Life In the Big Green Jolly

Embrace local. Explore often.

Embrace local.  Explore often.

Silver Comet Trail Bike Tour

The Silver Comet Trail is an excellent choice for a bike tour if you are looking for a long-distance mostly flat ride on the equivalent of a bike highway.

The Silver Comet Trail offers:

  • 61-miles of shared-use paved trail between Smyrna, Georgia and the Alabama line near Esom Hill, Georgia
  • Mix of urban and rural locations.
  • Mostly flat (with the exception of the area near Cedartown)
  • Car-free (the trail crosses roads but at busy intersections there are cross-walks activated via push-button)
  • Starting point easily accessible from a major city. Mile 0 is in Smyrna GA (13 miles northwest of Atlanta)
  • Points of interest along the trail
  • Small town charm and southern hospitality

See Silver Comet Trail for an overview of the trail’s history and vibe.  

Silver Comet Trail Bike Tour – Overview

Planning this self-supported bike tour on the Silver Comet Trail took a lot of research effort. No single website had a comprehensive and up-to-date package of information. Consider using these sites when planning your tour.

My tour plan was a loose framework that detailed possible places to sleep, eat and the distance between those locations.  During the bike tour, we improvised due to mechanical issues, poor weather, and small-town business closures.

Be prepared to be self-sufficient both mechanically and logistically.  Bike shops are sparse. Way-finding signs are almost non-existent.

Our tour group was two cyclists – a daughter/father duo who have ridden organized tours together.  I’m mid-40s with 25+ years of cycling experience including bike touring.  Dad is a young sixty-something who developed a renewed passion for cycling and bike touring in the last ten years.

I prefer camping when bike touring.  However, we used hotels on this bike tour due to cold night temperatures and limited daylight hours.

Our original goal was to ride round-trip the 200 miles of both the Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga trails. The reality was we rode only the Silver Comet Trail.

We took five days to complete a 144 mile tour (round-trip including side trips). Weather delays and mechanical issues changed our total distance and prevented us from exploring some of the nature preserves and historical areas.

The riding hours for our November tour were usually 10 a.m – 4 p.m.  Actual daylight hours were 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Due to cold temperatures, our start time was rarely earlier than 10 a.m.  The safety-net goal was to be at our hotel an hour before sundown.

Our experience and actual (versus planned) itinerary are below.  Before using this itinerary, double-check that restaurants and hotels still exist. Small towns have a frequent turnover of tourist services.

Day 1 – Smyrna to Hiram

Starting Trailhead:Mavell Road, Smyrna
Endpoint Trailhead:No trailhead.
Metromont Rd intersection,Hiram
Daily mileage
including side trips:

Trail Description:
Mostly flat. Many road crossings.
Points of Interest: Heritage Park Trail (wetland walks and Concord Covered Bridge)
Wildhorse Creek Trail
Eating Suggestion:Huey Luey’s.  
Decent Mexican chain.
Hotel Suggestion:Sleep Inn and Suites
181 Metromont Road, Hiram

Torrential rains and localized flooding delayed the start of our Silver Comet Trail bike tour by 24-hours.

We spent the first few hours of day one finding extended overnight parking for our car.  We had planned to park at the Publix parking lot in Highland Station or at a local bike shop.

However, being towed was a real risk at both of those locations. We called the local tourism board and county offices for suggestions.  The response was the equivalent of a government shrug. No one had suggestions. Just the warning that parking at the trailheads would get your vehicle towed.

The night before our bike tour we had stayed at the Country Inn and Suites by Radisson on Church Road in Smyrna.  The friendly front-staff said we could park there for a week “at our own risk”.

Upon hearing that we would be bike touring on the Silver Comet Trail, they warned us to be careful as there were “milling about people” for the first few miles of the trail.  They adamantly warned us against riding to the Mavell Road trailhead from their location. Since they assumed we would ride the busy South Cobb Road, I can see their point.

We found an better riding route from the hotel to the Silver Comet Trail Cumberland Connector trail. That route was:

  • From the hotel, use the sidewalk to access Oakdale Road SE.
  • In 1.2 miles, it T-bones into West Atlanta Road SE.  Turn left onto West Atlanta Road SE.
  • Turn right onto Young Street.  Young street dead-ends into a grassy hill.
  • Walk your bike up the grassy hill to Atlanta Road.  
  • At the intersection on your left, cross Cumberland Parkway SE.
  • The Silver Comet Trail Cumberland Connector trailhead will immediately be on your left.  
  • From there, it is a 2-mile ride to the Mavell Road Trailhead.

