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The 5 Best Mountain Bike Trails Around Augusta

This blog is a repost from SingleTracks.com/Blog and was written by DGaddis. To see the original blog post, click here.

I’m proud to call the the Central Savannah River Area, or CSRA, my home.  The CSRA is the the area surrounding Augusta, GA and North Augusta, SC and it’s home to some of the best, least-expected mountain biking in the southeast.  I say least expected because we don’t have any mountains here.  We’ve got hills, but no mountains.  But boy oh boy do we have trails, about 150 miles of them actually, with more in the works.  We have many of these trails because of the local MTB club, SORBA-CSRA.  SORBA-CSRA has done such a good job in this area that in 2010 IMBAheld their biannual World Summit here.  So if you’re looking for a place to take a spring MTB trip, give the CSRA a look.  In this blog post you’ll find my five favorite trails in the area, in no particular order.

FATS: Forks Area Trail System (SC)

FATS, located in the Sumter National Forest in South Carolina, is the crown jewel of the CSRA mountain bike scene, and the only IMBA Epic in South Carolina.  It’s 37 miles of fast, swoopy, roller coaster like purpose built mountain bike trails.  There are six individual loops, each with a slightly different feel and the trails will satisfy both beginners and experienced riders alike.  There is very little technical terrain at FATS so anyone can ride here and likely clean every inch of trail.  What makes this trail fun is the speed – it’s easy to get, and easy to keep.  But you do have to be careful with all that speed: there’s a bunch whoop-de-doos that will throw you over the handlebars if you’re not careful.


Riders cruising through some whoop-de-doos on the Deep Step loop at FATS

Mistletoe State Park (GA)

Mistletoe is the anti-FATS.  It’s the most technical trail in the CSRA.  The trail was not built for mountain biking, even though bikes are allowed now.  There are lots of creek crossings – some are easy, some are not.  There’s some rocks, and some steep climbs.  The trails can be a little confusing your first time out so I suggest looking for a local to show you around.  The Rock Dam and Cliatt Creek Nature Trail are the most popular rides, and most locals link them together to form a loop around 6.5 miles long, with a lot of climbing for this area.  Mistletoe is the western most portion of the big Thurmond Epic route.


One of the deeper creek crossings at Mistletoe State Park

Modoc (aka Stevens Creek) (SC)

Modoc is another technical trail, for the CSRA at least.  Located in Sumter National Forest, the Modoc trail roughly follows Steven’s Creek and has some nice scenic views.  Several ditch and creek crossings keep you on your toes on this 6-mile out and back trail.  Between the technical bits Modoc is pretty fast and smooth.  There is plenty of really nice bench cut singletrack that has been in place for decades and it’s a lot of fun to ride.  Locals link Modoc to the Turkey and Wine Creek trails for longer routes.


Only 1/4 mile from the parking lot is one of Modoc’s most memorable creek crossings.  Photo: brianW

Bartram (GA)

The Bartram trail is one of the least technical trails in the area, but it’s also one of the longest.  The trail is an out and back stretching from the West Dam Recreational Area west all the way to Washington Road, and it’s 22.5 miles one way!  The trail runs right through the Petersburg Campground, making Petersburg a great place to stay if you’re planning a visit to the CSRA to ride.

East of Petersburg is known as “old Bartram” to the locals and it is the least challenging side.  It is very flat, smooth, and very fast if you want it to be; a great place to take the kids riding.  West of Petersburg, or “new Bartram” is a little tougher, with some climbing, whoop-de-doos, and a few technical challenges.  The entire trail hugs the shores of Lake Thurmond and has lots of nice views.  Bartram is the biggest chunk of the Thurmond Epic route.


There’s something special about lakeside singletrack.  Photo: brianW

Canal Trail (GA)

This is probably going to a controversial pick as a Top Five trail but hey, it’s my list and I love thecanal trail!  It’s a very short 2.8 mile loop inside the city limits of Augusta.  This is the only trail in the area that’s within easy riding distance from a large population area.  It sits on a small piece of land between the Savannah River and the Augusta Canal.  To make the best use of the land the trail is very tight and twisty, making it a great place to work on your cornering skills.  There aren’t any big climbs, but there are a few short steep rooty grunts that can test your skills.  It’s a little trail, but it is big on fun!


That’s me, playing hookie from work and enjoying the canal trail on a sunny Friday afternoon in the spring.  Don’t tell my boss.

This blog is a repost from SingleTracks.com/Blog and was written by DGaddis. To see the original blog post, click here.

Mountain Biking in Augusta

Mountain biking is a great activity to explore the area around Augusta.  With over 100 miles of single track, you can take your pick from all sorts of trail options.  This weekend we decided to check out a new section of Bartram trail that connects two parks at Lake Thurmond.  The new section extends the length of the original trail to 18 ½ miles one way from West Dam Park to Wildwood Park while passing by Spring Lakes and Petersburg Campground.  Depending how far you want to ride on this in and out style of trail, you can start at any of the four trailheads.  We met up with friends at the trailhead just outside the Petersburg Campground to ride the new section that extends towards Wildwood Park.

The new trail is considered intermediate level and was designed with exciting banked turns, dips, and jumps.

With all those fun features and the occasional beautiful view of the lake while meandering through the woods, this trail could easily become a favorite of mine!

If you’d like to ride Bartram Trail or explore some of the other trails in the area check out SORBA-CSRA, our local mountain biking club. Their website  and forum are great resources for biking information and directions.

If you need to rent a mountain bike during your visit, contact Chain Reaction Bicycle Shop at (706) 855-2024.

