Six great Georgia state parks for mountain biking

The Overlook Trail at Fort Mountain State Park

Credit: Lesli Peterson

Credit: Lesli Peterson

The Overlook Trail at Fort Mountain State Park

Temperatures are dropping low enough to make outdoor adventures enjoyable again, which puts Georgia's many state parks in the spotlight as visitors begin to hit the trails. Check out these six great Georgia state parks for mountain biking, many of which are great for beginners.

Panola Mountain State Park 2620 Highway 155 SW, Stockbridge. 770-389-7801.

A solid bike trail is just a short drive from the city with the Rockdale River Trail at Panola Mountain State Park. This paved trail, an entity of the PATH project, is great for beginners and those seeking a more leisurely ride—just be prepared for a few long inclines. While the 12-mile course may seem intimidating at first, but those who ride are often rewarded with a glimpse of the local wildlife, like turkey and deer.

Watson Mill Bridge State Park 650 Watson Mill Rd, Comer. 706-783-5349.

Enjoy a shorter ride on this 2.5 mile loop, the entirety of which is under a shaded canopy of trees. Bikers rave about the great view of the shoals along the trail, and the diverse greenery makes every ride an adventure in Georgia's natural beauty. Horseback riding and hiking are also popular at this Comer, Georgia park.

Unicoi State Park 1788 GA-356, Helen. 706-878-2201.

One of the more challenging biking trails in Georgia, Unicoi is also one of the most hospitable parks to serious mountain bikers. Its 7-mile loop is exclusively for mountain biking and mostly runs alongside a creek, offering serious views and serious elevation changes. Originally designed as a racing trail for NORBA, entry to the trail costs $2 daily and $25 annually and the path is not recommended for beginners.

Red Top Mountain State Park 50 Lodge Rd SE, Cartersville. 770-975-4226.

Bike through this historic area near Cartersville and get a glimpse of what was once a bustling mining community. With plentiful lake, woods, and wildlife views, the Iron Hill Bike Trail runs 3.8 miles and is open to hikers, too. This is a relatively easy trail suitable for all ages and levels, so bring the whole family (even dogs, as long as they're on a leash)!

Mistletoe State Park 3725 Mistletoe Rd, Appling. 706-541-0321.

Rock Dam Trail at Mistletoe Park offers plenty of challenges for the experienced biker, with stream crossings and elevation changes that make this a bit too advanced for those new to the sport. You can still make a weekend of it, though. Mistletoe Park has 10 lakeside cottages available for rent with full electricity and appliances, while those looking for a more rustic experience can camp on the lake's peninsula and soak up killer views as the sun rises and sets.

Fort Mountain State Park 181 Fort Mountain State Park Rd, Chatsworth. 706-422-1932.

Fort Mountain is not a biking trail for the faint of heart. You'll need a permit to bike this 26-mile stretch of Georgia terrain, most of which is single-track, but those who take the plunge will be rewarded with some of the state's best views. The site isn't just a destination for mountain biking: check out the 855-foot-long wall (thought to have been built by Native Americans for protection) or get a glimpse of a stone fire tower built by Civilian Conservation Corps.