Our goal was to ride 42 miles to Cedartown.  But the weather – with its “feels like” temperature in the mid-30s and constant drizzle – changed our goal. Abandoning the idea of all-day misery, we adjusted our target to Hiram.  This would give us under twenty miles of riding.

It was mid-day, mid-week and the trail had few people on it.  Six cyclists and eight walkers – more company than we expected given the cold weather.  Our assumption is they were all stir crazy after 2 days of solid rain.

That night we stayed at the Sleep Inn and Suites in Hiram.  The intersection to get to the hotel was unsigned on the trail so we had to consult our Google Maps regularly to know when to turn off the trail.  The hotel is about ½ mile north of the trail. It is located next to a movie theater and within walking distance of a choice of chain restaurants.

It was a short mileage day and not the day we intended.  Due to miserable riding weather, we did not explore any of the small towns along the route.  Every bike tour has a low point or a bad day that risks group morale and invites abandonment. We got ours out of the way on Day 1.  

Day 2 – Hiram to Cedartown

Starting Trailhead:No trailhead.
Metromont Rd intersection,Hiram
Endpoint Trailhead:Cedartown Depot
Daily mileage
including side trips:
Trail Description: Mostly flat. Steep, rolling hills east of Cedartown.
Points of Interest:Pumpkinvine Trestle
Brushy Mountain Tunnel
Coot’s Lake
Rockmart River Walk
Eating Suggestion: Zorba’s – Italian.
N Main St, Cedartown
Hotel Suggestion:Quality Inn
925 N Main St Cedartown

We lingered at the hotel in Hiram until 10 a.m. waiting for the weather to warm up.

At mile marker 23, we reached the 700-foot long Pumpkinvine Trestle.  Not a stunning trestle but a perfect photo opportunity.

According to the trestle was built in the early 1900s and restored in 1999 for use by the Silver Comet Trail. The website says that part of the trestle was damaged in 1903 when a train engine jumped the track.

Side view of Pumpkinvine Trestle along the Silver Comet Trail.  Shadows of the trestle one the trees below.
Pumpkinvine Trestle

At mile marker 30.9, there is the Brushy Mountain Tunnel.  At 800 feet long, it’s wise to remove your sunglasses before riding through it.  According to , the tunnel was built in 1904 by the Atlanta & Birmingham Air Line Railway.  Originally it was called the Divide tunnel.

Cyclist looking at entering Brushy Mountain Tunnel
800-feet long Brushy Mountain Tunnel

At mile marker 33.5, we stopped at the Coot’s Lake trailhead for a break. Coot’s Lake is a private lake.  Up until late 2017, the public could pay to swim there. Other cyclists’ reports suggest stopping for a swim during the summer.  However, the lake is now available only for private group rentals. Public swimming is not permitted.

An inmate work van pulled into the parking lot while we were there.  As a deputy stomps over to us, I think “this can’t be good”.  

Turns out he wanted to chat about our ride, other cyclists he knew and give us some local recommendations. He explained the work crew’s objectives of clearing debris from the sides of the trail.  Then, he pulled the chainsaw-wielding inmates into our discussion to get their input on where we should eat lunch. It was a surreal conversation.

Continuing down the trail, we navigate through more standing water from the recent rains.  

Stopping in Rockmart, we look for the inmates’ recommendation of Frankie’s Restaurant.  The downtown only has a few streets. After circling the square a few times, we decide the suggestion was a victim of small-town turnover.

We stop at a random diner. The food wasn’t 4-star but it was hot and filling.  As a bonus, we got free entertainment. A group of well-dressed ladies eyed our bikes as they exited, and exclaimed to each other “They BIKED today?!”  Given how cold the day started out, I understood their surprise. The server explained he couldn’t serve us hot coffee. They have a coffee maker but no coffee since they’ve only been open two months.  Accepting this as part of bike tour life, we settle for water.

Cyclist repairing bike along Silver Comet Trail
Broken spoke on the Silver Comet Trail

After lunch, the hillier section of the trail begins.  Dad’s speed was progressively slowing as the day progressed.  The mystery is solved on the first real uphill. A broken spoke on his back wheel has the brake rubbing hard.  

Unable to loosen the brake enough to prevent rubbing, Dad unhooks the brake. The hilliest section of the trail is still ahead of us.  I suggest a retreat to Rockmart. He insists “only forward”.

The real hills begin.  Dad lines up his bail-out points before each downhill.  I send a silent prayer to the bike gods – please don’t add medical tourism to our trip.

