People say the best cycling in Alabama is biking in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. We had to check it out for ourselves, and it was magnificent.
We wanted to explore the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail, a series of bike trails in Gulf State Park, and discovered a series of 27 paved trails, rideable sidewalks, low traffic park roads, and scenic boardwalks that spanned over 35 miles.
Then we consulted the local bicycle shops, planned routes, and rode over 150 miles to learn the best road cycling in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
We’re sharing all this with you in our ultimate guide to biking Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Inside, you’ll find ten interactive, downloadable bike maps of Gulf Shores with over 200 miles of cycling, 50 points of interest, and stunning photography. Whether you’re looking for the simple pleasures of biking in the park or challenging yourself with world-class road riding, keep reading to learn all about bike riding in Gulf Shores
Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail Map
There are many Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail maps available. None of them suited our needs, so we created our own interactive bike map. It has all of the paved trails in Gulf State Park, along with all the boardwalks, pedestrian bridges, sidewalks, and rideable park roads you’ll need to navigate to discover your own adventure.
We included a sortable table of where to bike in Gulf State Park, along with parking and other points of interest. If you want, you can load this map on your mobile phone by clicking the ‘full screen’ button in the upper left corner, which should also display your current GPS position on the map. If any of the maps aren’t loading in this article, be sure to click the refresh button on your browser. It’s worth it 😉.
|Beach Mouse Bypass||1.1||Boardwalk|
|Bear Creek Trail||0.4||Paved|
|Campground Trail||2.2||Paved / Boardwalk|
|Cotton Bayou Trail||1.1||Paved|
|Coyote Xing Trail||2.3||Paved|
|Cross Park Trail||0.8||Paved / Boardwalk|
|Fort Morgan Rd Trail||5.5||Paved|
|Gopher Tortoise Trail||1.5||Paved|
|Gulf Oak Ridge Trail||3||Paved|
|Gulf Oak Ridge Overlook||0.1||Boardwalk|
|Lakeview Trail / Lake Crossing Trail||2.8||Paved / Boardwalk|
|Lake Shelby Overlook||0.1||Boardwalk|
|Orange Beach Blvd West Sidewalk||1.6||Sidewalk|
|Orange Beach Blvd East Sidewalk||1.9||Sidewalk|
|Park Road 2||1.5||Paved|
|Rattlesnake Ridge Trail||1.6||Paved|
|Rosemary Dunes Trail||2.1||Paved|
|Sawgrass Trail||0.3||Paved / Boardwalk|
|Sportsplex Trailhead Spur||0.1||Paved|
|Twin Bridges Trail||0.8||Paved|
Biking in Gulf State Park
Biking in Gulf State Park is a simple pleasure that we think every visitor to Alabama’s coast should enjoy. Not only are the trails all basically flat, but they also snake through six diverse and beautiful ecosystems, including longleaf sand ridges, coastal dunes, live maritime oak forest, pine flatwoods, freshwater marshes, and coastal hardwood swamps. Along the way, you’ll see wildlife like waterfowl, alligators, bald eagles, and tortoises. You are in a natural area, so follow the park’s wildlife safety rules, especially keeping your distance from animals like snakes and alligators.
Gulf State Park bike trails are paved or made with wooden boardwalks. The boardwalk trails go over wetlands, so they are usually scenic but sometimes bumpy for narrow tire road bikes. If you didn’t bring a bicycle, we have a complete list of bike rentals in Gulf Shores later in this piece. The short story is that there are two places to rent bikes inside the park, but there’s also an incredible free bike-share program that lets you borrow a bike from any number of locations in the park. We laid out our favorite places to ride a bike in Gulf State Park below, or you can choose your own route from the map above.
