Helen is unforgettable because of its compact and picturesque Bavarian style. We are, however, also a great launching point for all kinds of nature-presented experiences. You might be traveling alone and looking for balance between tourist leisure and adventurer exhilaration, or you might need a place where you won’t feel bad leaving a few people of the group behind as you pursue sporting passions. Ride out guiltless.
Although we are the 3 rd most visited city in Georgia, our population is less than 500, so rest assured when you leave our small town, you can really get away. Helen is in the Blue Ridge Mountains—around twenty miles from Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia. The mountains, rivers, and state parks are the backdrop for natural and energetic pursuits. If you really want to feel the mountains, the elevation, air and texture of the land, there is no better way than mountain biking. If you can ride a bicycle reasonably well or beyond, this is a pitch to get you on some serious mountains.
How to Choose Trails? Mountain bike trails do not follow a highly specific classification system, but there are some common criteria:
Width: Trail width determines your margin for error and ability to maneuver around obstacles. 36-72” is the beginner range.
Trail Surface: A hardened, consistent surface that is not affected much by rain would be toward the beginner range, while intermediate and expert trails can vary wildly one turn to the next.
Average Trail Grade: If you pace yourself on flat land, distance is generally not an issue, but if a trail averages around 15 degrees of incline, you need to have good gear and experience not to gas out and/or get hurt. (Flex Your Ankle as much as you can upward—that’s around 15 degrees.) A good ride for a beginner to intermediate would average 5%.
Height of Obstacles: Beginners don’t want to fall—and they don’t have to. That is why beginner trails do not contain obstacles over 2” tall.
Woody’s: The Gap Ride for Beginners
If you don’t have a mountain bike, no worries. Woody’s Mountain Bikes can outfit you and shuttle you to the perfect family ride, with mostly downhill national forest and nearly a dozen small waterfalls. Riders aged 10-65 have enjoyed this trail. Don’t be intimidated by the 14-mile total distance—It’s smooth, wide, and gently downhill. In 2 to 5 hours you’ll be done with a sweet ride. Woody’s can also shuttle your group in and out of other trails in the Helen area.
Unicoi Mountain Bike Trail for Weekend Warriors
Unicoi State Park is only 4 minutes from downtown. Although the trail is 7.5 miles, it is a bit narrower, made of compacted soil, and is much more climb-oriented. Fortunately, there is an early exit halfway through the trail if you happen to get in over your head.
Unicoi State Park is home to numerous hiking trails, but it also houses an excellent mountain biking trail for intermediate riders. Considered to be moderate in intensity, this 7.5-mile loop will take riders across a spectacular mountainous terrain. Some truly incredible scenic overlooks can be enjoyed all along the way.
After arriving at the trailhead, which is located at the Angler/mountain biking parking area, you will begin to ride the trail, counter clockwise, in a 7.5 mile “figure 8” across Smith Creek and through wooded areas. Should the trail become too difficult, or should the ride be too long, you will have the option to take an early exit after riding only the first half of the path.
Hickory Nut Trail: You’re on Your Own.
Are you a hardcore trail-traverser? This 19-mile trail begins with an 8-mile ascent and 2,500 ft in elevation. Ears pop. There are rocks and washouts on the descent. Bikers have commented that this is one of the most difficult rides in Georgia and rivals the long climbs and rewarding views otherwise only found in the Rockies.
These varied options should get you started on planning your mountain biking experience in Helen. Just imagine being on a you-powered machine—nothing but the natural world around you, gliding down hundreds of feet of protected mountain, streams, and wildlife, all the while breathing deeply the Blue Ridge.
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