Illustration by Scott DuBar
Besides rooting for the Bulldogs and packing indie rock clubs, the people of Athens love to pedal. Biking culture largely dominates the outdoor scene in Georgia’s bustling college town.
“There’s great riding 10 minutes in any direction,” says Jimmy Marbut, owner of Sunshine Cycles.
Indeed, cyclists take advantage of the rolling country roads and pristine farm landscapes that surround the small city, while active mountain bike clubs have built an impressive network of singletrack not far from town.
When they’re not riding, locals can be found eating at a bevy of hip independent restaurants, grabbing a craft beer at the Terrapin Brewery, or catching tunes at the 40 Watt or recently reopened Georgia Theatre.
“Athens has a little bit of everything you want, and not a lot of what you don’t want,” says Marbut. “It’s a nice pace of life with everything you need.”
Marbut’s Outdoor Picks
The best singletrack is found on the 10-mile maze of trails at Oconee Heritage Park. The technical terrain features hearty climbs and fun descents, as well as creek crossings and wheel-stumping roots. Another local favorite is Fort Yargo State Park in nearby Winder, which features 14 miles of well-maintained trails for a range of skill levels. SORBA recently unveiled the newly created Payne’s Creek Trail, a seven-mile flowing rollercoaster of fun singletrack in Hartwell.
Classic City Road Ride
A classic road route is the rolling 23-mile Jefferson River Road Ride. “With one turn straight out of downtown, you’re instantly in the middle of the country surrounded by farms and woodlands with very little traffic,” says Marbut, who recommends the regular ride beginning and ending at his store.
Every spring, Athens hosts the Twilight Criterium, an 80K race around downtown with a field of pro cyclists.
Recreational canoers and kayakers dip paddles in the mellow waters of the free-flowing Broad River. The Broad River Outpost in Danielsville offers shuttles for flatwater runs between five and ten miles that feature lazy river stretches surrounded by scenic bluffs and hardwood forests.
Run Sandy Creek
Local trail runners like the network of trails at the Sandy Creek Nature Center, which winds through quiet woodlands and wetlands.
Back to the Theatre
The historic Georgia Theatre, which helped launch the careers of R.E.M., the B-52’s, and Widespread Panic, burned to the ground in 2009, but the tight-knit music community in Athens wouldn’t let it die. After a string of benefit concerts and donations, the venue was rebuilt and recently reopened its doors in August. Now it’s back in full force with a hearty schedule of shows, including a return by Panic on October 9.