When one thinks of mountain biking, they often think of daredevils careening down an ultra-steep mountainside on their bicycle before taking hairpin turns on narrow singletrack trails (a single track is a trail not much wider than a bike).
Yes, mountain biking can be one of the more exciting and challenging activities a person can do outdoors, but it’s not all moguls, jumps, and heart-stopping downhills. In fact, just riding your bike down a relatively flat path through a beautiful forest is also considered mountain biking.
When it comes to mountain biking in Alabama, the state has it all, from serene lakeside to exhilarating and challenging terrain. Let’s strap the bike onto the car and head out to experience eight of the best locations for mountain biking in the state for both beginners and those who are ready to crank it up a notch -- or who are already there. And if you leave the trails described here wanting more, visit the Mountain Bike Project website for even more incredible trails not only in Alabama, but across the U.S. as well.
1. Forever Wild Trails, Dothan
Beginner To Intermediate
With the goal of creating a green space in the city of Dothan, the city’s Department of Leisure Services set aside 40-acres of land to use for hiking and mountain biking. The idea caught on, and with the addition of 60 acres donated by Wells Fargo Bank and 400 acres by the state’s the Forever Wild program, the Forever Wild Trails were created. They make the perfect jumping off point to get started in mountain biking.
The trails were built by the South Alabama Mountainbikers and officially opened in October 2016. In all, there are six easy to moderate loop trails covering 9 miles of tight and banked turns. All of the trails are joined together with connecting trails, long and narrow bridges, and boardwalks that take you to scenic wetlands and feeder creeks.
The city and sponsors have installed four bicycle repair stations -- three at the trailheads and one at the main trail intersection -- so you can make those quick bike repairs and get back on your way.
The trails are located on Narcisse Drive in Dothan and are open from 6:30 a.m. to dusk. Admission is free.
2. University Of South Alabama, Mobile
Beginner To Intermediate
You will find over 23 miles of trails for both beginners and more advanced riders on the north side of the USA campus. Several individual trails make up loops of varying distance and difficulty. For example, the Front Trail is a twisting series of switchbacks (or 180-degree turns), the Grass Lands Trail is relatively flat and fast, and Red Rock features a long and steady uphill climb. All of the trails are root laden, twisting, fast, and cross several narrow bridges (some only inches wide) over wetlands.
The trails are located on the USA campus next to a student residential area. For security reasons the trails are closed between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. Admission is free.
3. Chickasabogue Park, Eight Mile
Beginner To Intermediate
Heading north from Mobile to the town of Eight Mile, you will find a really fun set of trails that will give you a bit of a challenge and a work out -- the trails of Chickasabogue State Park.
In all, there are nine single track trails (trails that are just a little wider than a bike) at this county-managed park located on Aldock Road that total over 14 miles in length. All of the trails intertwine, giving you countless loop combinations.
The park is split in half by I-65, offering two different experiences. On the west side, the Cemetery, Indian, and Beach loops are fast, rolling trails through a pine forest with enough roots, rocks, swales, and sandy landings to challenge beginners and seasoned cyclists. These trails will give you the chance to do a little mudding after one of the Gulf Coast’s well-known downpours. On the east side, the trails are more winding with many switchbacks and tight turns. And all of the trails have plenty of bog crossings on old boardwalks and bridges.
The trails are open from 7 a.m. to sunset and are clearly marked with painted wooden signs or paint blazes, each color indicating which trail you’re on. Admission is $1 ages or less for adults and children over six, and free for children five and under and seniors 60 and over.
Pro Tip: Check with the park office before starting your ride to find out which direction you should ride. The park alternates the direction of travel with hikers going one direction, cyclists the other, making it easier to spot one another. It also helps cut down erosion.
4. Troy University Bike Trail, Dothan
The mountain bike trails at Troy State University in Dothan are great for beginners. The trail is about 5 miles long and is relatively flat, giving beginners a fast, flowing ride with a few log crossings and roots to jump, some tight turns, patches of sand, and just enough hills that won’t be too daunting for beginners.
