- Lisa Parsons
I've always thought of Georgia as home to the smooth southern drawl, plantation mansions, and a slower pace of life. What I found besides the beautiful historic neighborhoods of Savannah was some great mountain biking outside of Atlanta Georgia.
The first were the trails for the first Olympic Mountain Bike races in 1996 in Atlanta Georgia. The mt. bike course was built for the Olympics. I was an avid mountain biker who watched the first mountain bike Olympics and the female mt. bikers like Italian rider Paola Pezzo who took the gold in both the 1996 and 2000 Olympics. So when the opportunity to ride the Georgia International Horse Park trails I was stoked.
The trails have been maintained over the years by volunteers who wanted to keep the trails open. Unlike many of the Olympic resources developed for the games these trails didn't disappear after the Olympics were over.
The parking lot is enormous. There are bathrooms and even dressing rooms. You could have a good sized mt. bike race or festival at this location.
Huge Parking Lot
Big open fields
We rode the outer loop, Green Collarbone Creek and the Green Big Rock Climb, is a short loop of 2.5 miles. It has the most technical riding that the park had to offer. with the trail rolling over granite slabs at the beginning and end.
The other loop, Green Steeplechase, was six miles and had more cross country terrain. Smooth and fast.
Fast hard pack trail through the forest with some rolling climbs and descents. I remember thinking the the trails at that Olympics looked pretty tame. I figured the worst part of racing mt. bikes in Atlanta in the summer was the heat and humidity. Luckily we were here in February and the weather was cool.
Georgia International Horse Park Mountain Biking Trails
Olympic Mountain Bike races in 1996
Cochran Mill Park
Our second ride in Georgia was completely different. A small town park located in the middle of nowhere. Not your average destination. A recent addition of this city park to a newly formed City of Chattahoochee Hills was a familiar story to me. I worked on creating an 120 acre park as the newly formed city of Covington Washington was incorporating. At the head of the campground in an open field we found a plaque with the name Zack's Glenn
Click on arrow to see details on the memorial
Zack, the 21 year old son of Ted & Maribeth Wansely, passed away in
2008 while on a training run in Cochran Mill Park. A long time volunteer
of Cochran Mill Nature Center and an avid supporter of Cochran Mill
Park, Zack’s deep love for nature and his dedication as a volunteer
continue to be an inspiration for all. The naming of the large field as
Zack’s Glade and the memorial dedication were the focus of the 2013
Chatt Fest, a community wide celebration of Cochran Mill Park.
Small towns where the volunteer service of locals is recognized. They are small enough for people to know each other and feel a sense of ownership in their parks and communties.
On their website that they had a campground. I called the number and a woman answered and replied "Yes we do. Just stop on by and you can fill out the form, pay the fee, and I will give you the gate code. We don't have very many campers who use it other than the boyscouts".
We drove to the parking area at the entrance to the park and realized that the "office" was not at the park. I called the woman back and she confirmed that. She said, "We are located at city hall just 3.5 miles down the road. You can't miss us. Just go down..." So we drove the short distance into town past forest and farm house. I knew right away it was the same building that had the police station. I had lived in rural America. I could spot a rural city hall. The City Hall was an old elementary building.
We walked in and the only woman working at the front desk greeted us. She was the one we talked to on the phone. We filled out our forms, paid $15 for camping and $5 per person for use of the park. She started to write down the gate code, hesitated, and said she was going to check to make sure she had the right code. She called to the fire chief in the other room. "Chief, is the gate code ****? The bantered back and forth. He through out some numbers and then came back with the correct code. Not surprising that the fire chief was in the office with the police and the city secretary.
We headed out with our gate code and receipt. Back at the park we put the key code into a pad lock on a metal gate and drove through into a quiet park. We drove our van down across the creek. Our first creek crossing in our 4 x 4 Sprinter van.
Our own private campground
Then we turned right into Zack's Glade and found a campsites lining the perimeter in the trees. Gravel pads, picnic tables and fire pits looking out on the meadow. The sound of frogs humming in the air.
The trails were worth the effort of finding this place. While not the most technical they had great cross country flow with short gentle climbs and descents. There were some rock gardens and slabs to ride.
Granite slabs to ride along the way.
Flowing singletrack above the river.
We did a 6 plus mile loop that brought us down to Henry's Mill Falls. A beautiful waterfall over sloping granite slabs.
We can imagine this must be the place to be during a hot summer day. We enjoyed what Cochran Mill Park had to offer on our journey through Georgia. The campsite was private and well cared for. They don't have bathrooms at the sites but there is one up at the main entrance.
More than likely you'll have the campground to yourself unless there is a Boy Scout camp out. We rode our mt. bikes right from our camp. There are a number of loops in the park. We did the main one out to the falls but there are a total of 20 miles of multi-use trails. It is a great place to mt. bike, hike, ride your horse, or take a dip on a hot summer day.
For more info visit:
City of Chattahoochee Hills Georgia
For Trail Maps