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  • Lisa Parsons

Alabama is Home to Sweet Mt. Bike Trails

What do you think of when you picture Alabama? Probably not tons of mt. bike trails with lots of fun features like technical rock gardens, rocky descents, creek crossings, tight switchbacks and long gradual climbs to mountain tops. Well Alabama has all of that and more. It also has some great long rides with 20-30 miles of single track in multiple destinations. We decided to check out Coldwater Mountain and Oak Mountain State Park. Both are located in central part of Alabama. They were recommended by more than one local so definitely didn't want to miss those.

Coldwater Mountain

This gem of a mountain biking area is just outside of Anniston. The parking area is located at or near the top of the mountain. It is a large parking area with picnic tables, great signage, and a couple of port-o-potties. We were one of the only people at the trailhead on a Sunday morning. David thought it was because the weather was bad. I thought it was because everyone was at church.

The trail systems in Alabama were well marked. On Coldwater Mountain all the major trail intersections had maps along with trail signs like the one in the middle. There were also emergency location markers along the trails.

We did some research and on advice of mt. bikers we met we decided to to the Bomb Dog loop. What better route to take the dogs on. The first part of the trail starts out on Baby Bear, then moves on to Upper Momma Bear and Upper Papa Bear. This section climbs but it is gradual and undulating so we didn't even feel like we were climbing but we were.

Baby Bear > Upper Momma Bear > Upper Papa Bear > Cassidy > Rock Slot > Bomb Dog > Baby Bear

Upper right, Mica sitting in front of the Bomb Dog sign post

At Cassidy the trails ramp up a bit and we started to see more rock gardens and more technical features. We turned on to Rock Slot. Rock slot was one of the highlights with long rocky steps down around a corner around a mossy green boulder.

The Fun and Challenging Rock Slot

This dropped us onto the official Bomb Dog trail. Swoopy downhill, lots of rocks and technical riding.

Taz and Mica paying their respects to Floyd.

There is even a memorial for Anniston's first bomb dog, Floyd. Now we know why the trail is called Bomb dog. After over two miles of downhill fun we had a short section of climbing and then more downhill before doing a short climb back to the trailhead. We only met two riders on the trail. One of the riders suggested we make sure and ride Oak Mountain. Coldwater is on our list of areas to return to in the future in either the spring or fall.

Oak Mountain

Amazing park!! It is located just outside of Birmingham proper. This park has everything. Multiple lakes with swimming and boating. A golf course, zip lines, a restaurant, an archery range, a BMX / Pump track, camping, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and cabins. The park is over 9,940 acres making it Alabama’s largest state park. It has over 50 miles of trails with multiple options for a single day of riding or multiple days. The Red trail is listed as one of the IMBA (International Mountain Bike Association) EPIC rides.

We decided to camp at the campground after riding Coldwater Mountain. The rain had continued so we hunkered down in our Sprinter and worked on our computers. The next day we awoke to blue sky and sunshine. Not knowing how long it would last we got an early start. We decided to ride Thor's Hammer or a variation of the ride. We started at the North Trailhead. The route starts off on the red road. I wasn't enthusiastic about riding a road but once we were on it we realized that it was a pretty rocky technical road with some creek crossings and a gradual climb to the top of the mountain ridgeline.

We peeled off at Boulder Ridge, a double black diamond trail. It is listed as the hardest trail in the park with lots of rock. It was a rocky technical trail with lots of granite slabs, steep drops, jumps, and boulder gardens. We managed to ride just about everything except the jumps. It was a long 1.4 mile of trail.

The trail ended where the Red road meets Thunder. A fun long downhill with lots of switchbacks and steep rolling descents through the winter bare hardwood forest. Off in the distance we could see the Birmingham skyline.

Warning Before Lightning Trail

Where there is Thunder there is Lightning!

From there we met up with Lightning. A sign at the entrance warned us that this was an expert, double black diamond trail. The start was a bridge with a steep ramp that dropped down with a warning that this is what we could expect on the trail so if we didn't like it we should continue. We liked it and continued down a swooping course that rolled one way and then the other sometimes at a moderate descent and at times down steep lines with wide rounded corners. We came upon some young boys practicing on a jump. The older boy showed us how it was done while we took photos. We decided against jumping because we were on a long trip and didn't need a broken bone just as we were getting started. As we rode on David and I both realized that we could be their grandparents. Wouldn't that be cool to have a mt. biking grandma and grandpa that you could go shred with during summer vacation?

After more great descent on Lightning turned right on The Chimneys. It was called that because there were old stone chimneys along the trail. The houses associated iwth them were long gone. Then we passed by a trail memorial with lots of plastic animals and memorabilia including a large plastic white hawk. That was on Cat Dog Snake. We have no idea why it is called that or if that memorial was part of a theme. The last two trails rolled up and down along paralleling the main road as it took us back to the North Trailhead. It was an amazing ride that we wanted more of but the storm was coming.

We camped again that night and awoke to 40 degrees, pouring rain, and Thunder. It was time for a day in Birmingham with lunch at a local hole in the wall SAWS Soul Food and a visit to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

Trailforks Information

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