The West U. S. may have its share of vast deserts, rocks and canyons, but it can’t hold a candle to the Southeast’s lush forests, scenic nature trails, whoop-de-doos and jaw-dropping descents. Here in the Southeast, mountain riders of every level can find suitably challenging trails that snake along Smoky Mountain ridgetops, ancient riverbeds, backcountry roads and through old growth forests. Several states offer trails that are ideal for beginner and intermediate riders and many that are more than challenging for advanced mountain bikers.
Beginning and intermediate riders should check out the Forks Area Trail System in South Carolina with its 37 miles of climbs and dips that will push you out of your comfort zone, but not unseat you. This network of trails includes the Savannah River and Smoky Mountain range with a highlight being the five-mile Deep Step Trail. It’s got more climbing than any other Forks Area Trail, but it’s non-technical and peppered with whoops, berms, and gently banking turns. A great place to practice your stability and control on descents.
Coldwater, Mountain in Anniston, Alabama has a single track one-mile beginners loop and a 9-mile intermediate loop circling the mountain. In Kentucky and Tennessee, Big South Fork has several trails that have been designed, built and are maintained by the Big South Fork Mountain Bike Club. In addition to bike only trails, mountain bikers are allowed on backcountry roads, highway edges and some horse trails.
The more adventurous advanced rider may want to head to Monte Sano in Huntsville, Alabama with its 60 miles of trails to make just about everyone happy. The top of the mountain is smooth and relatively flat, but advanced riders will want to take the plunge off the plateau. You’ll really give your suspension a workout as you fly over rocks and navigate short and medium verticals that numb your hands and pump your legs.
And that’s just the warm-up. The southern half of the Mountain Mist Trail that rolls along just under the cliff line of the plateau has more rock and technical features than you can count. Rock gardens, switchbacks and rock armoring can be found on the Goat Trail. The Keith Trail and the Logan Point Trail feature some of the best technical challenges and climbs. Even more technical downhill sections or ascents are located on Cold Springs, McKay Hollow, and Warpath Ridge. Be prepared to hike your bike in some places, as parts of the trail are double black diamond.
One of the longest sections of advanced riding is the long climb/descent of the Fagan Spring/Wildflower to Toll Gate to Cold Springs Trail combo. It begins as a tight technical rocky single track then changes to a rough old 1800’s toll roadbed, then back again.
With extremely tough climbs, a highly technical contour single track, awe-inspiring descents and lots of crazy drops, only the most skilled riders may want to tackle it.
Regardless of the challenge you’re seeking, no need to go West. No doubt, you’ll find what you’re looking for here in the Southeast.