Map to Bike Routes in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach
The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trails are the centerpiece of biking in Gulf Shores, but that’s just the start of cycling the Alabama coast. We put together our three favorite loops in the park and some other rides that make Gulf Shores a world-class destination biking location with its mild winters and warm ocean breezes. Just like before, we put this information together into a table and interactive map. We also made MapMyRide routes that are embedded into each detailed ride section. Enjoy!
|Lake Shelby Loop||5.3|
|Gulf State Park Loop||15|
|West Beach Blvd||16.5|
|Perdido Pass Bridge||2|
|Bear Point Lollipop Loop||10|
|Fort Morgan Road Ride||42|
|Infinity Bicycle 55-Mile Ride||55|
Lake Shelby Loop (5.3 miles)
Lake Shelby Loop is a short and stunning ride around Lake Shelby in Gulf State Park. You can start your ride from any of the five parking lots located around the lake and ride in any direction.
Highlights along the way include:
- Crossing the lake on the boardwalk of the aptly named Lake Crossing Trail.
- Seeing a bald eagle nest from a viewing platform that was an Eagle Scout project.
- Riding out to the end of one of the three fishing piers that extend over the water.
Boardwalk Loop (6.75 miles)
If you love boardwalks, this is your ride. You get to travel on almost 3 miles of boardwalk around Middle and Little Lakes. We drew the route to start from the Gulf State Park Pavilion because it’s the perfect loop to add to a beach day, especially if you pick up a bike-share bicycle at the beach. If you’re just here for the riding, you might want to pick a different starting point to avoid the day-use parking fee. Options include Lake Shelby Picnic Area, Rosemary Dunes, Gulf Oak Ridge, and even the Sportsplex. Depending on the start, you might add a mile or so to the route, but it makes everything logistically easier. Jenn found this ride a little bumpy on her modified Trek hybrid with 25mm tires, but the factory stock 32mm tires would have worked perfectly.
Highlights along the way include:
- Lefty, the three-legged alligator
- The Butterfly Garden and Boulder Park
- A scenic shelter on Little Lake
- The entire Beach Mouse Bypass boardwalk that goes over marshes and onto viewpoints of Middle Lake
Gulf State Park Loop (15 miles)
This ride is a classic loop that goes around the perimeter of the entire park. We figured if you’re riding 15-miles, you might want to avoid some boardwalks, and you’d be comfortable riding in the bike lanes of Beach Blvd. That’s why we have you leaving the park at Rosemary Dunes and reentering the park off State Park Road. The routing works best if you’re riding clockwise, so you don’t have to cross Beach Blvd. If you don’t like boardwalks or want to ride counter-clockwise, I would recommend modifying the route to stay inside the park on Beach Mouse Bypass – Canal Trail – Lake Crossing. You can even make a day of this ride by starting from the east side and having lunch at the Woodside Restaurant.
There’s plenty to see and do on the ride since you’re biking around the entire Gulf State Park. You get to see almost everything from the previous loops, plus a chance to ride the ridge on the park’s north side, including the iconic Gulf Oak Ridge Trail. Here you’ll find mature oak trees and a beautiful elevated deck that looks out over the park. There’s also a parkour playground, which you don’t see every day.
West Beach Blvd (16.5 miles)
This is the first bike ride outside of Gulf State Park in our Gulf Shores biking guide. It follows Beach Blvd from the park, through downtown Gulf Shores to the road’s western terminus. There are dedicated bike lanes the whole way with minimal cross traffic, so it’s easy riding. However, between the dunes and condos, there aren’t as many beach views as you might expect. However, the farther west you go, the more spaces there are between the buildings and you get some excellent views of Little Lagoon during the last mile before you turn around.
The highlight of this ride is undoubtedly Little Lagoon Park and the Lee Callaway Bridge over Little Lagoon Pass. The park is so beautiful that I’d recommend detouring on Lagoon Blvd so you can come into the park from the backside on a waterfront bike trail. Maybe go out onto the fishing pier for a better view or stop on the bridge as you leave the park.
There’s plenty of incredible bike riding in Gulf State Park on the east end of this route, so feel free to add additional segments if you want more mileage. This caveat goes for every ride in this guide because we’ve planned for them all to start from Gulf State Park.
