Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a relative newcomer to outdoor pursuits, the winter blues have the potential to put a damper on your spirit of adventure. Rekindling the flame of nature-bound endeavor is something that even mild seasonality can thwart in the relatively cool winter months. But now is a good time for planning those big trips that happen when the weather once again cooperates.
Bikepacking and bicycle touring have gained popularity in recent years, and the state of Alabama is ripe with potential routes and historical destinations for your next big pedaling adventure. Whether you’re planning an afternoon, weekend trip, or cross-country excursion, these tips and destinations will aid your route planning and logistical meditations in order for you to approach the spring with knowledge of all of the best routes and destinations that the state has to offer.
The Underground Railroad Route
This route, mapped and catalogued by Adventure Cycling, begins in Mobile, Alabama, and ends 2,000.6 miles later in Owen Sound, Ontario. While undertaking the entirety of the trip may well be reserved for truly dedicated riders with serious vacation time on their hands, the portions of the route found within the state of Alabama are perfect for family outings, weekend adventures, and riders of all ability levels.
According to the description available on the Adventure Cycling website, Mobile was a key location for the import of slaves during the 1800s. “Beginning in Mobile, Alabama…the route goes north following rivers through Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Waterways, as well as the North Star, were often used by freedom seekers as a guide in their journeys to escape slavery.”
The 400-mile first leg of this cross-country trip takes cyclists on a journey through history by way of small towns, museums, parks, and visitor centers. With the maps of this route in hand, the prospect of taking a step back into the often-sordid pages of American history becomes tangible. The prospect of learning about United States history while simultaneously pedaling through lush pastoral vistas should be enough to whet the appetite of any would-be adventurer, even during the most dreary winter months.
Chief Ladiga Trail
The Chief Ladiga Trail—the first rails-to-trails project within the state of Alabama—offers nature-seekers a respite from busy roadways and motorized traffic with pedestrian and cycling-specific mixed-surface trails. The route begins near Anniston, Alabama, just outside Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Reserve—an old-growth pine forest preserve—and continues all the way to the Georgia state line, about 33-miles in total.
The potential for there-and-back portions of this trail are entirely accessible to recreational riders of all skill levels and offer the ideal change in elevation for such a trip, as the west-to-east leg of the trail steadily rises in elevation. This variety of elevation shift offers cyclists the ability to push their limits on the trip toward Georgia with the knowledge of an easier, mostly downhill return trek.
For those thrill-seekers wishing to push even farther upon crossing the Georgia state line, the Silver Comet Trail system picks up where Chief Ladiga leaves off, allowing riders to travel an additional 72 miles to Atlanta while remaining on a non-motorized pathway. This attribute is a huge incentive for cyclists who balk at the prospect of riding alongside motor vehicles.
For those burliest of burly two-wheeled adventurers, the prospect of riding both the Chief Ladiga and Silver Comet trails and then continuing to ride all the way to Chattanooga, Tennessee while remaining on cycling-friendly roadways has recently become a possibility.
Earlier this year, Adventure Cycling announced the approval of plans for Route 21 to be added to their ever-growing list of available cross-country corridors for two-wheeled travelers. This route has plans to eventually connect as far north as Cleveland, Ohio—a daydreamers cure-all to alleviate the familiar symptoms of the winter blues.
Alabama State Parks
The Alabama State Park website contains maps, information, and photographs of an impressive 22 state parks. Planning your next pedaling adventure in the outdoors could be as simple as a checklist of these various state-run locations dedicated to providing a quality outdoor experience.
Many of the Alabama state parks contain well maintained and technically challenging trail systems, such as Oak Mountain and Lake Lurleen state parks, which are perfect for hardtail or full-suspension mountain bikers of all shapes and sizes.
So if the winter blues have been getting you down, consider planning your next cycling adventure in Alabama so that you’re ready to hit the road as soon as we say goodbye to Old Man Winter.
Originally written for BCBS of AL.