Cyclists itching to get some road time and distance enjoy the Stone Mountain PATH, a marked and paved trail that goes from Midtown Atlanta to Stone Mountain Park. Cyclists living within the city of Atlanta will travel through several cities out to Stone Mountain and back while feeling relatively safe on a 19 mile one-way trip. With the return trip, it's easy to clock 3 hours of solid writing. The PATH may be less suitable for beginners since several sections require road-riding on narrow two-lane roads.
Although some claim Stone Mountain Trail to be an entirely paved car-free path out to Stone Mountain Park, the reality is that it more closely resembles a series of wider designated sidewalks which are intermittently linked by low-traffic roads. You'll travel through some of the quaint neighborhoods of Candler Park, spin past downtown Decatur as you travel along the rail line, and journey through the humble town of Clarkston. As long as you understand the rules of road riding and stay alert when switching from the PATH to the road, you'll be fine.
What Makes It Great
The elevation on the PATH is consistent, and you'll be entertained as you travel through the various settings of town and country. Stone Mountain Park is a haven for cyclists for several reasons. Aside from the bike lanes and friendly fellow cyclists you will encounter, there is also a rest station and parking lot with bathrooms, water fountains, and a small plaza to hang out and relax. Be warned, however, that the 5 mile loop, although rife with beautiful views of bright green conifers around an alpine lake, does have several short but moderately intense climbs.
The outer loop which connects to the inner loop at Stonewall Jackson Drive goes along the outside of the perimeter of the lake and connects to Jefferson Davis Drive which provides a 7 mile alternative to the classic 5 mile Stone Mountain loop. There is one short but very steep climb where Stonewall Jackson Drive meets the inner loop. Hill repeats, anyone?
Who is Going to Love It
Stone Mountain Trail is great for intermediate to advanced riders who are looking for a 2-4 hour ride starting from within Atlanta. The option to ride on the designated path (which parallels the road) is nice during rush hour or when becoming acquainted to the less bicycle-friendly infrastructure of Atlanta.
Stone Mountain Park attracts cyclists from all levels. Beginners will feel at ease with a designated bike lane, bathroom and water fountain support, but will also be challenged by the rolling hills. Intermediate and advanced riders will relish in the hilly course and concomitant ubiquity (and competition) of fellow cyclists.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
To start on the Stone Mountain Trail, find the paved and lined path near any of the parks near Freedom Parkway, and find the designated green PATH Stone Mountain Trail signs which will lead you eastward, through Candler Park, and down Clifton Road and McClendon. For a detailed map of the Stone Mountain Trail, see the map at pathfoundation.org.
To get to Stone Mountain Park, take Memorial Drive east until it turns into Stone Mountain Parkway and follow the signs to get to the park. Parking is $15 per day, or you can buy a year round pass for $40. Alternatively, you can park in the neighborhoods just west of the park near Stone Mountain Village and ride into the park for free. The facilities once you are inside the park are free to use.