Bike trails bring tourists to state

Published 1:31 am Saturday, September 13, 2014


“It’s like riding a bike” has new meaning in Alabama. Leading the country in mountain biking trail development, Alabama has thousands flocking to the state for pristine trails. With numerous trail awards and the launch of a high school mountain biking league, the future looks promising for mountain biking in Alabama.

According to The Outdoor Foundation, more than 40 million adrenaline-seeking Americans are mountain biking in 2014. That’s 11 percent more than 2013. People of all ages are hitting the trails to escape and unplug. Finding a full escape in nature can be difficult in the new millennia of technology with its constant communication and instant results. Mountain biking requires full focus while speeding downhill, jumping rocky terrain, and braking quickly, all in a matter of seconds. This rapid pace holds peoples’ full attention long enough to put away smart phones and laptops for an afternoon outdoors.

To keep up with changing tastes and growing demand, Alabama State Parks have worked with partners around the state to develop new trails and improve older trails for all skill levels. Volunteers are crucial to state parks and park development, as they provide 25 percent of all labor within the parks.

The work of volunteers developing these trails is being noticed around the world. The Birmingham Urban Mountain Peddlers’ (BUMP) work at Oak Mountain earned the trail a spot in International Mountain Biking Association’s (IMBA) Epic Hall of Fame. State Park Director Greg Lein spoke about these partnerships at IMBA’s national conference earlier this year. He shared the success of the partnership between IMBA, Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA) and the Northeast Alabama Bicycle Association (NEABA) at Forever Wild Land Trust’s Coldwater Mountain to tout the importance of partnerships in making these projects a reality.

CAMP has also done extensive work at Chewacla State Park with construction of their wooden trails and wall, “The Great Wall of Chewacla.” This unique wall is the only of its kind in the Southeast, attracting people around the country. The West Alabama Mountain Biking Association and the Druid City Bicycle Club have developed trails making Lake Lurleen State Park the centerpiece of mountain biking in West Alabama.

Thanks to the work of partners, Alabama’s trail system is one of the top in the country. This year, the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) launched a competitive mountain biking league for middle and high school students in Alabama. More than 30 schools already are signed up to begin teaching their students to master a lifelong sport.

As more organizations work to develop the trails and their children develop an attachment to the environment, mountain biking in Alabama looks like it will continue to grow and bring tourists and businesses to the state. Alabama is the perfect place to develop a passion for the sport, as the state grows to be a premier destination in the country, just as the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is a premier golf destination.

People of Alabama have already seen how an extensive outdoor trail can impact the state; the economic potential is huge. Nationwide the impact of outdoor recreation surpasses $645 billion annually. This exceeds the impact of pharmaceuticals, motor vehicles and parts, and gasoline and other fuels, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The number of jobs (86,000), tax revenues (nearly half a billion), and increases in property values are quantifiable measures in the economic impact of Alabama’s outdoor industry.


Rob Grant is the Assistant Director of the Alabama State Parks System. Before joining the Parks System in February of 2014, he was the Recreation Programs Manager at the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.