Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Suches / Blairsville: Mountain Bike Destination FAIL

From the Pinhoti Trail, near Ellijay.
Ellijay is truly a worthy mountain bike destination! With a claimed 140+ miles of quality singletrack ranging across the area, to countless doubletrack and forest road rides, there is enough mountain biking to be had in the Ellijay/Blue Ridge area to satisfy any rider for a week or more of intense MTB vacationing!

Let's now swing our focus to some neighboring counties: the greater Suches / Blairsville area. Several so-called "trails" are listed for the area:

Circled are the "trails" listed in Blairsville and Suches and one "trail" in Helen.  I could take the Helen/Cleveland area to task too, but that will have to wait for another day.

One of the better rides in the area, but still a forest road.
In reality, none of these "trails" are trails, but are in fact forest road rides.  Some of these rides are somewhat scenic and entertaining by gravel road standards, while others are just down-right lame and miserable (see Sosebee Cove). Yet, these rides rank higher in the list of recommended trails in the tourism pamphlet than the epic singletrack trails of Ellijay and Blue Ridge.  Something is not right here.  To get to the bottom of this, let's take a look at the area trail map as we did for Ellijay:

The chunk of green trails towards the bottom of the map is the Bull/Jake mountain trail system in Dahlonega, which contains 45-50 miles of trails. Some of these trails were listed in the tourism pamphlet, and the Dahlonega area definitely gets points as a city with a viable chance at mountain bikers.  However, it doesn't rank in the category of Ellijay as a destination.

There is a small section of un-highlighted singletrack in the upper left that is part of the Aska system in Blue Ridge which we covered yesterday.  Everything else is roughly the Suches/Blairsville area.  Note that there isn't any green. Does this mean that there are no singletrack trails in the area to speak of?  Definitely not!  There is a vast interconnected network of singletrack spreading throughout the area, which is all closed to mountain bikes. 

The bike legal trails in Dahlonega and Blue Ridge are still highlighted green.  Everything highlighted in red are all of the bike illegal trails in the area, which completely encircle the greater Suches / Blairsville area, and even extend down and to the west of Dahlonega.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that there are literally hundreds of miles of singletrack in the area and none of it is open to mountain bikes, some author writing for a little tourism pamphlet thought that there was destination-quality mountain biking in the area.  To be honest, there isn't. If you're traveling to Suches or Blairsville, do yourself a favor and hit up Bull Mountain, Stanley Gap, or Jack Rabbit across the border in North Carolina.

As far as being a mountain bike destination, the Blairsville/Suches area is an epic FAIL.

More on Mountain Bike Tourism
Your Turn:
Been to the area?  Weigh in on your open!  Or feel free to voice your opinion on foot-traffic-only singletrack trails.


Jeremy (GoldenGoose),  July 7, 2010 at 11:00 PM  

To be fair, 2/3s of the Hiking-only trails in the area are composed of the Appalachian Trail and the Benton Mackaye Trail. Those will probably never be open to bikes; I'm not sure they should be, honestly. Still, the terrain in the area lends itself to great mtb bike trails and I'm surprised there aren't more. Hopefully the NFS will see fit to open some of the smaller hiking trails up to bikers as they continue to see how well sharing the Pinhoti Trail has gone. If nothing else, maybe we can get ahold of some more land to build new, bike specific trails.

Greg Heil July 9, 2010 at 12:14 PM  

Yeah you're right, they'll probably NEVER be made bike legal, but I've hiked several sections of the AT and Benton Mackaye and thought to myself while walking, "Dang, if this was legal, it'd be some of the best singletrack riding in the Southeast!"

Jeremy (GoldenGoose),  July 9, 2010 at 1:06 PM  

Haha, I know exactly what you mean! I was hiking the A.T. at Woody Gap near Suches, GA and got so in the zone with it I even had my arms out in the riding position while I was out there. I kinda spaced out imagining what lines I'd take through the chunk and my buddy behind me finally had enough. He hit me in the back with a rock to bring me back to reality. He said I was getting too many wierd looks from the hikers coming in the other direction. I said it sounds like their problem not mine!

Greg Heil July 13, 2010 at 5:14 PM  

Haha yes, that's awesome man!

I have a hard time doing much hiking for similar reasons.... and its so stinking slow...

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