The 56 mile Centralhatchee Mixed Surface route meanders through the pastoral landscape of West Georgia's Heard and Carroll Counties. Farming is the area's biggest industry and the route passes dozens of working farms, each one prettier than the last. It feels like riding through a postcard at times, especially for city or suburban folk. The sparsely populated area has very light traffic and some of the highest quality gravel you will ever ride.
ESOM HILL ADVENTURE
The Esom Hill Adventure route pushes the boundaries of what's possible on a gravel bike. There's almost 18 miles of genteel country pavement but much of the remaining 29 miles consists of jeep roads, frog puddles and a few sections of straight up bedrock. Throw in a crossing of Terrapin Creek and a little bit of hike-a-bike and you have yourself a bonafide adventure ride! This 47 mile mixed-surface route starts just a stone's throw from Alabama at the Silver Comet Trailhead in Esom Hill, Georgia.
THE POLK PYRENEES
Generations of cyclists have played on the ridge which stretches through Paulding and Polk counties in West Georgia. Climbs with names such as Everett Mountain, Paris Mountain and Vinson Mountain are hidden gems located just a few pedal strokes off the Silver Comet Trail. All are 100% paved and linked together by gently rolling terrain dotted with ranches and country estates. The metric distance Polk Pyrenees route showcases this incredible area and a shorter option is provided for those who prefer a little less climbing.
LAKE CHEAHA GRAVEL
The Lake Cheaha Gravel routes are located just south south of Cheaha State Park in Alabama. 36 and 43 mile options utilize 4x4 roads to traverse the spine of Talladega Mountain southward and long stretches of impeccably groomed gravel return north to the lake. The opening and closing miles of the route are paved and feature perfect rollers and impressive views of the mountains. Rugged jeep roads and lots of elevation make the longer version more difficult than numbers suggest. The shorter option avoids the more intense sections for those who prefer to get back to the lake early.
BIG TEXAS VALLEY
Big Texas Valley isn't in Texas but a few minutes north of the city of Rome in northwest Georgia. Its the ideal start location for this 47 mile paved road route where you'll encounter easy pedaling on quiet country roads punctuated by two significant climbs. The area has a thriving cycling scene and draws cyclists from Chattanooga, Atlanta and points beyond.
Gorgeous horse ranches, tree canopy tunnels, open views and an almost complete absence of traffic make this 57 mile road route northwest of Cartersville GA as beautiful as it is challenging. Road cyclists have been climbing Boyd Mountain since the days of lugged frames and cue sheets. In spite of its name it isn't quite the mountains but it isn't flat by any stretch of the imagination. Lots of elevation change, including the 8% KOM from which the route gets its name, will exercise both your derailleurs and your legs.
THE TOCCOA SWINGING BRIDGE
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.
Starting about an hour northwest of Atlanta, the 100% paved Johnson Mountain route enjoys 25 miles of gently rolling terrain through Bartow County, Georgia before heading into the hills east of Highway 411. Here you'll encounter 10% grades, descents to test your nerve and views which rival anything in the south. This is 53 miles of some of the finest road cycling the area has to offer.
The 43 mile Rock Creek route starts in the craft brewery and arts focused town of Blue Ridge and travels to the edge of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Along the way you will climb among million dollar mountaintop homes, meander along rushing creeks and enjoy postcard views of the North Georgia mountains. This mixed surface route is a visual delight with lots of variety and surprises around just about every corner.
Accessible from the Chief Ladiga and Silver Comet Rail Trails, the playful and rolling Duggar Mountain gravel routes are available in 41, 52 and 68 mile lengths. All three traverse ridges and climb the sometimes punchy hills in the pine glades of the Talladega National Forest near Piedmont, Alabama.
FRIED GREEN 27/42/50
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 Heintooga Ridge route climbs from the banks of the Oconaluftee River near Cherokee NC to over a mile high. The route passes through two of the Blue Ridge Parkway's iconic tunnels before turning into the woods and entering Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A 17 mile descent on a one-way gravel road features shelf roads and long sections along rolling whitewater. This 47 mile mixed-surface route is unforgettable and worth the drive from anywhere in the South.
The Coopers Creek route is set in the heart of North Georgia's Blue Ridge Mountains. The 58 mile loop contains long stretches of gravel along pristine trout streams, impressive views of the mountains and a seven mile descent to the finish. The area is a mecca for road and gravel cycling. If you only do one gravel ride in North Georgia, the Coopers Creek route should be on your list.
Water defines the 66 mile mixed surface Rainbow Springs route in Western North Carolina. The route is an out & back along the banks of the Nantahala River and a significant portion of the route features crashing whitewater within river's gorge. A spin along the lake and views of 5000 foot peaks will have you reaching for your camera. A fast finish will have you grinning like a little kid.
THE ALABAMA SKYWAY
The 100 mile Alabama Skyway route starts along the Chief Ladiga rail trail in the city of Piedmont, Alabama. 41% of the route is on gravel roads through the Talladega National Forest and along the edge of the federally protected Duggar Mountain Wilderness. Much of the route follows the Skyway Motorway which runs the crest of the Talladega Mountains and includes a paved climb to the highest point in Alabama at Cheaha Mountain State Park. The route is well suited to a two day bikepacking trip if 11,000 feet of climbing is too much for one day.