Finally got to ride at the fabled Mulberry Gap. Yahoo!! It’s the perfect time of the year to be here. I did this ride the last week of October – temps in the 70’s and the fall colors were banging. It seems like this trip to the south has become a quest to knock as many IMBA Epic rides off the list as I can. I didn’t realize how many prime trail networks there were down here – and Atlanta has been a perfect “hub” for reaching neighboring states and tasting these trails with no more than a 2-3 hour drive.
Pinhoti marks my 3rd IMBA Epic ride on this trip (I previously hit up FATS and Tanasi). I’m running out of time, with only 3 weekends left – but I’m gonna do my best to hit up a few more before heading back to the white fluff at home for the winter. We’ll see…
So yeah – back to Mulberry. What a cool spot. For those that don’t know, Mulberry Gap is a “Mountain Biking Resort” located at a fantastic portion of the Georgia Pinhoti Trail (there is also an Alabama Pinhoti Trail that is closed to mountain bikes). The whole GPT currently has over 100 miles of dirt trail with different access points and variable trail character. P1, P2, and P3 are some of the most popular and by many considered the “best” sections for mountain biking. They also happen to be a stone’s throw from Mulberry Gap. Sweet, right? Camping, cabins, showers, bike washes, home cooked meals – and lots of other mountain bikers hanging out and drinking beer – Bike Nirvana!!
Fun Fact: The Native American translation of Pinhoti is “turkey home”. I think that’s why the trail signs look like a turkey foot.
I definitely recommend getting a map and the written directions at Mulberry as well – for as heavily ridden as these trails are, they are sometimes poorly signed and confusing to navigate. We made a few wrong turns on our ride and tacked on plenty of extra miles and climbing to our journey.
Although there are many trail options in the area, the “classic” ride is Bear Creek to Pinhoti 1 to Pinhoti 2. This is about 18 miles and 2,700′ of climbing. I came across a very detailed description of this ride while researching it. I think it’s spot on – click here to read it.
In a nutshell:
- The ride starts with a nice warmup / grunt of a climb up a fireroad. No tech, but steep at a couple spots. You gain about 900′ over 5 miles, with the most climbing occuring over the last 3 miles. Many people break it up by stopping at the waterfall and/or the Bear Creek lookout. Or you can just crank it out if that’s your bag.
- Once on Bear Creek, you’ll have plenty of recovery as it’s mostly downhill – a couple sharp switchbacks and short techs sections at the upper part, but mostly smooth tread. After crossing the creek and descending some doubletrack, you might be underwhelmed by the ride so far. But just when you’re starting to doubt… you reach a confusing junction with the Bear Creek Loop Trail (don’t go on the “loop trail”). After going right past the closed gate, the trail narrows soon and the next couple miles is arguably some of the best descending of the whole ride. Enjoy!! The trail character gets fast and jazzy as you schralp through a few creek crossings and past the old Garrett Poplar tree.
- Then you reach Pinhoti 1 and it’s time to climb again. After making the sharp right to get on P1, grunt your way up the first steep section- it keeps climbing but at a more mellow grade after. This trail was ok, but nothing amazing to me. Seems like it would be a heckuva lot more fun riding the opposite direction though. Going this way, it was mostly climbing, gaining back the elevation lost on Bear Creek.
- Before long, you reach Pinhoti 2. Oh yeah. After a mellow climb past another road closure gate, the tread narrows and before long, you are bombing down the final kick-ass descent of the day. It’s screaming fast, and some parts have your teeth chattering out of your head- but it’s too fun to slow down. I’d have to say this was the best section of the ride, with the Bear Creek descent a close 2nd. It’s a rocket ride all the way down, and eventually you pop out on the dirt road and finish with a short 2 mile climb back to Mulberry Gap.
- A fully would be perfect here – as the roots that’s had me bobbing and weaving would be chewed up and spit out by a squishy steed. As is, I was still in dirt heaven.
Just like I’d read, the two main descents on Bear Creek and P2 are frickin fabulous and definitely “Epic worthy”. The ride, in general, feels “bigger” than most others in the area. The sustained climbs and descents are longer. My style for sure.
Next time, I’d get a cabin or camp at Mulberry Gap and explore more of the nearby trails. The peeps were super friendly and it’s a great venue. Old town Ellijay is only 15 min away and is a cool area to grab some grub as well. I will be back.