Perdido Key (21.5 miles)
This route goes from the Cotton Bayou Trailhead to the end of Perdido Key and back with a little lollipop loop at the end, so you don’t have to cross over the beach road. It’s similar to heading west on Beach Blvd, with a little more of everything; more miles, higher bridges, bigger passes, and even a little ride through Perdido Key State Park, where you’ll catch some unobstructed beach and dune views. You even get to cross the Flora-Bama line along the way.
There are a couple of points of interest along the way I’d like to point out. First off, there’s a bonus ten-mile out-and-back on the Johnson Beach National Seashore that’s an outstanding ride, but it didn’t make it on the route because of the $15/rider entrance fee. Secondly, there’s a great stopping place under the shade of the Theo Baars Bridge at the far end of the ride to grab a snack out of your bag, drink a little water, and rest your legs. Finally, a little bike trail runs down River Road from the bridge back to the main road, but it isn’t well maintained, so many people just ride River Road back
Perdido Pass Bridge (2 miles)
This is the most scenic ride in Gulf Shores / Orange Beach, with dedicated bike lanes on the bridge in both directions and turnarounds under the bridge on each end. The views from the top of the Perdido Pass Bridge are amazing. However, that’s not why it’s on this list. It’s not scenic enough to justify packing your bike down to the beach, paying for parking, and taking a short loop.
You basically get this ride “for free” with no additional mileage or parking fees with the Perdido Key bike ride. However, the turnarounds at the bridge make it a valuable logistic tool to shorten the trip and make it accessible for more people. It will be a seven-mile ride if you’re riding from Cotton Bayou Trailhead across the bridge and back. You’ll want a geared bike to climb over the bridge, but it’s a beautiful ride. If you combine it with the daily happy hour food specials at Cobalt Restaurant, it gets even better.
Bear Point Lollipop Loop (10 miles)
I almost didn’t include this bike route in the guide. It’s not the most scenic ride in Gulf Shores, but fun nonetheless. My real issue with this ride is the long shielded right turn from Canal Rd to Orange Beach Blvd. This turn makes the intersection super dangerous for bike riders and makes pedestrian crosswalks impossible. However, I decided to include it for completeness sake and the opportunity to present alternative routes.
There are bike lanes and minimal traffic on Canal Road past Orange Beach Blvd; the tricky part is getting around that intersection. Northbound is easy. You take the bike lanes on Orange Beach and turn right, but the return trip gets sticky. I think it’s best to avoid the intersection entirely by turning onto Calloway Road and working your way back to the sidewalk/trail on the east side of Orange Beach Blvd. You can cross back to the parking lot on the crosswalk at Catman Road.
If you wanted to avoid everything, you could park at Orange Beach Waterfront Park, but that would be a short ride mostly through neighborhoods, so you might be better served taking another lap through the Hugh S Branyon Trails and calling it good.
Fort Morgan Road Ride (42 miles)
The Fort Morgan road ride is one of three classic cycling routes in Gulf Shores. You can create the first 52-mile route by simply combining the West Beach Blvd Ride with the Gulf State Park Loop and Perdido Key. We made these routes to connect together, so there’s nothing more to say about that. The third cycling route is coming, so stay tuned, but this section is about the Fort Morgan Road Ride.
Two things make this ride special and unique; you’re sheltered from the coastal breezes a bit by the trees along Fort Morgan Road, and you can take the ferry over to Dauphin Island for more riding, breakfast at the bakery, and a quintessential Gulf Coast experience during the crossing. Plus, you get to see historic Fort Morgan and maybe stop for a rest under the mature oak trees and the Pine Beach Trail Trailhead (if you don’t mind crossing 100′ of dirt road to get there).
We drew the route starting from Woodside Restaurant to connect it to the Hugh S. Branyon Trail system, but if you’re driving in, I would consider parking at the shopping center west of 59 to avoid that intersection. Otherwise, you can use the Fort Morgan Trail westbound and the Coyote Xing Trail eastbound to get around traffic at the corner and shopping center.
