There’s one thing you can say about Alabama—it has beautiful back roads that wind their way through quaint villages, historic districts, and remarkable landscapes. While you can explore these routes from the comfort of a car, a road cycling tour really offers a healthier and more immersive way to soak in the scenery.
Whether you’re seeking ideas for a short afternoon family ride or a long-distance tour that lasts a half day, full day, or even longer, there are plenty of routes for you to explore in Alabama.
We’ve highlighted a few of our favorites. While some are long journeys, you can break down many of these rides into a smaller segments that suit cyclists of all stripes. Remember, Alabama law requires motorists to pass cyclists with a 3-foot clearance, but you should still use caution and suit up with the appropriate gear.
The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile ribbon of highway that stretches from Natchez, Miss., to Nashville. The route clips the northwestern corner of Alabama for a 33.5-mile (one-way) bike ride along a route that Native Americans and pioneers traveled hundreds of years ago.
The southern terminus of the ride through Alabama is at the Mississippi state line at Bear Creek Mound, an ancient Native American dirt mound that was established around 8,000 BC. From there, the trip only keeps getting better as it passes by the wide rushing waters of Bear Creek, the sparkling waters of Buzzard Roost and Rock Spring, and rolling farmlands and hills. Plus, the ride takes you to the remarkable Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall, which was built by the grandson of Te-lah-nay, a woman of the Yuchi Indian tribe, who had a perilous journey as part of the Indian removal in the 1800s. He built the wall so that everyone would remember her and the event.
The ride passes through many towns, so rest stops are not a problem. also, the Natchez is relatively flat, with no more than a 4% grade. And, best of all, commercial traffic is prohibited, so you won’t be dealing with semi-trucks, and the speed limit for other vehicles is 50 mph.
Chief Ladiga Trail
Stretching from Anniston to the Georgia state line, the state’s premier Rails-to-Trails path, the Chief Ladiga Trail, offers an amazing excursion near the Talladega National Forest. Along the 33-mile (one-way) route you’ll pass shimmering wetlands, rolling farmlands, streams, and sprawling mountains. The trail connects four towns—Anniston, Weaver, Jacksonville, and Piedmont—so, no matter how long you pedal you’ll have ample stops to rest and get a bite to eat.
This is a great path for beginners and more advanced riders. You can ride as little as a mile, do a short hop between two of the towns, or cruise the 33 miles to the state line and shuttle back. Or, you can do a full 66-mile round-trip tour on this relatively flat, paved path. Because the Chief Ladiga is a rail-trail path, rather than a typical highway, you won’t encounter any car traffic, but you will share the way with a few pedestrians and joggers, so be alert, give them ample warning, and pass to the left.
Fort Morgan Road
A beautiful and historic ride awaits you on the Fort Morgan Road on the Gulf Coast. Most cyclists begin this ride by parking at the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge Pine Beach Trailhead. Then, they saddle up and ride west on the bike lanes of Alabama Highway 180 until they reach the tip of the Fort Morgan peninsula. From there, they head back to the wildlife refuge to complete a round trip of 24 miles.
As you begin the ride, you wind along the highway through a maritime forest, but soon get spectacular views of Mobile Bay to the north and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. Colorful beach houses dot the landscape until you finally arrive at historic Fort Morgan.
Army soldiers manned this piece of land as far back as the War of 1812. After the war, a massive stone fortress, Fort Morgan, was built on the site, and it became famous as the centerpiece of the historic Civil War naval battle, the Battle of Mobile Bay. During the fight, Union Admiral David Farragut saw one of his ironclad boats sink with most of its crew onboard, and uttered those immortal words, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" With that, his fleet took the fort and eventually the city of Mobile. If you have time, pay the admission fee to explore the fort—it’s well worth it.
If you’re ambitious, you can extend your ride by hopping on the Mobile Bay Ferry and taking the 45-minute ride across the bay to Dauphin Island. On the island you’ll find Fort Morgan’s sister fortification, Fort Gaines, as well as the Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Estuarium, the Audubon Bird Sanctuary, and an additional 14 miles of road where you can ride near the beach.
A favorite of distance bikers, the Flora-Bama cruise is a beautiful, 27-mile (round trip) ride that begins at the Gulf Shores public beach parking area at the end of Highway 59. From there you follow the shoreline using Highway 182, continuing all the way into Florida until you reach Perdido Key State Park.
Along much of the route you’ll pedal right next to the sugary white beaches, dunes, and turquoise waters of the Gulf, with seagulls, terns, and other sea birds soaring around you. The trip also takes you through a couple of fun seaside towns, including Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, where there are plenty of amazing eateries, coffee shops, and brew joints, including favorites like Bubba’s Seafood House, Big Beach Brewery, and Liquid Life Café.
If you do this ride, don’t miss the world famous Flora-Bama Lounge and Oyster Bar. As its name implies, the place straddles the border of Alabama and Florida, and it’s the home of the Bushwhacker, a must-have beverage when you visit the Gulf. You might want to schedule your ride for late April so that you can catch the annual Interstate Mullet Toss, where contestants literally toss mullet across the state line for prizes. No kidding!
Written by Joe Cuhaj for RootsRated in partnership with BCBS of AL.