Alabama Becoming Mountain Bike Mecca of the Southeast

In 2013, the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) designated the Forever Wild Land Trust’s Coldwater Mountain tract near Anniston as a Bronze Level Ride Center, a large-scale mountain bike facility that offers a wide variety of ride options for riders of all skill levels. The IMBA has also inducted Oak Mountain State Park’s mountain bike trails into its Epic Ride Hall of Fame.
 
That makes Greg Lein very happy. Lein, former administrator with Forever Wild, is currently the director of the Alabama State Parks Division.
 
“Alabama is one of the fastest growing states in terms of mountain bike trail construction and ridership,” Lein said. “With dramatically varied terrain throughout the state and weather suitable for riding year-round, Alabama as a biking destination makes perfect sense both economically and geographically.”
 
While Coldwater Mountain might be a focal point for mountain bike trail construction, it isn’t the only part of the state courting mountain bikers. Nine of Alabama’s 22 State Parks and a handful of other Forever Wild properties offer mountain bike trails as well. For example, trail restoration and construction is currently a priority at Chewacla State Park in Auburn. The park now has many new miles of trail thanks in part to the Central Alabama Mountain Pedalers (CAMP).
 
CAMP President Philip Darden says that mountain biking and Alabama State Parks perfectly complement each other and create a benefit for all park visitors.
 
“Mountain biking and state parks go hand in hand because we both need each other,” said Darden. “So many parks around the state are searching for visitors just to stay afloat and many mountain bikers are looking for new, interesting places to ride. We can help each other out by volunteers coming into the parks and building multi-use trails. Not only do mountain bikers ride the trails that many organizations such as CAMP build, but hikers and walkers utilize the trails as well. It's truly a win-win for all Alabamians.”
 
In addition to mountain bike and hiking trail construction, Alabama State Parks have branched out into new territory with biking attractions such as pump tracks and BMX tracks. While Oak Mountain State Park’s BMX and pump tracks are well-established, CAMP and other volunteers are helping construct a new BMX and pump track at Chewacla.
 
“As we enter the 75th year of Alabama State Parks, we will be expanding what is available to park visitors,” Lein said. “In 2013, we saw the introduction of a zip line at Gulf State Park, a new gem mining facility at Cheaha, and other new park facilities across the state. We will continue to improve and expand the Alabama State Park experience in 2014 and encourage everyone to visit a park to see what’s new this year.”
 
Last year the Forever Wild Land Trust and Alabama State Parks received widespread media attention for their expansion of mountain biking opportunities across the state and Richard Edwards, IMBA Trail Solutions Manager, has named Coldwater Mountain the IMBA’s Southeastern trail laboratory. To see videos of various bike trails in Alabama, visit these links:
 
Coldwater Mountain
http://vimeo.com/65914390
http://vimeo.com/71734493
In print, Outdoor Alabama magazine
http://www.outdooralabama.com/outdoor-alabama/spotlightcoldwater.pdf
IMBA’s Coldwater Mountain profile
http://www.imba.com/ride-centers/current/coldwater-mountain
 
Oak Mountain State Park Pump Track
http://vimeo.com/40884848
IMBA’s Oak Mountain profile
http://www.imba.com/epics/oak-mountain
 
Chewacla State Park
http://vimeo.com/70590006
http://on.fb.me/1bLIl1A
 
For a complete list of Alabama State Parks with mountain bike trails, visit www.alapark.com/Trails/. For a list of Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust tracts with hiking and mountain biking opportunities, visit http://outdooralabama.com/public-lands/stateLands/foreverWild/.
 
Alabama’s growing network of mountain bike and hiking trails would not be possible without the hard work of organizations such as the IMBA; CAMP; the Birmingham Urban Mountain Pedalers (BUMP), which helps build and maintain trails at Oak Mountain and other sites around the Birmingham area; and the Northeast Alabama Bicycle Association (NEABA), which has assisted in the construction and maintenance of the trails at Coldwater Mountain and other sites in northeast Alabama. Currently, many other organizations and volunteer groups are investing countless hours in locations across the state to make Alabama a mountain biking mecca.
 
More information about the Alabama State Parks 75th Anniversary Celebration will be posted at www.alapark.com during the coming months. Visit the website often for new trail openings, lodging, camping and dining specials and event announcements.
 
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.  
 
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Photos:
 
Top - Oak Mountain by Billy Pope, ADCNR 
 
Bottom - Coldwater Mountain by Bobby Phillips, Northeast Alabama Bicycle Association