As summer reaches its peak, I have been reminded that to stay cool it is best to keep moving. It is easy to get caught indoors enjoying air conditioning when it is so hot outside, but the real trick to beating the heat is to get outside and move (and make sure to drink LOTS of water!) If you're standing still, the heat can be unbearable, but if you move, the wind blows across your skin and cools you off. Here is a list of my favorite places to ride that are close to home so I can save on gas and get the most ride-time with the least drive-time.
Sope Creek / Cochran Shoals: Whether you have a hybrid or mountain bike, there is something for you here. It is accessed by Paper Mill Road, Johnson Ferry, or Powers Ferry in Marietta, at the edge of I-285.This is where I began mountain biking many many years ago when the trails were very different. There is a large loop along the river for flat, easy cruising on a smooth, crushed gravel path, and you can take the main mountain bike / hiking trail up, up, and up to Sibley Pond at Paper Mill Road where the paper mill ruins are. I would rate the mountain bike trail as moderate difficulty as there are not many technical parts to the trail other than the steepness of the climbs. Years ago, there were different sections of very raw trail that were rated “Downhill” or “black diamond” for their rockiness and long downhill runs, although they were not very steep they could be quite fast. The gravel loop at the bottom is almost totally flat with only a single hump of maybe 10' of elevation and is perfectly suited for the complete beginner trying to get into basic fitness in a safe environment.
Stone Mountain PATH: This makes up a large part of my commute from south Atlanta. I pick it up in Avondale Estates on my road bike and ride it all the way to Idlewood at East Ponce. The Stone Mountain Path can get you all the way from Stone Mountain itself, through Decatur and onto the Freedom Park Trail and BeltLine in Atlanta. It's pretty awesome to be able to take bike paths from one city to another with very little time spent on the road. There is no particular parking or park associated with this trail. I recommend riding your bike there, or parking in an adjacent neighborhood.
Henderson Park: This mountain bike trail is closest to the shop and a fun jaunt for steep, rough downhills without a long climb to earn them. The network is fairly small but is great because you can mix up a bunch of different, short loops and work certain sections over and over to find the perfect line. There is a LOT of technical rocks and roots as well as a few stream crossings. I have personally taken a bath in the large crossing on a hot day, although it was not on my bi-monthly shower day. I rate these trails as difficult, although a beginner should not shy away from them, but rather use caution and control your pace down the hills as the obstacles appear quite quickly and can be quite steep.
Blankets Creek: Take a trip up 575 every once in a while. You will not regret it. Probably the best flowing mountain bike trail system in metro Atlanta.
Rope Mill: Right down the road from Blankets Creek, you get trail packed a little more tightly but with more rollers, whoops, and jumps built into the trail. Very fun.
Cochran Mill: Last I was here, a hurricane had just come through and really messed the place up. There were tons of trees down in one area, but the trails were still very fun and there is a lot of mileage available for a long day out.
Yellow River: Just east of Stone Mountain, these mountain bike trails are pretty fun and flowing, with a few technical features but nothing too intense.
Big Creek: This is a story of community putting in the work to turn a large “unused” piece of property into a great place for families and people of all types to get out and exercise, explore the outdoors, see wildlife, and get away from traffic. Big Creek is the home of the Big Creek Greenway, a paved bike and pedestrian path through the woods of Roswell and Alpharetta, as well as a large network of beginner and advanced cross-country, downhill, freeride, and dirt jump mountain bike trails. Big Creek did not used to be a park, but rather was a renegade group of trail builders creating in the woods what they needed to develop their riding skills for national level downhill competition. This is not talked about much in the history of the trails, but a lot of great trails have begun from illegal efforts on both public and private land that has not been developed. The mountain bike community worked together to convince the city to make Big Creek a public park and was then allowed to develop more trails for more general use while still making downhill type trails. The paving of the Big Creek Greenway encouraged people to ride their bikes new places, and I even had one customer lose 100 pounds while commuting by bike on the Greenway. The Greenway served as a large stretch of my commute from Marietta to Alpharetta in a previous life, and paired with the bike path along Riverside and Old Alabama, I had 8 miles of bike path and trail to make my 20 mile commute by bike much less stressful. Snackpack logged several hundred miles in the basket of my bicycle using those paths. When I worked in Roswell, I was less than one mile from the trails. I would ride my mountain bike there nearly every day after work before I went home. I was in great shape, I made new friends all the time, and I never felt uncomfortable riding there alone because they were near neighborhoods and were very popular. They have since added even more trail than in the days I frequented them. The trails are very well kept and have good signage to find your way through the network. The beginner trail is long enough to allow a newer rider to venture out but never too difficult that they can't get back. The intermediate trails add in more rocks, and the advanced trails get much steeper and rockier with long stretches out to the freeride area where the trails get big jumps, berms, dropoffs, and massive rocks. I cannot recommend this trail system enough, but more importantly, for people to get behind their local trails whether they are public parks or not. Where will we learn to respect nature if everywhere we go is paved?
There they are. My top 10 trails near Tucker to try.
Photo credits Google Image search