Our Chief Ladiga Trail Guide splits the trail into thirds:
- First Third – small town adventure in Anniston, Weaver, and Jacksonville.
- Second Third – rolling through farms adjacent to State Route 21 into Piedmont.
- Final Third – exploring the Talladega National Forest and Pinhoti Trail to the state line.
We’ll highlight the essential logistics required for the ride, delicious food, and exciting stops to fully enjoy the trip.
Interactive Map of the Chief Ladiga Trail
Below is our interactive map of the Chief Ladiga Trail. It contains all the locations mentioned in this guide (as well as a few extras). The waypoints start in Anniston and are listed in order north to Esom Hill, Georgia. If it doesn’t load, try refreshing this page 😉
First Third of The Chief Ladiga Trail
- Overview – A small-town adventure through Anniston, Weaver, and Jacksonville.
- Distance – 9 Miles
- Elevation Change – Mostly Flat
- Trail Condition – Excellent, even for skating
Anniston is the Chief Ladiga Trail’s southern terminus, the county seat of Calhoun County, host to the closest bike shop to the Chief Ladiga Trail (Wigs Wheels). It’s also adjacent to I-20. All of these things make it the logistic gateway to the Chief Ladiga Trail. It’s home to the TripAdvisor 5-star Hotel Final and fine dining at Classic on Noble. It would be awesome if the proposed Chief Ladiga extension came to fruition and the trail reached all the way into town. Until then, you’re probably going to drive to the trailhead at Michael Tucker Park.
From the trailhead ride north and a mile later, enter Weaver, where there are a couple of stores and a trailside cafe for weary travelers. Northbound traffic will hardly notice the town, but for bike campers at Michael Tucker Park or riders from Piedmont who are halfway through a 40-mile day, it’s lovely. Heading out of Weaver, you realize that you can see both sides of the track from the old railbed. On one side, there are dilapidated trailers, while on the other, there are sprawling country homes with manicured lawns.
Five miles past Weaver, you reach Jacksonville, home to Jacksonville State University. The college town vibe is undeniable. The old Jacksonville Train Depot has been converted into a trail hub with clean restrooms and informative signs worth stopping for. Just up from the station is Struts of Jacksonville, which boasts the best wings in town. Downtown Jacksonville is just a little farther with even more dining options Heirloom Tacos, the best tacos in Calhoun County (and from what we hear, well worth the detour!). As you continue down the trail, you reach Jacksonville State University and pass right by fraternity row. At mile 8.6, you reach Germania Springs Park, the last rest stop in Jacksonville before starting the middle stretch, which has few amenities until you reach Piedmont.
Middle Section of the Chief Ladiga Trail
- Overview – rolling through farms adjacent to State Route 21 into Piedmont.
- Distance – 10 Miles
- Elevation Change – 200↑ , 200↓
- Trail Condition – Good, a few spots where tree roots are lifting the trail near Piedmont
There’s not much between Germania Springs and Piedmont. For some riders, that’s just perfect. The view alternates between farm fields and light forest. We rode the Chief Ladiga in the fall of 2020, so cotton bolls filled the fields, and the leaves were glowing in autumn splendor. A maintenance project grinding down roots had (almost) reached Piedmont. The remaining roots have been marked, so we hope it’s been completed by the time we return. It wasn’t awful, and our 25-mm tires did just fine, but not what Alabama’s premier rail-trail deserves.
Ten miles past Germania Springs, you reach Piedmont, which a wonderful bike hub. There is delicious food at Elevated Grounds and Shells Downtown, grocery stores, and places to stay the night right off the trail. However, make sure you stop by the Eubanks Welcome Center at mile 19. They have maps, snacks, and souvenirs, but most importantly, they have the last toilets on the trail.
Final Third of the Chief Ladiga Trail
- Overview – Explore the Talladega National Forest and Pinhoti Trail to the state line.
- Distance – 14 Miles
- Elevation Change – 350↑ , 125↓
- Trail Condition – OK, many spots where tree roots are lifting the trail, heavy leaf cover in fall
Things get wild and wonderful past the Eubanks Welcome Center. The farmland that you saw in the previous section persists for another 4-miles or so; then, you enter Talladega National Forest, and everything changes.
We waited out a rain shower at the welcome center and left out with just enough time to dash to the state line and back. All our senses came alive in Talladega. The first thing we noticed was the smell of the forest. It was somewhere between apple pie and pine cone, but it smelled earthy and good. Then we could feel the cool mists settling into the dells and valleys. The fog was particularly thick as we passed through a 1/2-mile rock cut for the old rail bed. Looking ahead, we saw a couple of enormous bucks wandering onto the trail in the haze. Passing over Terrapin Creek, we could hear rushing water rumbling from the recent rain. Even though we had to be careful of tree roots and wet leaves, this was our favorite section of the trail.
Logistics of the Chief Ladiga Trail
It’s best to ride the Chief Ladiga Trail as an out-and-back unless you’re heading all the way to Atlanta. There are ample access points and services from Anniston to Piedmont; however, there is minimal support past Piedmont. If you had a support driver, they could pick you up at the Esom Hill Trailhead about a 1/2 mile into Georgia. We did have good cell service along the entire trail with Verizon. Also, of note, the only full-service bike shop is Wig’s Wheels in Anniston, so make sure you bring your tire kit with you. Finally, the mile markers on the trail are excellent. There’s an obvious marker every mile, and often at the 1/2 miles as well.
Rules for the Chief Ladiga Trail
We saw these rules posted several places along the trail:
- Trail open one hour before sunrise and one hour after sunset.
- No motorized vehicles.
- Walkers have right of way.
- Always pass on the left.
- All pets must be kept on a leash and under control.
- Owners must clean up after pets.
- No alcoholic beverages allowed.
- Excessive speeding is prohibited.
- Safety helmets required for all bikers and skaters.
- Horses are allowed only on the Cleburne County section of the trail.
- No littering
- Users must stop at all crossings.
- Climbing on bridges and railings is prohibited.
- Use extreme caution while crossing bridges.
- Firearms and hunting are prohibited.
- Respect the privacy of adjacent homeowners
Rails to Trails Conservancy has a few more ideas on how to recreate responsibly that we hope everyone follows during the 2020 pandemic and beyond.
On the subject of the Rails to Trails Conservancy, they have a really cool trail moments section to allow people to share how much these trails mean to them. We wrote a piece titled The Long Trail Home about how riding the Chief Ladiga Trail felt like a homecoming to us. People have been loving the piece, so we hope you can check it out.
We also hope that you take the time to write your own trail moments. It might not seem like much, but your voice can join a chorus of voices for trail advocacy. Riding the Chief Ladiga reinforced how important that is, especially now as trail usage has grown to an all-time high, as budgets are reaching an all-time low. Without advocates, there will be no extension into Anniston. There will be no maintenance projects grinding down tree roots or keeping rest stops open. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece; just speak your mind and tell your story.
We hope you make it out on the Chief Ladiga Trail someday. If you can’t, we hope you keep exploring your local trails and safely enjoying the outdoors.
As always, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own, and we only recommend brands and destinations that we 100% stand behind.
Remember to ride safely and read our bike disclaimer before you go
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