FATMAP difficulty grade
The lengthy Noontootla loop is the basis for the popular [Southern Cross](http://mountaingoatadventures.com/southernx/course) race, held every year in Dahlonega.
Essentially, this is an extra extension of the ever-popular [Winding Stair Loop](https://fatmap.com/routeid/386813/Winding_Stair_Loopfirstname.lastname@example.org,-84.1363293,18015.5634783,-31.2626958,0,687.6814525,normal) that lengthens the ride to 40 miles… and of course, you could keep pedaling and make it even longer.
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 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 over the nearby rolling mountains.
At the top of Cooper Gap, you’ll cross the Appalachian Trail, turn right, 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. Once at the top of Winding Stair Gap, turn right to descend the backside of the mountain ridge.
This stretch of gravel road feels unbelievably wild and remote as you pedal along a rushing river, deep beneath the forest canopy.
At Three Forks, you’ll cross both the Appalachian Trail and the Benton MacKaye Trail, where they briefly run together.
At the bottom of the gravel road near Stock Hill, you’ll briefly hit pavement, turn left, turn left again, and then begin climbing back up toward Winding Stair Gap on gravel.
As you approach Winding Stair Gap, you’ll pass the trailhead for Springer Mountain, which is the Southern Terminus of both the [Appalachian](https://fatmap.com/guidebooks/55/the-appalachian-trail) and [Benton MacKaye](https://fatmap.com/routeid/79782/Benton_MacKaye_Trail) trails. Finally, you’re back at Winding Stair Gap, and it’s time to descend for good! 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. Once back at the car, crack a cold one open and congratulate yourself on completing one of North Georgia’s toughest gravel rides!