Whether it’s off-roading, cruising along the beach, or just doing a little recreational tour, there is nothing better than bicycling around the Alabama Gulf Coast. Strap on your helmet and check out these eight great rides around “Pleasure Island.”
1. Beach Cruising: Alabama’s Coastal Connection
Distance: 4 miles out-and-back Difficulty: Easy
This is an excellent trip alongside the beautiful sugar-white beaches and turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The route uses a section of the wide bike lane of Highway 182 between the Gulf State Park Pier and the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail Rosemary Dunes Trailhead passing the unique architecture of the Gulf State Park Beach Pavilion. You can start at the either the pier or at the Rosemary Dunes Trailhead. The advantage of starting at the Backcountry Trail is that an outfitter, Beach Bike Rentals is located right there, so you don’t even have to bring a bike.
2. Recreational: Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail
Distance: 10 miles of trail options Difficulty: Easy to moderate (if you do a long trip)
Winding through the “backcountry” of Gulf State Park is the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail, a series of eight paved multi-use trails of varying lengths that travel through six different ecosystems. It’s a wonderful opportunity to ride through longleaf pine forests, past shimmering freshwater lakes, coastal wetlands, and marshes. And you never know what animals you may see: White-tailed deer, coyote, bobcat, and even alligators can be spotted from the trail. The paths give you plenty of options for long and short trips and are perfect for both families and more-experienced road bikers. There are only a few minor hills to contend with, but nothing severe. The trail has six restrooms and two water fountains either on the trail or just off the trail. A favorite mid-level trip is a 3-mile loop beginning at the Orange Beach Sportsplex on the Twin Bridges Trail to the Power Connector Trail, Rosemary Dunes, Catman Road, and back to the trailhead on the Twin Bridges.
3. Fort Morgan Road Trail
Distance: 10.8 miles, out-and-back Difficulty: Moderate
The Fort Morgan Road Trail is just a nice pedal from the intersection of Alabama Highway 59 and Highway 180 at the Rouses Shopping Center to the Peninsula Golf and Racket Club, a distance of 5.4-miles (one way). Before heading off be sure to fill up on some delicious beignets and coffee at Café Beignets located at the starting point. From the shopping center the trail is a wide multi-use path that parallels Highway 180 to the west, but most of the trip is well off the road behind a barrier of trees. The trail is good for families since it is a nice, paved, level track, but to do the entire length a round-trip with children would be difficult. Consider doing a short segment with them. At the 4-mile mark there is a “rest stop”—the Island Quik Mart convenience store where you can pick up drinks, snacks, or use the restroom.
4. Coyote Crossing Trail
Distance: 3.2 miles, round trip Difficulty: Easy
Another great multi-use route, the Coyote Crossing Trail, is the latest addition to the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail. The path parallels Alabama Highway 135 and State Park Road 2 from Highway 59 to the Backcountry Trail’s Gulf Oak Ridge Trailhead. We prefer to start at the Backcountry trailhead and head west to the Gulf State Park Headquarters and return. Even though the trail parallels the two highways, for the most part it is tucked away between a nice barrier of trees and is a good distance from the road.
5. Off-Road: Graham Creek Nature Preserve
Distance: Up to 10 miles Difficulty: Easy to moderate
The best off-road mountain biking trail in the area can be found at the Graham Creek Nature Preserve. The preserve has more than 10 miles of trails and while not as technically challenging as racing around a mountain in North Alabama, Graham Creek presents its own challenges, mostly involving water. You’ll find two stream crossings and several areas that are low-lying swales. They fill with water after a rain then present some good mud-running as they dry out. Otherwise the trails are wide, grassy paths.
6. For Roadies: Lake Shelby Loop
Distance: 6 miles Difficulty: Moderate
A nice loop trail in Gulf State Park that uses the bike lanes of Highway 135, State Park Road 2, and Highway 182 to navigate around Lake Shelby with some great views of the lake and its wetlands. Begin at the Gulf State Park Adventure Center on Highway 182.
7. Fort Morgan Road West
Distance: 24 miles (round trip) Difficulty: Moderate to difficult due to distance
True road bikers should check out Fort Morgan Road West. The trail starts at the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuges Pine Beach Trailhead on Highway 180 and heads west using bike lanes for 12-miles to historic Fort Morgan. The fort is famous for being the site of the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War in which Union Admiral David Farragut uttered those immortal words, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” There is an admission charged to enter the fort. Amenities on this trek include Fort Morgan Pizza and Behind the Pines restaurant about 3 miles from the start of the trip on the south side of Highway 180. Be mindful of traffic, especially on the first few miles of this ride. The lane is narrow around bends, but it widens and you will have spectacular views of Mobile Bay to the north and the Gulf to the south as you bike along between the sand dunes.
8. Long Distance: Alabama to Florida
Distance: \ _27.4 miles, round trip _ Difficulty: Difficult due to distance
A favorite route for long-distance road bikers, this trek begins at the Public Beach parking area at the end of Highway 59 in Gulf Shores and follows the shoreline along Highway 182 all the way to Perdido Beach State Park in Florida, a trip of 13.7-miles one-way. The ride takes you past beautiful white beaches, sand dunes, and turquoise Gulf waters. Just before crossing into Florida you’ll pass the world famous Flora-Bama Lounge & Oyster Bar, home of the famous Mullet Toss.
Originally written for Gulf Shores AL.