The Trans North Georgia (TNGA) is a 350 mile mountain bike route that winds through the mountains of Northern Georgia. The route takes on some of the most challenging forest roads, single track and pavement the state has to offer. Between huge climbs and screaming descents riders have the opportunity to take in the beautiful scenery, remote wilderness and Appalachian culture that the area is known for.
The TNGA starts at the South Carolina Border on Highway 28, east of Clayton Georgia. The route finishes at a rather unassuming gas station on Highway 20 at the Alabama border.
The TNGA is a mix of dirt roads, single track and pavement. There are a lot of turns to miss along this route and navigation can be very challenging. A gps AND queue sheets are almost required to keep riders on the right track.
The TNGA starts out with a mix of dirt roads roads and pavement that wander through the eastern side of the Chattahoochee National Forest. This is probably the least technically challenging portion of the route but it does have the biggest climbs and the most elevation change. It can be characterized by long and sustained climbs, followed by equally long and continuous gravel descents. Other than a few exceptions, most notably the Hickory Nut Trial off Tray Mountain, there is not a lot of single track.
After passing over the old iron bridge on the Toccoa River, the single track starts to pick up. First is the Benton Mackaye Trail and shortly after is the big traverse up and over Stanly Gap. Another long stretch of pavement and gravel will finally bring you to the Pinhoti Trail. The next 60 or so miles comprised of some big gravel climbs and lots of tight technical single track. It’s slow going with great views of the Cohutta Wilderness. Mulberry Gap is about halfway through this section.
The Pinhoti Trail eventually dumps out onto paved roads about 40 miles outside of Dalton Georgia. This is one of the only “flat” sections on the whole ride and it’s all pavement. Make sure to stop in Dalton to get supplies. This is the last place to get anything until the end of the ride.
After climbing the steep grade out of Dalton, it’s back onto the Pinhoti. This part of the ride is called Snake Creek Gap. It’s only about 80 miles to the end, but they are the slowest, most technical miles of the whole ride. The trail traverses the rocky ridge line of the southern Cumberland Plateau. There is little water along this section except in the small streams found in the valleys. Be sure to fill-up whenever possible. Once the trial hits highway 100 it is smooth sailing to the end. Just a few more miles of flat pavement and it is all over.
There is no lack of options on this route, both developed and remote. Several National Forest campgrounds can be found along the route and typically only cost $5-$10. For those looking to do it on the cheap, most of the TNGA travels through National Forests so normal backcountry camping regulations and LNT guidelines apply.
There are also several developed facilities along the route. Top of Georgia Hostel and Mulberry Gap offer food and beds for those looking to get out of the woods. Vogle State Park has a few cabins as well as fancy camping (showers, laundry and porcelain). There is plenty of lodging in Dalton for those looking to pay.
Spring and fall are ideal times to ride the route as the summer can be horrendously hot, and the winter can be a mixed bag of snow, ice and rain. Spring will be gorgeous with blooming flowers and lush green trees. The Fall colors in Northern Georgia are stunning.
Summer is hot and humid, however temperatures in the mountains will be much more accommodating than other areas in the region. Expect afternoon showers (with can be a welcomed relief) that will typically last a half hour or so.
Winter is very unpredictable. One can expect everything from deep snows to beautiful 70 degree days and everything inbetween. Its not an ideal time to tour in the area, but it is possible if the weather decides to cooperate. Keep an eye on the forecast and plan accordingly.
The small town of Dillard is the first stop for food on the TNGA. It is only 40 miles in to the ride and slightly off course. About 55 miles in the Top of Georgia Hostel has a kitchen and beds for those who are interested.
Woody’s Mountain Bikes is located off HWY 15 just as you are coming into Helen, GA. There are several options for food slightly off route in the town of Helen.
Vogle State park has some vending Machines, laundry facilities, and running water.
There is convenience store at the intersection of Cooper Creek Road and HWY 60. You can’t miss it. A few more miles down the road, the Iron Bridge Cafe serves up a pretty extensive menu of hot food and cold beer.
There isn’t much else on the route until you hit Mulberry Gap. Fortunately, this place has it all, full service kitchen, camping facilities, a small general store and even cabins for those who need a real bed. They are super accommodating and definitely worth a stop even if you are not planning to stay the night.
Dalton is the next major stop along the way and the only major city on the TNGA. There are several gas stations on the paved roads leading into Dalton. Bear Creek Bike Company is in the middle of town and right on the route. Make sure to stock up at this point because there are very few options for food from here on out.
Once you get up onto Snake Gap, it is mostly ridge riding till the end. There are no food services and little water. Riders will cross a few streams in the valleys along the way. Make sure to fill-up whenever possible. In a pinch, there are several small towns with grocery stores and gas stations at the bottom of the mountain.