When the International Mountain Biking Association declares a trail “Epic,” you know it’s good. North Georgia’s Jake and Bull Mountain Trails earned that designation a few years back, joining a list of about 50 routes across the world that the IMBA deems “true backcountry riding experiences.”
For the various routes that traverse Jake Mountain and Bull Mountain, that distinction is well earned: Located amid the ancestral territory of the Yuchi and Cherokee peoples, these trails form a twisting, interconnected network of dirt, gravel, and red-clay singletrack located within a deeply shaded corner of Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest. Here you’ll find everything from big climbs and rocky descents to splashy creek crossings and flowy switchbacks.
Better yet: Unlike a lot of serious backcountry rides, this one’s easy to get to. It’s just 10 minutes from Dahlonega, Ga., and 90 from downtown Kennesaw, making it an accessible, popular spot for mountain bikers of all ability levels.
With more than 35 miles of trail to choose from, there’s enough here to keep riders of all levels busy. Here are a few local-favorite routes.
IMBA Epic Loop
This tough, 25.2-mile loop links up most of the trails in the Jake and Bull Mountain system and covers a whopping 5,600-plus feet of elevation change. To do it, start at the Bull Mountain trailhead and ride counter-clockwise (east) toward the Jake Mountain trailhead. From here, you’ll connect the Bull Mountain, Jake Mountain, Black Branch, No Tell, and Saddleback trails (among others) in a truly, well, “Epic” ride.
Steer Mountain Loop
This 15.5-mile loop covers about 1,600 feet of total gain. It darts across mountain streams, tackles short climbs and fun descents, and tours some of the best intermediate-level trails in the area. To do it, start at the Jake Mountain Trailhead, then head clockwise (west). You’ll connect the Bull Mountain, Jones Creek Dam, No Tell, and Black Branch trails—along with a few other spurs and Forest Service roads—before taking the Jake Mountain Trail back to your car.
FS 28-1 To Moss Hill Road
If you’re new to mountain biking, this 12-mile out-and-back is one of your better options. It links up two Forest Service roads, so it stays pretty mellow throughout. But the best part? It ends at a swimming hole in the Etowah River at the end of Moss Hill Road. Going down to the river, you’ll hit at least one steep hill, but it’s less than a quarter-mile-long and easy to walk if you need to.