It's eight in the morning, and I smell coffee. I rustle from beneath my sleeping bag and peep out my tent flap to see the hazy summer sun filtering through the towering trees. Besides the sound of the babbling brook, all is quiet. I crawl from my tent and make my way across the brook and onto the gravel road, lined with cars boasting bike racks and canoes.
Up the road to my left, I see a row of cabins. On the hill top in front of me, I see smoke rising from the Barn and make my way toward it. That surely must be where the coffee is coming from. And now a new scent hits my nose: Bacon and the sweet smell of pancake batter.
The Barn doors are propped open, inviting me in with the promise of food. Others have gathered; two muscled men wearing bike kits sit poring over a map, another man with a ponytail sits alone sipping his coffee, a couple sits coloring with their two children (who both wear miniature Chacos), and a group of women with long braids and sculpted biceps. Like that, I've gone from my own wooded retreat to the convivial atmosphere of Mulberry Gap.
On a crowded weekend, Mulberry Gap is like its own hilltop town, filled with the likes of mountain bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts. After a bumpy ride down one of those ominous Forest Service Roads (this one was FS 18), you’ll dip down into a gap, and there sits Mulberry Gap, tucked deep in the Chattahoochee National Forest.
The town center is at the Barn. After an intense day of mountain biking or hiking, you may feel reluctant to climb the steep hill, but trust me, you won’t want to skip the walk. The Barn is where a home-cooked breakfast and dinner are served.
Mulberry Gap has its own chef, Ginni, who shops daily at local farmers markets to build a healthy menu. Breakfasts are aimed to fuel you for the day, and the spread often includes fresh fruit, Belgian waffles, pancakes, bacon, and oatmeal. By evening, when your stomach has long forgotten the energy bar on the trail, you can tuck into a hefty portion of slow-roasted pork or grilled chicken coupled with vegetables, salad, and bread. You don’t even have to worry about bringing your own booze—the on-location shop sells a variety of craft beers and even local wine from Georgia’s Cartecay Vineyards.
Since Fall 2006, Mulberry Gap has been the place for mountain bikers in North Georgia, positioned in the mountain bike capital of the state. A bike down the road will lead you to one of the longest mountain bike trails of Georgia, the Pinhoti Trail . This 140-mile IMBA EPIC trail starts just west of Cedartown, Georgia and connects to the Benton-MacKaye Trail in Ellijay, Georgia.
Mountain bikers divide the Pinhoti into two major sections: the northeastern sections offer big mountain climbs on the fault line of Blue Ridge, whereas the southwestern sections traverse ridges and valleys. Each of these sections is subdivided into Pinhoti 1 through 5. No matter which section of the Pinhoti you choose, you’re guaranteed to hit steep elevation, rocks, and switchbacks. Mulberry Gap’s employees are all experts on the trails and provide great trail write-ups, and can offer advice while you’re on-site.
From Mulberry Gap, you're less than 5 miles from the bottom of Pinhoti 2, and not far from the Bear Creek Trail and Pinhoti 3. Within one hour, you can be shuttled by Mulberry Gap, or drive to the following trailheads:
- Pinhoti/Mountaintown Creek Trail
- Bear Creek Trail
- Pinhoti sections 1-5
- Dennis Mill
- Windy Gap
- Amadahy Trail / Woodring Branch Recreation Area
- Jake & Bull Mountain
- Snake Creek Gap
Overnight guests at Mulberry Gap tend to linger in the Barn well beyond dinner, playing human-sized Jenga, or poring over one of the many outdoor guidebooks from the bookshelf. While there is a comfortable couch, television, and Wi-Fi access, you’ll want to unplug.
In fair weather, the doors to the barn open and a cool mountain breeze floats through the building, making the bicycle rim chandelier gently sway. When it’s time for bed, visitors can choose between a spot in the bunkhouse, a private cabin (a few even have hot tubs), or the seclusion of campsites. Even if you’re camping by the quiet Brook Campsites, you’re still just a short walk from the bathhouse. Mulberry Gap leaves you just enough room to have the comforts of home in the solitude of the wilderness. The beauty of spending a weekend, or even an overnight trip at Mulberry Gap, is that you can arrive solo and leave with a new group of friends.
In fall, you’ll need to reserve your spot a few months in advance, and it's often recommended to plan your trip at least a few weeks ahead. Visitors can also make a day trip to Mulberry Gap, where you can park for the day and get shuttled to the trails. Details on shuttles and trails can be found here.