THE TOCCOA SWINGING BRIDGE

SUCHES, GEORGIA

RIDE TYPE
Mixed-Surface
DISTANCE
Varies
ASCENT
Varies
PAVEMENT
43%
COURSE
Loop
TERRAIN
Mountains
GRAVEL
57%
SETTING
Forest
HIGHEST POINT
3302 Ft

North Georgia’s 47 & 51 mile mixed-surface Toccoa Swinging Bridge routes cross the Toccoa river twice, first an antique steel bridge in the quaint town of Aska and again on a cable suspended bridge which really does swing. Both feature quiet country roads through broad valleys framed by mountain peaks, lakes, rivers, pristine forests and sustained gravel climbs. The longer option will test your skill on the blistering “High House” descent. Either option will likely be one of the prettiest routes you will ever ride.

Short Option
47.2 miles/4145 feet
Long Option
51.4 Miles/4695 Feet

The first 20 miles of the Swinging Bridge route are almost all pavement. 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 a few punchy gravel hills and past horse corrals. Dial Rd runs along the bank of the Toccoa 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 only stores come early. Gourmands will note pecan pie at the Iron Bridge Cafe while Van Zandt’s Grill & Grocery is known for their biscuits (before 11:00 AM). Located at miles 10 and 15 respectively, these are your only chances for a bottle refill apart from filtering. Van Zandt’s is just off Dial Rd and worth the stop for the front porch views alone. Check the map for exact locations.

Mile 20 marks the start of gravel and there’s as much as you want, interrupted only by a photo or two as you walk across the swinging bridge. The gravel approach road to the swinging bridge is well used by motorists who can sometimes be spotted smashing passenger cars 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 trust it. A small creek crossing indicates that you are going in the right direction.

Bear left at the Shady Grove Baptist Church (mile 25.6) for a wonderful loop through the woods. Lower Frozen Branch Rd ends a couple of hundred yards from where it started. Skipping it will shorten the routes by about six miles but it really shouldn’t be missed. Shelf roads, impressively large Poplar trees and views of peaks above and roads below highlight an already beautiful route.

Climbing starts after the the loop and gets steeper as you go up, followed by a traversal of the ridge where the road parallels the Appalachian Trail. Both route options cross the AT three times and those on the longer version can chat with hikers at the parking area near the trail’s southern terminus before the switchbacks on the High House descent. Those opting for the shorter route will enjoy a slightly more casual descent along Noontoola Creek for close to seven miles.

Deciding between the 47 and 51 mile routes can be put off until late in the route if you load both options onto your GPS. Seasoned legs can continue along the ridge from Winding Stair Gap (mile 39.5) and enjoy a few hundred feet more climbing. The shorter 47 mile route heads downhill from the gap but you will need to choose your downhill wisely. The correct road for the shorter route descends north. Incorrectly dropping off the ridge to the south means climbing back up Winding Stair Gap Rd and its 17% grades! Either way, plan on getting a little turned around at the gap’s five way intersection. Which road to take isn’t clear so you may have to backtrack a little if you make a mistake. Just don’t go too far without checking your GPS.

The Toccoa Swinging Bridge routes represent the absolute best of an area which epitomizes north Georgia gravel. The route would make an amazing auto tour completely apart from cycling. If you are reading this and don’t yet have a gravel bike then this route is your excuse for N+1. It’s that good.

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  • 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 Springer Mountain (mile 42 on the long route).
  • The short section of singletrack from the parking area to the Swinging Bridge is part of the Benton MacKaye hiking trail where bike riding is prohibited. As a very practical matter, you can expect families with small children on the footpath, especially during weekends in summer. Please be respectful and walk your bike from the parking area to the bridge.
  • You will have weak or no cell signal throughout much of the route.
  • Parking for the route is at the Fellowship Primitive Baptist Church on Doublehead Gap Rd. You may have to park at a convenient place further along the road on the first and third Sunday of each month.
  • There are no facilities at the start.
  • The Iron Bridge Cafe is in Aska at about mile 10. Van Zandt’s grill is indicated on the map. Both are early on the route and there are no other services apart from a few pit toilets at campgrounds along the way so plan accordingly.
  • The nearest towns with services are Elijay approximately 10 miles to the west, Dahlonega approximately 15 miles to the southeast and Blue Ridge approximately 18 miles to the northwest. Getting to these towns will take significantly longer than expected due to the winding nature of mountain roads.

Terms of Use: Use of this route is at your own risk. This route map and associated route descriptions are believed correct at the time of publication but accuracy cannot be guaranteed. You assume all responsibility for 1) checking weather and road conditions, 2) knowing and obeying land use rules and restrictions, 3) knowing and obeying all rules of the road, 4) carrying and using proper safety and navigation equipment and, 5) knowing the limits of your physical ability. SoutheasCyclingRoutes.com, contributors and Timothy Hollingworth are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other loss to individuals following this route or using information contained in the route map or description.

5 thoughts on “THE TOCCOA SWINGING BRIDGE

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  1. I rode this with a friend on 6/18/2021. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the road parts. So few cars, we could relax and enjoy the smooth pavement. The last descent had some fresh, loose gravel that made it a little more sketchy than thrilling, but we made it fine and would definitely ride it again. Thanks for sharing the route.

  2. Please make it more clear that there is a mandatory ~1/2 mile hike a bike on the Benton Mackaye Trail to and then across the bridge until you hit gravel again. It’s not just the bridge. The BMTA is open to bikes being walked down the trail from the end of the FS road and crossing the bridge but we could alienate them if any riders accidentally ride a portion of this no-bike section.

    1. Hi Daniel. Thank you for this. SoutheastCyclingRoutes.com always respects land use rules and urges all riders to do so. It is part of our terms of use. We are not fans of “Going rogue” as some call it.

      I am aware that bicycles and horseback are permitted on parts of the trail but that much of the trail is off limits to bikes. I have ridden section 14c/Buck Bald in Tennessee which is open to motorcycles! It is difficult to find information online re permitted use by section. Do you have a link? I should have looked for a sign but will do so in a few weeks when I’m up there next. If bikes are not permitted on section sections 02c and 02d then we will certainly make note of it on the website. For now, a note about families with small children using the trail and the need to be respectful has been added to the “Must Know” section.

      Thanks again. Your feedback is appreciated more than you know!

      -Tim-

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