Once you clear the shopping centers, it’s smooth cycling on Fort Morgan Road, and it’s much better to ride on the road instead of messing with Fort Morgan Trail crossing side streets, and construction. For sheer aesthetics, I would ride the last mile of the trail westbound as it runs past the Peninsula Golf Club. Otherwise, I would stick to the road. If you’re not comfortable riding with cars, maybe a 42-mile cycling route isn’t for you.
Infinity Bicycles 55-Mile Ride (55 miles)
Truth in advertising, I did not cycle this route. I learned about it while researching our trip, drove the route, and stopped at Infinity Bicycles, an authorized Trek dealer. I discussed the ride with Steven Taylor, the store manager and decided that I didn’t want to solo ride this route, because of the narrow roads and the high-speed traffic on US-98. If you’re feeling uncertain, you can click around on the Google Maps street-level view and see how it feels for you. One nice thing about a solo ride is that you can make the 10-mile detour to check out Bamahenge and the Dinosaurs in the Wood. But, as a solo rider, I would recommend a mirror and daytime riding light.
I am excited to try this as a shop ride with a group of riders. It sounds fun, fast, and a great way to meet local riders. I know I feel more comfortable riding in the peloton for increased visibility at the right time of day with knowledgeable riders who know the shortcuts around some of the busy road sections.
Bike Rentals in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach
Biking in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is epic enough to bring your own wheels and create a bike vacation to the Gulf Coast. But if you’ve reached this point of the article already, we know that you’re interested in experiencing the simple pleasures of pedaling, but you’re in need of some wheels. Luckily, there are plenty of bike rentals in Gulf Shores.
- Infinity Bicycles – The place to go if you’re looking to rent high-performance, hybrids, or electric bikes. Also, the best full-service bike shop in town.
- Gulf State Park Bike Share – A free (yes free) bike share program at Gulf State Park. Bike stations are located throughout the park, primarily at major trailheads. Sign up on the Bloom App and get 3-hours of free riding in the park every day.
- Coastal Segway Adventures – Bike rentals and more located within Gulf Shores State Park at Lake Shelby Picnic Area.
- Pedego Electric Bikes Orange Beach – Electric bikes are fun and a great way to get views without paying your dues.
- Beach Bike Rentals – They accept reservations to rent cruiser bikes, ebikes, tandems, adult trikes, children’s bikes, child carrier options, and all sorts of bike accessories. Located 100′ from Rosemary Dune Trailhead with free delivery on most rental packages.
- Tikis Bike Shack – Free delivery available on overnight rentals.
- Coyote Beach Sports – E-bike rentals in the heart of downtown Gulf Shores.
Bike Friendly Hotels in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach
What sets the Lodge apart is its unparalleled access because its located within Gulf State Park. You can access the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry via a pedestrian overpass that crosses from the property to Lake Shelby. You’re also set up right on Beach Blvd to take the west end ride or head over to Perdido Key. They’re also a prime location for the free bike share program, so you can snag a ride right outside the lobby. If you bring your own bikes, there’s plenty of bike parking available that’s primarily accessible to hotel guests.
Final Thoughts on Biking Gulf Shores and Orange Beach
Congratulations, you made it to the end. Are you ready to go biking in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach yet? There are a couple more things that you should know. First off, biking is intrinsically dangerous, so use your best judgment when you ride and be sure to read our bike disclaimer.
Secondly, it’s almost always nicer to bike in the mornings. The traffic is lighter, the air is cooler, the winds are less, and more bikes are available through the bike share.
Finally, relax, have fun and enjoy the ride. Between the beach views and excellent trails, there are few places like Gulf Shores to enjoy the simple pleasure of riding a bike.
Remember to ride safely and read our bike disclaimer before you go
Disclosure: A big thank you to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism for hosting us and setting up a fantastic itinerary! For more Gulf Shores and Orange Beach travel inspiration, check out their Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts.
As always, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own, and we only recommend brands and destinations that we 100% stand behind.
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