Are you looking for a socially distanced cycling adventure that takes you through small-town Alabama and into the depths of the Talledega National Forest? Look no farther than the Chief Ladiga Trail, Alabama's premiere Rails-to-Trails project. The CLT runs 33-miles from Anniston through Jacksonville and Piedmont to the Georgia state line. There, it connects to the Silver Comet Trail and continues another 70 miles into suburban Atlanta. Whether you're out for a day-ride, a bike weekend, or a week-long adventure going all the way to Atlanta, you have to check out the Chief Ladiga Trail.
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 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.