The section of the Pinhoti from the Snake Creek Gap trailhead to the Dug Gap Mountain trailhead totals 17 miles, of which approximately 15 are singletrack.
Destination Distance From Downtown
4 of 5 diamonds
Tough climbs, steep descents and rocky, wild ridgeline singletrack. This section of the Pinhoti Trail traverses three mountains; if you want anything tougher, you'll have to drive to Pisgah!
Time To Complete
Spring, Fall, and Winter
Avoid in summer, as it's typically overgrown, covered with poison oak and choked with spiderwebs. This trail is great during the winter and spring rainy season, though, as the singletrack trails are never muddy.
The Pinhoti Trail is a long-distance, multi-use trail that traverses 140 miles across the northwest corner of Georgia before continuing into Alabama. While the Alabama section is reserved for foot traffic, the Georgia Pinhoti provides excellent opportunities for challenging mountain bike rides.
This "Dughoti" section of the trail travels from Snake Creek Gap to Dug Gap Mountain, featured in the notorious Snake Creek Gap Time Trail mountain bike race. It's 17 miles from point-to-point, and the last few miles of singletrack along Dug Gap are some of the most technical in the region. This is also the closest Pinhoti trailhead to Chattanooga, being only 40 minutes from downtown in Dalton, GA.
Not interested in those infamous Dug Gap rocks? Check out our other recommended MTB ride on the Pinhoti, the classic Bear-P1-P2 loop ("Bearhoti") near Mulberry Gap in Eton, GA.
What Makes It Great
This is one of the best places to ride for mountain bikers with good fitness and advanced skills. The Georgia Pinhoti is an IMBA epic trail, and Snake Creek Gap is one of its premier stretches.
It drains incredibly well, and doesn't hold water even after a rain; one can ride back and forth along Dug Gap Mountain or Hurricane Mountain in the dead of winter without seeing any mud whatsoever. The gravel road from the Dug Gap trailhead and the doubletrack from Stovers Creek to Swamp Creek, though, can be peanut-butter gunk -- and this is often the case on race day.
If you're looking to pre-ride the last 17 miles of the Snake Creek Gap TT, here's your guide.
Park at the Snake Creek Gap trailhead on Highway 136 (see map below). From here, the trail immediately climbs up to the ridge of Mill Creek Mountain, gaining about 500 feet over the course of the first mile and wasting little time to do it. You'll spend the next three miles riding some excellent singletrack along the backbone of the mountain, trending slightly uphill, before reaching a fast, mile-and-a-half long descent off its north side and down to Swamp Creek. There are several rideable creek crossings at the bottom, so expect your feet to be splashed.
From here, some old doubletrack meanders along for a mile or so, followed by a sustained (but short) gravel climb. At the top, right at mile 7, you'll take a hard left back onto the singletrack. This is Hurricane Mountain; if you start descending on gravel, you've gone too far! The singletrack here is even sweeter than the Mill Creek section, despite its gentle uphill grade. After one steep climb, the trail pitches abruptly downward into the first truly technical part of the course. Keep your weight back and let it flow; when you pass through a "tunnel" of young pines, this technical section is mostly over.
It's just a taste of what's to come, of course. After a little more ridgeline, you'll rip off the backside of Hurricane Mountain on a rooty, ledgy downhill that should heat up your brakes nicely. Watch for a right-hand turn off a short section of old roadbed, then get ready to push your bike: you're at The Wall. Very few riders can clean this one, and it's a hike-a-bike for most; the reasons why should be obvious once you're there.
At the top, you'll have 3.5 miles of singletrack to go -- followed by a mile of gravel downhill and a mile of pavement downhill if you're riding the race course. This 3.5 miles is the section you've heard about, though. The fun doesn't really start until the large fire ring about midway through, when off-camber slabs and awkward-looking rock gardens start to bloom from the trail surface. It's not actually that bad, in the grand scheme of mountain bike trails, but it's so above-and-beyond nearly anything else in the Atlanta or Chattanooga areas that its notoriety is well-placed. There's no shortage of rock up here; in places, civil war breastworks are visible alongside the trail.
Work your way through the technical sections until you pop out onto a gravel fire road next to some cell towers. That's it! Cruise back down the gravel to the trailhead; if you're racing, you'll hit one more 100-yard section of trail before turning right onto the pavement and cruising back down to the Dalton Convention Center.
Who is Going to Love It
You don't have to be an expert rider to enjoy it, just be ready to clip out and walk the most imposing features. Relax and have fun on the rocks; a clean, no-dabs run from the top of The Wall to the Dug Gap towers is a legitimate badge of honor for those who can manage it. This trail will make you work for your reward, and ending on a gravel downhill can be disappointing -- though most are far more relieved than disappointed when those cell towers finally appear through the trees.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
This section of the trail is host to both the Georgia Jewel 100 trail run and the Snake Creek Gap TT, along with the Trans North Georgia (TNGA) challenge. Because of this attention, NWGA SORBA and race organizers work very hard to maintain the trail and it shows. Leave no trace, and consider carrying a hand saw to help pitch in!
The parking lot at Snake Creek Gap is a large, gravel lot with pit toilets. No fee is required. Many riders shuttle to the start and ride this loop in the south-to-north race direction, returning to collect a vehicle afterward. However, since this orients the ridgeline trails slightly uphill, local riders typically prefer riding the reverse, as a slight downhill grade does wonders for bringing some flow to the toothiest of the rock gardens.
The Dug Gap trailhead to the north has limited parking, no amenities, and starts with a brutal gravel climb that will have most riders dismounting on their way up to the towers. That said, an out-and-back from here to the Stovers doubletrack is the chunkiest (and most mud-free) ride around, as well as one of the only legal places to ride after dark near Chattanooga in the cold, dark winter months. Highly recommended!