See you on the trails!

Phinizy Swamp Nature Park

Looking for beautiful fall foliage minutes from downtown? Phinizy Swamp Nature Park has great trails to explore!

From the parking lot, follow the Cattail trail to the Visitor Center where you can find maps of the trails.

Once you’ve picked your route, informative kiosks and signs give you the history of the construction of the wetlands, cells as well as flora and fauna you may encounter in the park.

We enjoyed the Beaver Dam trail that led to a bridge over Butler Creek and a boardwalk over wetlands on the Green trail.

The Butler Creek trail that starts at the opposite end of the parking area offers a beautiful wooded trail, views of the swamp from high on the bluffs and other interesting discoveries.

If you go, here are a few reminders.

  • Bikes are welcome on the gravel roads, but motorized vehicles are not permitted inside the park.
  • Pets are welcome.
  • All plant and animal life is protected in the Nature Park; please do not touch these natural resources. For your own protection, do not feed any of the Nature Park’s wildlife.
  • Fishing is not permitted.

Phinizy Swamp Nature Park
1858 Lock & Dam Road
Augusta, GA 30906
(706)828-2109

Biking along the Augusta Canal

There’s nothing better than being outside in the Springtime in the South.  Recently my 6 year old little boy, Brandon, and I went for a nice, easy bike ride along the tow path of the Augusta Canal.  We parked at the headgates where the Augusta Canal and the Savannah River meet and the Canal begins.  A nice pedestrian bridge let’s you walk your bikes across the canal for easy access to the flat dirt path.  For a while the bike or walking trail runs in between the Savannah River and the Canal, talk about beautiful scenery.   There is so much to see and take in all around you.  It was fun for Brandon and me to spot the yellow-belly sliding turtles sitting on logs as we rode.  Every we time we stopped for a water break we could see those turtles sunning and just hanging out.  There were so many of them it was hard to keep count.

Another beautiful spot that feeds into the Canal is this waterfall; recent renovations to this area have made getting to this spot much easier and it is as picturesque as you can get.  I would have taken a million photos of Brandon here if he would have just stayed still a little longer!

Brandon and I only rode for probably a mile or so before he was ready to call it quits, but the path along the Canal is 8 miles one way, so if you’re up for a nice little jaunt, up and back is a good ride.  And if you’re a cycling enthusiast you can continue to ride from the Canal onto a couple of different cycling trails.  Bike paths in Columbia County, GA actually lead into the headgates and from the downtown Augusta section of the Canal you can easily access North Augusta, South Carolina’s Greenway.

Anyway you choose to explore it or get out and ride in Augusta on the Canal you’re guaranteed to enjoy the warmth of the season, nature, and create great memories along the way.

Mountain Biking Minutes from Downtown Augusta

Situated between the Savannah River and the Augusta Canal Towpath is one of the area’s best kept secrets.  Chances are many have ridden right past it not knowing this hidden gem is awaiting their arrival.  It winds like a serpentine through the dense urban jungle, only 10 minutes away from downtown Augusta.  And just like a serpentine, it will strike if provoked.  It’s the Augusta Canal Singletrack and it’s poised for your tread.

The Canal Singletrack is a 3-mile, well-established trail that surprisingly enough, few people know exist.  Located next to the Pump Station halfway between the Savannah Rapids Pavilion and downtown Augusta, the Canal Singletrack is one of the CSRA’s most convenient trails.  The trail was built in the early nineties by local mountain bikers wanting a place to ride with out the long, pre-ride drive.  This was before FATS so the closest trails were a 30-45 minute drive (still not bad compared to other areas).  The story is that there were some pre-existing deer trails in the woods and the crew simply built more trail off of the deer creations.  And to this day you will see deer using the trails and hear them slicing through the woods.  Being that space was limited due to the surrounding water, they had to really focus on maximizing trail length per square foot.  

In an effort to create as much fun possible in a small area, the Canal Singletrack is one of the tighter, more technical trails.  It’s full of close radius turns, steep descents leading to nearly 180-degree turns, and every other type of turn imaginable to keep riders on their toes (or fingers on the brakes).  It has a several gulleys to ride along the river, including a nearly 8 ft. deep gulley that riders can dive into at speed and shoot out the other side with only a couple pedal strokes.  But the Canal Singletrack is not all tight turns and gulleys.  For the big ring kings, there’s a nice open area along the retention ponds that allows riders to “open it up.”  This is a great section for setting a top speed record.  Just make sure you’re riding the trail in the correct direction, clockwise on odd days and counter-clockwise on even days.

Other highlights of the trail include a 90 ft. long, 3 ft. wide, elevated boardwalk that was built by SORBA-CSRA (the local MTB club) with contributions from Fred Russell, Mulherin Lumber, and the late Dick Fox.  The boardwalk was constructed as a fix for an area riddled with drainage problems and makes for a very unique riding feature.  There is also a tall, steep set of stairs above the trailhead made from old railroad cross ties that riders can bomb down.  If a physical and technical challenge is desired, try riding straight up the middle of the “stairs” without putting a foot down.

It’s easy to see why the Canal Singletrack is still going strong.  It’s well-maintained, super fun, there’s a good chance for wildlife sightings, it’s near the water, and it’s in the middle of downtown Augusta.  Local mountain bikers are very fortunate to have this type of offering in such a convenient location.  Now that the secret is out, go explore one of Augusta’s hidden gems!       

Blog submitted by local cycling enthusiast Drew Jordan. Thank you Drew!

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