The trails are open from sunrise to sunset. Admission is free.
Pro Tip: A favorite spot to take a breather along the trail is at the pond in the middle of the course.
5. Oak Mountain State Park, Pelham
Beginner To Difficult
Ok, let’s move up to something a little more challenging -- the trails at Oak Mountain State Park.
The park has 30 miles of trails that are part of the XTERRA Southeast Championship mountain biking series. Riders describe these trails as some of the best in the competition. But don’t let that scare you off -- there are trails for everyone here.
Beginners will love the tranquil 2.3-mile loop around Double Oak Lake, while truly hardcore bikers will gravitate to the extremely challenging 22-mile Double Oak Trail (aka Red Trail) with a body-pushing 2-mile climb up an extremely rocky mountain with plenty of roots, drops, and a challenging rock garden to navigate.
The park is located on John Findley Drive in Pelham (just south of Birmingham) and is open from 7 a.m. to one hour before sunset, but check their website for any changes. Admission is around $5 (and free for children three and under).
Pro Tip: Once again, the trails are shared with hikers, so be on the lookout for them. Visit the Birmingham Urban Mountain Pedalers website for a trail map that will show you which trails are for biking only.
6. Chewacla State Park
Intermediate To Difficult
Fast, fun, and technical trails line up for an incredible ride at Chewacla State Park in Auburn. The park has dozens of trails with features that few parks in the Southeast can boast. Not only is there great natural terrain, but man made obstacles as well, including a massive wall ride and a downhill 2x4 ramp. As for distance, many of the trails can be combined for amazing loops, including a 15-mile-long ride.
Some of the highlights include the 3-mile CCC Trail that can be combined with the 1.3-mile Creek View Trail for a highly technical ride along a narrow singletrack. It goes around rock outcroppings and over narrow bridges that lead to a beautiful natural waterfall (you will have to dismount and walk down a short side trail to view it).
Then there is the 8-mile For Pete’s Sake Trail that takes you through the pine forest over narrow bridges, loose rock, and up (and down) steep slopes that the park guarantees will test your ability to stay on the trail.
The park is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission fees are listed here.
Pro Tip: Be aware that the park is located near Auburn University and can be very -- and I mean very -- crowded on weekends when the Auburn Tigers football team is hosting a home game. Download a trail map on the Central Alabama Mountain Pedalers website.
7. Lake Lurleen State Park, Coker
Intermediate To Difficult
The premier mountain bike trails in west Alabama can be found at Lake Lurleen State Park. Some of the 22 miles of trail at the park are short, out-and-back rides, but many connect for much longer loops requiring a half or full day to experience. The main loop around the lake, for example, is 14 miles long. A popular trail is the Tashka Trail, a 9-mile (one-way) singletrack that is accessed via the 2-mile (one-way) Lakeside Trail. This one isn’t for beginners. Not only is it long, but it’s also technically difficult with tight turns and long climbs and descents.
Beginners will enjoy the Ridge Loop Trail, a 4-mile loop through a beautiful and peaceful forest that novice riders should ride in a counter-clockwise direction to make it easier. The Lakeside Trail mentioned earlier is an excellent trek for beginners who are ready to try something a little more advanced. The trail has more large roots and steeper climbs than most beginner trails.
Pro Tip: Lake Lurleen hosts plenty of fishing tournaments in the spring and summer, so parking can be at a premium. Get there early or try a weekday outing to avoid the crowds.
8. Coldwater Mountain, Anniston
Beginner To Difficult
Novice riders can start off slow on the mountain’s Baby Bear Mountain Bike Trail that features a little ride over rocks, a short and fast descent, and a short uphill.
For advanced riders, the McGazza Trail is rated as extremely difficult with huge moguls and incredible drops, while the gravity trails are just right for those looking to get some speed as you careen down the hillsides.
The Coldwater trailhead is located on Coldwater Pump Road and is open from sunrise to one hour after sunset. Admission is free.
Pro Tip: A complete list of trails (with descriptions and trail maps) can be found on the Northeast Alabama Bicycle Association website.