Aside from good old Southern hospitality, what does Georgia have to offer? The answer, of course, is a lot! Being famous for peaches, peanuts, and Coca-Cola is great, but did you know Georgia also has some terrific biking trails? It has something for cyclists of all ages and experience levels, but for a challenge, try cycling the longest biking trail in Georgia. Read on to find out what it’s called and just how far it goes.
What is the Longest Biking Trail in Georgia?
The longest biking trail in Georgia is the Silver Comet Trail. It runs for 61.5 miles from the town of Smyrna to the Georgia/Alabama state line. Smyrna lies 13 miles northwest of Atlanta; the Mavell Road Trailhead marks the beginning of the Silver Comet. The trail ends near the Esom Hill Trailhead and Cedartown at the state line.
At the state line, the trail joins up with the Chief Ladiga Trail, continuing on into Alabama. The Silver Comet Trail runs through 3 counties: Polk, Paulding, and Cobb.
The Silver Comet Trail
The Silver Comet Trail was once a railroad line, the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad. However, it had not been functional for some time, lying abandoned and unused. The Georgia Department of Transportation saw the potential for a trail on the land and began the process of converting it in 1998. As Atlanta and the surrounding towns grew, the trail became more and more popular.
Today, parts of the Silver Comet are often crowded, while others are more remote and secluded. As the longest biking trail in Georgia, it passes through a wide variety of habitats and scenery, giving users the choice of multiple experiences. Some sections are urban and pass close to shopping centers and restaurants; others are rural or even isolated in nature.
One end of the Silver Comet Trail lies in Cobb County in Smyrna, just northwest of Atlanta. Cyclists may wish to pause after the first 13 miles to take in the iconic city of Atlanta. Here, there are plenty of options for sightseeing, eating, and resting.
Continuing along the trail, cyclists may want to stop at lovely Heritage Park, though they will not be able to ride along its paths. The park offers views of wetlands and forests as well as the nearby Concord Covered Bridge. Back on the Silver Comet Trail, the rest of Cobb County offers a reasonably easy route to the Paulding County border.
Entering Paulding County, cyclists will encounter some of the most dramatic vistas on the trail. The Pumpkinvine Trestle, one of 3 trestles along the trail, offers stunning views of Pumpkinville Creek 126 feet below. Starting at mile marker 22.9, the trestle stretches for over 750 feet through the Paulding Wildlife Management Area, perhaps the most remote section of the Silver Comet.
Further on, at mile marker 30.9, cyclists will enter the Historic Brushy Mountain Tunnel under Brushy Mountain Road. This dim, 700-foot-long tunnel offers a few minutes of cooler air and a break from the sun.
In Polk County, cyclists may experience the Historic Downtown Rockmart and Riverwalk Park at mile marker 37.6. After this, the trail becomes hillier and more difficult to cycle around mile marker 45.8. Surprise Hill is especially steep. After the Cedartown depot at mile marker 51.4, trailheads and rest stops become less common to the trail’s end.
The Chief Ladiga Trail
The Silver Comet Trail is connected to the Chief Ladiga Trail at the Georgia/Alabama state line. Cyclists wanting an additional challenge may choose to keep going after the Silver Comet ends. The Chief Ladiga Trail runs for 33 miles from the state line to Anniston, Alabama; the two trails combine for a length of 94.5 miles. Together, they make one of the longest paved trails in the United States.
The northern end of the Chief Ladiga Trail runs through the incredible Talladega National Forest. This section is remote, so cyclists should be sure to bring plenty of water and supplies. The nearby Appalachian Mountains form a breathtaking background to this protected area.
Navigating the Route
The Silver Comet Trail is generally an easy trail to navigate. The route is obvious, and the grade is typically gentle, no more than 5% in most sections. Some areas are steeper but never prohibitive. However, for users with wheelchairs, mobility equipment, or strollers, these areas may not be ideal.
The trail sees just about every non-motorized type of traffic. This includes walkers, joggers, skateboarders, cyclists, and equestrians. It is vital to observe the right-of-way and practice courtesy at all times. When in doubt, give way to the other person. Equestrians always have the right-of-way as horses spook easily and may cause harm to themselves or others if startled. Cyclists must yield to every other form of traffic; it’s wise to call out or use a bell when approaching from behind.
Traveling by bicycle, the trail takes about 20 hours to traverse one way. For this reason, cyclists hoping to do the whole trail should consider stopping for the night. There are several communities along the way offering accommodation and eating options.
Wildlife on the Silver Comet Trail
As the longest biking trail in Georgia, the Silver Comet Trail offers numerous opportunities to glimpse the local wildlife. Though the sight of animals in their natural habitat may be charming, cyclists should never attempt to approach or feed wildlife. Animals can be unpredictable, especially if there are young in the vicinity.
Georgia is home to populations of large predators, including black bears, mountain lions, coyotes, and bobcats. Raccoons, weasels, and foxes also abound. Cyclists should remember that bears, in particular, are faster than they appear. Remaining alert and aware at all times will prevent most negative encounters.
Georgia is also home to other mammals like the white-tailed deer, its official state mammal. Rabbits, moles, armadillos, and squirrels inhabit forests throughout the state. In swamps or rivers, visitors may catch sight of beavers, otters, sea turtles, or even alligators. Georgia also has its share of frogs, lizards, salamanders, snakes, and bats. Fish like the largemouth bass, its official state fish, offer anglers a welcome challenge.
Though Georgia hosts many species of small birds like northern cardinals and its official state bird, the brown thrasher, it also features intimidating birds of prey. Birdwatchers should keep an eye out for the likes of red-tailed hawks, screech owls, ospreys, black vultures, and the famous bald eagle.
While cycling the Silver Comet Trail, be sure to keep an eye out for local wildlife as well as local Georgia attractions.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/lzf
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