “NO’s!” and he eventually gave up. I recommend avoiding John Call Road. Thanks as always for the routes, Tim.
I rode this about a month ago with a friend – sadly we got too early of a start and the winery wasn’t open yet when we rode by. Overall, this was a super fun route, I especially liked the great scenery and that it was challenging without being a sufferfest. I enjoyed getting in a good bit of climbing, but appreciated that the uphill sections were broken up. Unlike some routes to the north of this area where the climbing is done all at once. As others have mentioned, there are numerous dogs along the route, one particular section had a pack of about five or so that looked a little frightening as we approached. Luckily they were fairly lazy. Definitely a new north Georgia favorite route. Thanks yet again for posting the routes and running the site, I’ve enjoyed exploring them.
I tried this route back in May 2020. It had lots of gravel, and a lot of climbing. Guess it wasn’t my day though, a sudden storm came up with high winds and hail, despite what started out as a beautiful ride. From what I understand that is common in this area. Ran into an issue with the route too, but it has since been corrected. That said, I want to try this route again, in more favorable conditions. It has a cult-like following to say the least!
Thanks so much for posting this ride file. My boyfriend and I did the route today since we were off for Columbus Day. It was fun, scenic and challenging. We stopped at Ott winery. I thought it was so cool that it goes past two wineries and two orchards. Can’t wait to try out some of the other routes that are on this site.
Kelly, that sounds like a good time!
How about that view from Ott’s backyard?
Oh yeah, the view from the back of that winery is gorgeous!
I rode this solo two weekends ago. It was one of the best rides of my life but I am fairly new to gravel. I loved the variety of the gravel and the hopping on and off of it because the paved roads were great. The dogs I ran into scared me but gave up as soon as I got past the owners home. There was one tiny stretch that I couldn’t ride and just had to push a tiny way up rough single track. It was just past this amazing section where the road was double track on grass right in some folks front yard. I have lived in Atlanta my entire life and this scenery and road quality is so close. For the longest time I was very anti driving to ride a bike but now I’m completely sold. This start location is perfect for Atlanta and the bike park is a great parking situation. I tossed a fiver in the donation thing.
Thanks so much for this site. I’m trying to do lots of these during the COVID times as I stay away from folks. I did the first 200 miles of the gravel traverse and it was great.
IIRC the doubletrack is Roston Rd. That’s an amazing section. Man, so glad you liked the route and that you are enjoying the site!
Rode it today! Just awesome! Loved the route and mixed surfaces. Some high grade punchy climbs. A few dogs but nothing too bad. Can’t wait to go back
That’s great Adam! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Unfortunately country dogs are going to be a reality anytime a route passes near residential areas. It’s part of the allure of this route, as are the climbs! I hope to see you out there someday.
This is a seriously fun and scenic route just a short drive from the Atlanta area! It’s a great mix of some gorgeous paved N.GA roads with some truly backwoods feeling gravel and dirt double track. Though the route has some good elevation (we ended around ~4700) it’s pretty spread out throughout the ride, with the exception of the two big climbs listed above. The quick switches from road to gravel and back again partnered with some fast, twisty descents will definitely have you and your buddies high-fiving throughout the ride. This partnered with the scenery (super cool with lots of cows, mountains, orchards, valleys) make this ride a real good time.
Two notes for future riders:
The Fuller Holt Rd. section is SUPER overgrown, to the point where it is barely possible to tell what’s the path and what’s just brushland. We trusted the GPS and bushwhacked our way through with some effort, so it’s definitely possible but briar beware!
Second, we encountered a bunch of dogs. Though most seemed harmless we did get chased a few times, so some spray or a whistle may be wise.
Don’t let those two points put you off though, even if this route had the Sandlot dog running loose on the gravel I’d still be back for round two – it’s just that fun.
Hello “Buck” 🙂
I’m glad you enjoyed the route and had a good time. Your post puzzled me however, as I had done this route three times and honestly don’t remember any overgrown sections. Sure enough, looking back at my Strava feed, it appears that I’ve never ridden Fuller Holt Rd!
May 9 we turned left on Bunt Mountain Rd before reaching Fuller Holt Rd.
May 16 I crossed over Burnt Mountain Rd and rode right past Fuller Holt Rd.
there is one other on my feed, more of the same. To err is human and to forgive is divine. I hope you can forgive me for sending you guys into the briars. Please pass along my apologies to your crew.
The map has been updated so that it now goes left on Burnt Mountain Rd. The metrics in the post were corrected to reflect slightly shorter distance and elevation.
As to dogs… yeah, they are a fact of life and there are a few on this route. Two are just noisemakers. I carry Sabre pepper gel just in case.
Thanks for the update and for the feedback. I appreciate it more than you know.