There is something to be said about taking a bike ride along one of the nation’s many National Recreation Trails and rail trails (paved multi-use paths that were once railroad lines). These paths take you through some extraordinary backcountry to view wetlands, rivers, creeks, and wildlife. They take you to small towns where time has stood still and where history abounds. Best of all, Alabama has hundreds of these recreational trails just waiting for you to explore.
There are many outstanding bike trails across the state. These are eight of our favorites that really stand out. Keep in mind that all the trails in our list are open from sunrise to sunset and are free to ride. Unless otherwise noted, the paths are paved, multi-use trails, which means they are shared with walkers and joggers. Keep an eye out for them and practice the rules for trail etiquette mentioned in the “Pro Tips” section at the end of the list.
(If you’re interested in roughing it, check out our article on Alabama’s best mountain biking trails.)
1. Chief Ladiga Trail
The premier bike path in the Southeast is the Chief Ladiga Trail, a 34-mile long paved path that follows the old CSX railroad corridor from Anniston to Piedmont, where it connects with the Silver Comet Trail in Georgia.
The trail winds its way through open fields, pine forests, beautiful flowering dogwoods in season, and stunning wildflower laden wetlands, and alongside the swift waters of Terrapin Creek. As the trail nears its end, views of the southern Appalachians act as a backdrop. And don’t be surprised if you catch a glimpse of fox or deer roaming the path and bald eagles soaring high above.
The towns along the route, like Weaver, have really embraced the trail, opening shops just off the path where cyclists can stop in for a snack. Cyclists can also take a break at the old train station that has been converted into a rest area for trail users. There is even a campground so you can do an overnight ride.
You don’t have to bike the entire 34 miles. There are many trailheads where you can do a short out-and-back ride or use two cars and do a point-to-point from one trailhead to another. Learn more about the trail, its trailheads, and sights along the route by visiting Alabama Recreational Trails or National Recreation Trails.
2. Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail
Gulf Shores/Orange Beach
Far removed from the condos, beach houses, and beach life of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, the 15 miles of trail that make up the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail are in a world of their own, giving visitors a chance to explore a unique maritime environment with towering pines, scrub oak, palmetto, and thick, green deer moss. The path is dotted with shimmering freshwater lakes, coastal swamps, and wetlands where cattails sway in the breeze. Whitetail deer, bobcat, coyote, wild boar, otters, and yes, even alligators will be seen, as well as 100 different species of birds.
Seven trails interconnect to give you plenty of options for short and long loops. In the heart of the trail system, there are restrooms, bike repair stations, a butterfly garden, even a bouldering park. And if you want to spend the night, check out the Outpost campsite located just off the trail.
3. Aldridge Creek Greenway
A beautiful ride in the Huntsville area is the 5.5-mile (one-way) Aldridge Creek Greenway (PDF). The trail begins (or ends depending on your direction of travel) at Ditto Landing along the banks of the Tennessee River. From there, the flat, easy-pedaling paved trail follows the banks of the trail’s namesake creek with its waters churning over a rock-strewn bed and Green Mountain acting as a scenic backdrop.
After crossing the creek over a pedestrian bridge, the trail ends at Willow Park. You can park a shuttle vehicle here or at Ken Johnston Park. Plan on at least a half day for biking the full 11-mile out-and-back. Of course, you can turn around wherever you like to shorten the trip.
4. Yoholo Micco: The Creek Indian Trail
A fabulous 3.2-mile (one-way) paved path is waiting for you in the town of Eufaula. Yoholo Micco was named after the Creek Indian chief who, along with his tribe, was driven out of the area during the infamous Trail of Tears.
The path begins at the Eufaula Barbour County Chamber of Commerce and ends at the former site of a Native American village turned city park, Old Creek Town Park. The winding path leads you through a bit of residential area, but aside from that, you will have beautiful views of Lake Eufaula, and even cross it via an old, repurposed railroad trestle. There are several areas along the route where you can dismount and hike short side trails to historic sites like Fairview Cemetery. One trail even takes you to a small waterfall.
The trail is a favorite of birders. You may spot osprey and bald eagles soaring high overhead, loons floating quietly on the water, pileated woodpeckers busily thumping on trees for a meal, and any one of 100 other species.
5. Chattahoochee Valley Railroad
Take a historic ride along the old Chattahoochee Valley Railroad (CVRR), which once linked four major textile mills along the river of the same name that borders Alabama and Georgia. The railway once shuttled passengers, cotton, and supplies between four mills at Shawmut Mill in Valley, Langdale, Fairfax, and Riverview.
The railroad shut down in 1992, but the old line has been converted into an incredible, 7.5-mile (one-way) paved trail that provides a tranquil ride through tall pine forests. History abounds along the route as you cross several historic bridges and visit historic sites such as the old Fairfax train depot, which was built in 1917 and is now a museum and rest area, and Langdale Mill, which features sculptures built out of old CVRR cars. And there are many unique shops in the towns along the way.
Parking for the southern trailhead is at the corner of 56th Street West and 20th Avenue in Valley. The northern trailhead is across the street from Riverview Elementary School. Of course, you don’t have to bike the entire route. Learn more about the trail and its optional trailheads online.
6. TVA Nature Loop
The Tennessee Valley Authority maintains several parks, preserves, and recreational areas in Alabama, the largest and most popular being the Muscle Shoals Reservation in Florence. Here in the shadow of Wilson Dam, you will find 17 miles of trails for hiking, walking, and biking. For biking, a short 2-mile out-and-back on the Waterfall Walk takes you to great views of the Tennessee River (Pickwick Lake), Wilson Dam, and a view of a trailside waterfall. The Old Railroad Bridge Trail takes you out about a half mile onto the river over a repurposed railroad bridge for spectacular views.
7. Swan Creek Greenway Trail
The 2.3-mile Swan Creek Greenway Trail is a soothing and tranquil ride along the banks of the trail’s namesake creek where you’ll want to stop and relax with the soothing sounds as the water churns over one of its many rapids. Don’t be surprised to see fox and deer as you pedal the path.
8. Village Point Nature Preserve
On the eastern shore of Mobile Bay in the town of Daphne, you will find an incredible ride at Village Point Park Preserve.
The 2-mile trail at Village Point is a combination of pavement, boardwalk, and crushed gravel that can make pedaling a bit more difficult in places, but it’s well worth the effort. Spanish moss-laden oaks line that path as it takes you back in time to visit Jackson’s Oak, where some historians believe General Andrew Jackson made an address to his troops before the famous Battle of New Orleans, and the 200-year-old D’Olive Cemetery. Boardwalks will take you across wildflower laden wetlands where alligators may be seen floating just below the water’s surface and to a small sandbar island where you can view a spectacular sunset over Mobile Bay.
Please be courteous when riding recreational and rail trails. You are sharing them with walkers and joggers. Just like driving a car, stay on the right side of the path. When passing a pedestrian, give them plenty of warning that you are approaching. The best thing to do is to shout which direction you will be passing them on. For example, yell, “passing left” within hearing distance but early enough allow them to react. When you do pass, give the walker plenty of space. And, of course, be sure to always ride with a helmet.