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.