Photo: Colt Fetters/TandemStock

North Georgia’s Best Mountain Biking Bet

Get the local’s tour of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the fun, varied options of the Jake-Bull Mountain Trail network.

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. 

Recommended Trails 

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.

Photo: Colt Fetters/TandemStock

Getting There

From Interstate 285, use Exit 26 in Sandy Springs. Here, take state Route 400 north for 47 miles, then exit left toward Dahlonega. From Dahlonega, go west on GA-52 for about 8 miles. There, hang a right onto Nimblewill Church Rd., and after about 2 miles, you’ll see the Jake Mountain Trailhead on your right. Proceed another 2.5 miles to Forest Development Road 28-1. The Bull Mountain Trailhead is located about a mile down this road. 

Red Tape 

The Jake and Bull Mountain Trail network is on Forest Service land. It’s free to park, and you don’t need any permits to ride here. However, there are occasionally timber sales in the area, so keep an eye out for posted closures and obey any signage. 

The trails are multi-use. Dogs are allowed, but they have to be leashed at all times. When you’re on a bike, be sure to yield to equestrians and other users. More info: fs.usda.gov

Camping 

While there’s no camping within the Jake and Bull Mountain system, you can find a number of campsites at nearby Springer Mountain. There’s also camping at the nearby Frank Gross Recreation Area and Deep Hole Recreation Area just north of the trails.

Local Tip 

On the way in, grab coffee and pastries (or a sandwich for lunch) at the Corner Kitchen in Dahlonega. And when you’re done riding, toast to your success with a pint just down the street at Reen’s, a family-owned, German-style beer garden with an expansive patio. 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.

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