Alabama may be famous for its southern hospitality and civil rights history, but it’s also a great place to walk, run, and bike. With 27 rail-trails throughout the state running 100 miles, there’s a trail for everyone, no matter how avid. And who knows, as you pass through, you might even see some wildlife along the way! Read on to discover the longest biking trail in Alabama and where to find it.
What is the Longest Biking Trail in Alabama?
The longest biking trail in Alabama is the Chief Ladiga Trail. Known as Alabama’s premier rail-trail and one of the top 10 trails in the state, it meanders for 33 miles through various scenic locations and towns. Smooth asphalt covers the entire trail for an enjoyable biking experience. One end of the trail lies at the Alabama/Georgia state line; the other end lies in northern Anniston. It’s currently open, though the Anniston end is under construction to extend it another 6.5 miles. This would bring the trail up to the town’s Amtrak station. For progress updates, go to the Anniston Star and type Chief Ladiga Trail in the search box.
The Chief Ladiga Trail lies in east-central Alabama in the counties of Cleburne and Calhoun. It runs through the cities of Piedmont, Jacksonville, Weaver, and Anniston. It also passes through Talladega National Forest before joining the Silver Comet Trail in Georgia. The Silver Comet Trail runs for 62 miles, bringing their combined lengths to a total of 95 miles. This makes it one of the longest stretches of paved trails in America.
The Chief Ladiga Trail
The Chief Ladiga Trail began as an unused rail corridor in the 1980s, taking its name from a 1930s Creek Indian chief. The Seaboard Coast Line once connected the towns of Piedmont, Jacksonville, Weaver, and Anniston. With the support of State Senator Doug Ghee and Chief Ladiga Rails to Trails Committee Chair Pete Conroy, the towns collaborated to create a new trail on the old rail corridor. It began as several pieces in the mid-1990s, but eventually, the smaller trails joined up to create today’s single, long trail.
Alabama-Georgia State Line to Piedmont
This is an incredibly scenic section of trail, passing through Talladega National Forest from the Alabama-Georgia State Line. It’s also the most remote section, so be sure to bring plenty of water and supplies for the journey. At the state line, the Chief Ladiga Trail joins with the Silver Comet Trail, heading out towards Georgia. Bikers can follow this for the next 62 miles; however, to keep on the Chief Ladiga Trail, head southwest.
After a fairly short ride, the trail enters the Talladega National Forest, a 392,567-square-acre expanse on the edge of the Appalachian Mountains. As the forest is protected land, it’s essential that all bikers take care and be respectful while traveling through it. At one point, the trail crosses the Pinhoti National Recreation Trail, a 355-mile stretch. From this crossing, it’s about 7 miles to Piedmont, crossing Terrapin Creek several times. Dugger Mountain and the Appalachian Mountains provide a stunning counterpoint to the fields and forests along this stretch of trail.
Piedmont to Jacksonville
The 11 miles between Piedmont and Jacksonville make up a good chunk of the longest biking trail in Alabama. Piedmont is a small town offering the Eubanks Welcome Center, which caters to visitors. The trail runs through the center of town. This is a good place to replenish water and food supplies.
Bikers may well spot wildlife on the way to Jacksonville, though it’s fairly unlikely as the trail runs parallel to Highway 21 for much of this stretch. The trail crosses many smaller roads, so vigilance is necessary. Jacksonville itself is significantly larger than Piedmont and provides a good range of eating options. It’s also significant for its civil war history, so history buffs may wish to stop for a while and take it in. An 1860 train depot stands ready to welcome tired trail users for a rest.
Jacksonville to Weaver
The Jacksonville to Weaver stretch is less arduous, with only about 6 miles to traverse. The trail passes through scenic farmlands and woodlands, offering bikers a renewed glimpse into Alabama’s natural wonders. From Jacksonville, the trail leaves the highway and enters a rural stretch once more, crossing several more rural roads. Weaver is similar in size to Piedmont; the trail crosses through its center on the way to Anniston, its final destination. A grocery store provides supplies to trail users needing refreshments.
Weaver to Anniston
About a mile outside Weaver, the trail ends at Michael Tucker Park in northern Anniston. The trip into town proper is about 6 miles from the trailhead. Anniston is a fair-sized town with eating establishments, accommodations, and sightseeing opportunities. Its regional airport is handy for those needing to fly in.
Navigating the Route
The trail can be done there and back in one day for experienced cyclists. The trail itself is smooth and mostly flat, making it very easy to navigate either on foot or by bike. However, for a more leisurely ride, cyclists would be wise to stop for one night, ideally in Piedmont, to allow for picture-taking and sightseeing. This way, the trip can be completed in two days. Because there are ample stops along the way, cyclists hoping to take it slow won’t find themselves without resources or accommodation.
As part of the trail passes through a national forest, caution is needed around local wildlife. Trail users should stick to the trail and not attempt to interact with animals. With black bears in the area, hikers and cyclists would be wise to consider taking bear spray along. Additionally, as part of the trail runs parallel to a highway, cyclists should be on alert for nearby vehicles.
Wildlife on the Chief Ladiga Trail
The Chief Ladiga Trail provides ample opportunity to view the local wildlife, especially in Talladega National Forest. Here, bikers may catch a glimpse of various animals, including white-tailed deer, two species of squirrels, bobwhite quail, turkeys, rabbits, and waterfowl. Common predators within the forest include coyotes, black bears, two species of foxes, and raccoons. Endangered species include flattened musk turtles, red-cocked woodpeckers, and gopher tortoises. Alabama is also home to snakes, rodents, bats, and over 400 different bird species.
Arborists may also be able to identify a number of different trees in the forest. Pine, ash, oak, holly, Populus, eastern red cedar, hackberry, and hemlock all grow in Talladega.
For an excellent rail-trail with abundant natural views, wildlife, and local southern communities, look no further than the longest biking trail in Alabama, the Chief Ladiga Trail!
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