When you outgrow riding in your neighborhood and on the well-trodden BeltLine, metro Atlanta presents a wealth of places to explore (or just get lost) on two wheels. Whether you want to get out of the city and breathe in South Fulton air or feel the pride of walking your bike through Stone Mountain’s front gate (and enjoying free admission), there are plenty of options for all skill levels to enjoy. Many of the routes listed here can be pared back or rerouted to increase the number of miles. Google Maps and GPS programs like Ride With GPS can also help you pick routes with bike lanes and off-road paths, along with more direct (and less hilly) rides. Wear a helmet, use your lights, and ride safe.
You’re over the crowds of the Atlanta BeltLine and parts of the Silver Comet. How about paths snaking through dense nature preserves, wildlife areas filled with deer and heron, and boardwalks along gentle creeks? Save for a roughly two-mile gap, the Big Creek Greenway spans 20 total miles in Forsyth County and North Fulton and will eventually connect the two segments. In DeKalb, the South Peachtree Creek trail is a path-and-boardwalk hybrid trail traveling through trees and over Lullwater Creek and offers opportunities to hook up with Emory University trails. Last year, Brookhaven and the PATH Foundation cut the ribbon on the first mile of a planned 12-mile greenway along North Peachtree Creek that will link Doraville to the BeltLine’s northern segment.
Sope Creek trail
The demand for mountain-biking trails—official trails, at least—in Atlanta exceeds the supply, much to the chagrin of bicyclists who enjoy jumping stumps and carving muddy corners. One of the standouts, Sope Creek’s seven-mile track, is one of the most popular draws in the South. Located in the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area, the figure-8 trail whips and winds through the forest and is best suited for more experienced riders.
Gently rolling hills, cow pastures, and silky smooth concrete make this 25-mile or so route on the rural highways surrounding Serenbe one of the metro region’s most popular routes for the spandex-warrior crowd. Pay the $5 parking fee at Cochran Mill Park and race your friends to Serenbe’s Blue Eyed Daisy, a tempting diversion from the main route.
If Silk Sheets is the golden child of South Fulton’s bicycling routes, Dirty Sheets is the younger brother who relishes getting into trouble. A favorite of gravel cyclists from across the metro region, this roughly 20-mile route starting from Cochran Mill Park steers bicyclists toward dusty, rocky, country dirt roads—some of which are closed to vehicular traffic—and ends with you washing your bike at home. Wait a few days or a week after rains, as the gravel roads can get quite muddy.
Mash to Trash
The best part about bicycling in Atlanta: discovering new places, even the less glamorous ones. The counterpart to “Mash to Brash,” a popular morning prepandemic group ride, this 30-mile tour through mellow southeast Atlanta and its industrial sites remind you the city isn’t all bungalows and skyscrapers—and makes you wonder what comes next for the communities. The route includes heavy trucks and hilly roads, so enjoy the sights and smells with friends during the daytime.
14.5 miles (Rambo Nursery to Rockmart)
The Silver Comet boasts plenty of charms along its 60 miles from Vinings to the Alabama border, but the 14.5-mile stretch between Rambo Nursery in Dallas and Rockmart just might pack in the most memorable sights and spots. Shortly after pushing off at the trailhead parking lot next to the family-owned nursery, cyclists travel over the Pumpkinvine Trestle overlooking nearby pines and residential neighborhoods, through the 300-foot-long Brushy Mountain Tunnel, and end in Rockmart’s quaint downtown, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The bad news: The trip from downtown to the largest piece of exposed granite (and a testament to the Confederacy) and back totals roughly 35 miles. The good news: The vast majority of the ride is spent on the PATH Foundation’s off-street path. In addition, the route passes enough spots to relax and recharge outside—for example, Arepa Mia in Avondale Estates and Refuge Coffee in Clarkston—that you’ll be forgiven if you stop short. Getting the first glimpse of the monadnock and soaking up the park’s beauty, however, is worth the push.
This article appears in our March 2021 issue.