Coldwater Mountain Biking Trail System, Alabama

Located within the Forever Wild Coldwater Mountain Doug Ghee Nature Preserve and Recreational Area in Anniston, AL

Sandwiched halfway between the major metropolitan areas of Birmingham, AL and Atlanta, GA is the small town and big trail dreams of Anniston, AL and its 4,000-acre open space, Coldwater Mountain.

by Alabama Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources

The Forever Wild Coldwater Mountain Doug Ghee Nature Preserve and Recreational Area Trail System is presently being developed into a world class destination trail system for mountain bikers, trail runners, and hikers. More than 25 miles of trails have already been built under the direction of IMBA Trail Solutions, with up to 75 miles scheduled to be completed by 2017.

To incorporate the best qualities of North America’s finest trail systems, Trail Solutions is not only putting its own to work, but is inviting pro trail builders from all over the country to leave their creative signatures on the mountain. As a result, the Coldwater trails will eventually be accessible by a short ride from downtown Anniston, which itself can be reached by Amtrak train. It is also a Bronze Level IMBA Ride Center. The Grand Opening for Phase I of the trail system was June 1, 2012 and it was designated a National Recreation Trail that same year.

As of spring 2013, the city has contributed more than half a million dollars to help fund the trail system. City leaders formed a caretaker committee with the singular purpose of ensuring the project is completed and maintained well into the future. In addition, Anniston’s leaders are actively courting new business, planning a renovation of the Amtrak station, building paved bike paths and lobbying the Alabama legislature to allow the city opt out of the state’s ban on Sunday alcohol sales. All for mountain bikers.

In 2010, City leaders, businesses, Forever Wild, and the State Lands Division of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources came together and submitted two Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grants to build a trailhead facility and trails. Additional RTP grants in 2012 and 2014 and a partnership with the Southern Off Road Bicycle Association helped build more multipurpose and single track trails. Sixty miles of trail have been designed by the International Mountain Bicycling Association’s Trail Solutions team and will be built in phases over several years.

The mountain offers everything a rider could wish for: explore red-dirt trails in a backcountry setting, shuttle the gravity runs, and style out the optional technical lines, or enjoy scenic, entry-level trails that will stoke a novice rider’s fire. The area also provides a green beginner trail that was designed as a "gateway" trail to introduce beginners and first-timers to mountain biking, providing a positive and fun experience near the trailhead.

The Center for Economic Development at Jacksonville State University produced the “Economic and Impact Analysis of the Coldwater Mountain Bike Trail.” Survey results indicate strong support with a core group of individuals with the dedication and economic means to frequently participate. Respondents were excited about the Coldwater Bike Trail and overwhelmingly are interested in the site as a likely destination at some point in the future.

The major strength is that biking is a healthy activity that has appeal from an inexperienced, occasional rider to an experienced sportsman. The demographic category most likely to ride according to our survey is a higher income male between 30-50 years of age, although with the increasing universal popularity of biking, actual users are likely to fall somewhat outside this specific demographic.

City leaders, local businesses and the Northeast Alabama Bicycle Association are fully committed to the project. They understand Moab’s allure of being a mountain bike town and want to create something similar: where the riding is good and the encompassing bike culture is even better. Anniston is hoping Coldwater Mountain— the city’s progressive perspective on the economic and community benefits of trail systems— will drive mountain bike tourism to the area and motivate a younger generation to live and work in Anniston.

About the Author

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is an executive and administrative department of the State of Alabama created by statute.

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