Little River Trail
It used to be that the only trails in the woods near Woodstock, Georgia, were the ones made by children crisscrossing their way to the river to fish and swim. Many of them were, no doubt, taking time off from chores on the farm where they still used mules and horses to plow and tote goods back and forth to town. It was the era of the general merchandise store and local mills grinding corn-and spinning rope.
Today on the slopes overlooking the river valley where an old rope mill was built, mountain bikers can ride a total of just over 15 miles of single-track originally designed and still used by motorcycles and horses. The three sections of out-and-back run along river banks, railroad tracks, and to the falls of a creek, depending on which leg you take.
If you sniff the air when the wind's right, you can smell what brought about the demise of much of the way life was lived back in the first half of this century. No, it's not a factory or plant belching out smoke or fumes. It's water. Big water. The 12,000 acres of Allatoona Lake were backed up by Georgia Power when it closed the locks on the dam January 1, 1950, near Cartersville, ten crow-miles away to the northeast. This created over 200 miles of shoreline, all owned by the Army Corps of Engineers, many of which have biking trails cutting through where eagles, deer, turkeys, goldfinches, and plant communities all live.
While there are trails to ride on both sides of the river, the most enjoyableÂ—and most protected from future developmentÂ—are the ones across the old bridge on the northern bank. Crossing this bridge by bike can be an exciting experience in itself. The mounds of bulldozed dirt on either end prevent large vehicles from crossing the narrow passageway above Little River as it slides by 20 feet underneath.
A series of trails leads upriver where single-track courses have been laid out up and down the sometimes radically pitched hills. This will seem like a gross understatement as you contemplate some of the downhill sections, like "Train Trestle," which seems more like a spot to take off with a hang glider than a bike route.
Another section taken on the northern side of the river ends at a beautiful 30-foot-wide falls where Blankets Creek crashes into an otherwise peaceful cove of Allatoona Lake. Two steep sections on the way to the falls prompted my guide for this trip, Rob Abbott, to remark, "I heard 'If you aren't hiking, you aren't biking.'" We did some biking that day.
This rather large section of trails is found north of Woodstock, Georgia, on the slopes above the banks of Little River.
No really long climbs to make, but you will be hard-pressed to find steeper sections anywhere. Downhillers will love the short but sweet route near the train trestle which falls nearly 40 feet down a rocky 30-yard slope.
The trail can be red-clay messy in some areas during wet weather. Following the river is sandy, but rideable, due to the flooding in early 1995. If the heat and humidity don't put an end to your biking in the summer, this is an all-season place to ride.
Many services can be found in nearby Woodstock, part of metropolitan Atlanta. And if you can't find it in Hot'lanta, you ain't looking.
Rocks, ruts, and sticks can all put an upsetting end to your day. My derailleur met its demise on an innocent looking section when a short, but stout, pine branch got jammed into it. Although this is primarily a bike trail, evidence of horses and motorcycles riding the trails can be seen.
You are very close to civilization for the most part, and a good yell or maybe even a bike bell should bring help, but ride with a buddy, especially if you put "Train Trestle" on the itinerary.
Most of the trail falls on the land serving as public right-of-way managed by the Army Corps of Engineers.
A topo map might be fun to use while on this section. However, you'll need to piece together 2 different 7.5 minute series quads in order to cover the entire trail: Kennesaw and South Canton. A map of Cherokee County will give other access points. Also, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers map of Allatoona Lake can provide good info. The map of the bike trails was made from my notes.
Finding The Trail:
Depending on the side of the river you want to park on, you can take 2 approaches to the trailhead. The southerly approach requires making a trip through Woodstock on Highway 5. Just before crossing the railroad tracks, look to the left where Rope Mill Road forks off. Travel until the road dead-ends at the river, park out of the way, and stay on this side of the river for the less technical, less scenic, and less protected trails (construction on a future subdivision has been going on). You will notice the beginning on the left just as the pavement ends.
Cross the bridge and pick your bike up and put it on the other side of the low cable fence on the right for the more extensive series of single-track, which starts off heading upriver and should be quite noticeable.
Notes On The Trail:
The trail system on the south side of the river, although making up a considerable network of loops, is in a construction limbo for the most part. Still, you can enjoy a 7-mile trip ending at a fairly large creek. From the south trailhead, take either a left or right fork after riding underneath Interstate 575 and climbing the hill on the other side of it. The right fork will dead-end on what is currently a red-clay road, but it shows every indication of being developed into an asphalt subdivision road. The left turn heads toward Woodstock. The first road to the right toward Woodstock leads down to Noonday Creek. Before getting to the creek-about halfway down-look on your right for single-track. Although it is short, it is fun to ride.
The northern section of trails has 2 main directions: upriver past the ruins of the rope mill where bales of cotton (salvaged from the fairly common gin explosions and resulting fires) were converted into rope and sold in area hardware stores for use with farm animals, or you can continue straight up the road on the other side of the bridge and check out Blankets Creek Falls.
Look for a single-track entrance on the left off the dirt road about a .5 mile up the road if you want to go to the falls. Two sets of hills, which feel like mountains before you reach the top, occur before coming to the single-track on the right at a clearing. The road continues straight down to the lake, but turn right on the single-track. You have to work for them, but 3 more exciting downhills are found on this connector to the falls. (Don't feel bad if you have to get off and hike. In fact, if you can crank up these grades, give me a call; I should be able to find a sponsor for your NORBA competition.) Turn right, uphill, at the dead-end where it gets wider and take the next single-track to the left. You should be able to hear the wonderful sound of water splashing on a rock ledge. Get your lunch out and let your mind wander. Afterwards, take a rest and a dip in the large pool at the base. Ahhh!
Sources of Additional Information
District Engineer, Mobile District
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
P.O. Box 2288
Mobile, AL 36628
Allatoona Lake Information: (770) 386-0549
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Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication