A tough North Georgia gravel route that forms the basis for the popular Southern Cross race.
Difficult Gravel Biking
- 64 km
- 1.8 km
- 1.8 km
One of the most popular gravel rides in the North Georgia mountains.
Gravel Biking Difficult
The trailhead noted here is the easiest and quickest trailhead to access from the nearby town of Dahlonega. While this trailhead is located below the steepest portion of the climb, it’s still not at the low point of the route. If you wish to begin at the absolute lowest point, head out toward Jake Mountain and access the network from there. If you pedal from the Jake Mountain trailhead, that option will add additional mileage to reach the primary loop.
However you choose to slice and dice this ride, this backcountry gravel epic is a truly rewarding pedal! The climb grinds steeply up the mountainside on superb Georgia backroads. In the beginning, you’ll cross bridges over rushing creeks and roll through dense Georgia rainforest. But as you climb, the trees will begin to thin, and you’ll be greeted by incredible views of the nearby mountains.
At the top of Cooper Gap, you’ll cross the Appalachian Trail, turn left, and traverse along the top of the ridge. But the climbing isn’t done just yet—the road undulates up and down as it traverses the ridge, with short, steep climbs and descents keeping you honest.
At the top of Winding Stair Gap, all of the work is over, and it’s time to descend! The descent down Winding Stair is fast and furious. This steep dirt road plummets straight down the mountainside, and in places, the road tread can be quite rough. Expect washboards, protruding rocks, roots, and possible oncoming traffic.
If you’re riding a dedicated gravel bike, the descent down Winding Stair could be hairy indeed! Many locals opt to ride hardtail mountain bikes on this route, due in part to the chunky descent. However, if you take care not to pinch flat, you should be fine on a standard gravel bike.
Alternatively, if you reach the top of Winding Stair Gap and aren’t ready for your time in the woods to be at an end, consider extending your ride with the Noontootla Loop.