The secret is out about gravel cycling in South Fulton County and the experience is only getting better as Chattahoochee Hills embraces cycling tourism. Some cyclists still find it hard to believe that a continuous loop of nearly 20 miles of gravel roads can be found in Fulton County. Add the beautiful pastural settings of Chattahoochee Hills, the water falls of Cochran Mill, and the hamlet of Serenbe and you have a cycling destination unlike any other in Atlanta.
The 20 mile gravel loop is better known as the “Dirty Sheets”. The name pokes fun at another cycling route in the area … the “Silk Sheets”. A number of Atlanta based Century rides utilize the “Silk Sheets” as part of their route so the area is popular with cyclists. Many chose Cochran Mill Park as the starting point for their ride. The park offers plenty of parking, restrooms, and trails to multiple waterfalls. Cochran Mill Park seems to be a venue frozen in time with old mill ruins, steel guider bridges and artifacts that makes one curious as to the history of the area. Mountain bike trails at Cochran Mill complete the trifecta of cycling opportunities in the area. The park offers more than 19 miles of trails.
The Dirty Sheets offers a collection of surprises including a lot of climbing. The town of Chattachoochee Hills is not surprisingly a community of hills and the gravel loop ascends many. The route provides just under 1000 feet of climbing and a mix of grades from 2-5%. The gravel loop is considered an intermediate cycling experience. Even though the loop utilizes public roads, cars are scarce on the loop. Cyclists spend much of the experience cycling through managed forests and farms. Many cyclists not only appreciate the remoteness of the route but feel a bit safer given they’re not competing against vehicles for space.
One of the newest surprises along the Dirty Sheets is the Chattahoochee Hills Barn Quilt Tour. The exhibit features a beautiful collection of more than 38 quilt designs attached to local barns, buildings and silos in the area. The Chattahoochee Hills community has joined together to offer visual surprises around every turn of gravel and the Barn Quilt Tour brings attention to the rich heritage of the Chattahoochee Hills area. Find detailed info on each Quilt at the Quilt Tour website.
On this day I chose to visit a couple of local shops in the area. Serenbe offers a number of shops, restaurants and the Pro Bike Repair bike shop. The shop offers bike sales, repairs and rentals and is convenient to the Dirty Sheets. After visiting Pro Bike Repair it was time to scoot down the street to the Blue Eyed Daisy coffee shop. The shop offers a wide variety of pastries, sandwiches and more. The Dirty Sheets does not pass directly through Serenbe. However, the hamlet is located less than a mile from the loop and is easily accessible. Some cyclists visit Serenbe during their ride and others simply go by the Blue Eyed Daisy afterwards.
Tips to consider when riding the Dirty Sheets Gravel Loop
The Dirty Sheets loop never closes so cyclists may ride the loop year around rain or shine 24-7. Parking is available at Cochran Mill Park dusk to dawn. If you’re going to ride the loop after dark, you’ll want to park in the New Hope United Methodist Church parking lot or behind the Chattahoochee Hills City Hall. Sections of the loop are quite remote and there are no stores or amenities along the loop. It’s important to take a phone, tools, lights, food and drink when planning a ride on the Dirty Sheets. I recommend riding with a friend or group if it’s your first time. The route is an enjoyable experience both clockwise and counter clockwise.