Reaching a flat section, Dad zooms ahead.  Amazing how not braking can improve a biker’s speed.  

Spotting something lurching alongside the trail, we stop. It’s a bobcat with one of its front paws clamped in a steel trap.  While trying to escape us, it gets the trap caught in a wire fence.

Bobcat with a paw trapped stuck in a fence
Bobcat encountered along the trail – we hope wildlife control was able to help it

A brief fantasy of removing the trap is cut short when the cat bares its fangs and growls at us.  After one confusing call to 911 (“No. I am not calling about a house cat stuck in a mousetrap!”), we are assured wildlife management is on its way. We risk running out of daylight so we continue on before they arrive.

We encounter Mount Surprise (aka Mount Trashmore) approximately six miles east of Cedartown.  It’s about a 1 mile hill including a short section at almost a 13% incline.  We weren’t ashamed to walk it.

Approaching the Cedartown trailhead, a rainbow appears.  Leaving the trail, we navigate 1.5 miles of potholes, narrow roads, and less-than-friendly drivers and roll into our hotel as the sun is setting.

Cyclist rounding a curve on Silver Comet Trail
Chasing the light into Cedartown

Following the hotel clerk’s recommendation, we walk to Zorba’s for dinner.  The Italian restaurant, with Greek owners, serves generous dinner portions. The manicotti is creamy and rich and the marinara sauce tasted homemade. The Friday night crowd is busy and non-stop. It seems the locals agree that this is scrumptious food.

Zorba’s does not have a liquor license but you can bring your own bottle of wine.  For a better wine selection, skip the gas station beside Zorba’s and go to the Kroger down the street.

Day 3 – Cedartown – Alabama state line – Cedartown

Starting Trailhead:Cedartown Depot
Endpoint Trailhead:Cedartown Depot
Daily mileage
including side trips:
Trail Description:Flat. Covered with black walnuts.
Points of Interest:Cedartown Welcome Depot
Georgia/Alabama State Line
Eating Suggestion:Ideal Bakery,
N Main Street, Cedartown
Hotel Suggestion:Quality Inn
925 N Main St Cedartown

The morning is spent trying to find a method to true the back wheel so the brake can be re-engaged.  

The bike shop in Rome has a backlog and too far to walk. The Cedartown Welcome Center gives us the number of a local bike repair guy but he is out of town for a week.  

We attempt a self-repair but the spokes remain frozen. Neither Coca-cola nor a penetrating oil from the auto shop will loosen the spokes. The brake will remain disengaged.

Cyclist contemplating repairing an upside down bike
Contemplating bike repairs – bike shops are scarce along the Silver Comet Trail

It’s time to alter the bike tour plan.  We won’t be riding both the Silver Comet Trail and the Chief Ladiga Trail on our bike tour.

Today is now an out-and-back ride to the Alabama state line.  Putting a wheel into Alabama will, per Dad rules, allow him to cross that state off his “I rode my bike here” list.

Sign for Ideal Bakery
Ideal Bakery in Cedartown – a must visit for their brownies

Our waiter at lunch yesterday insisted we visit the Ideal Bakery in Cedartown.  It was good advice. Following the golden-rule of bike touring “never pass up a baked good”, we carb-load on a few pastries. Chocolate fans – the brownies are the perfect balance between a firm outside with a gooey middle.

We stop at the Cedartown Welcome Center to pump up our tires at the self-service bike station. The bike tire pump is inoperable. The local volunteer in the center says it has been an ongoing problem due to theft of pieces of the pump.  Then, she loans me the hand pump they keep for that reason.

Outside, an energetic cyclist talking a mile-a-minute, has Dad cornered.  The gentleman is a storyteller taking full advantage of his captive audience.  He rides the trail daily to help out cyclists who need repairs. When asked about fixing the broken spoke, he replies “I didn’t bring my tools today”.  In great detail, he then informs us he is Samuel L Jackson’s brother once-removed and that Samuel bought him his recumbent bicycle.

I smile – this is why I bike tour.  For fitness and scenery, and spending time with family and friends, yes.  But the greatest moments are those times with locals. Maybe it’s the advice they give, the food they offer, or the stories they share that make you laugh long after the bike tour is over. Today it’s definitely the stories.

Riding out of town, the first ½ mile has you riding through homeless camps.  We had been warned about this so it wasn’t unexpected. What was surprising was the cartons of granola bars left for them under the overpasses.  Who donates those?

The ride to the Alabama state line is flat but the natural debris littering the trail has us zig-zagging across the path. Recent rainstorms brought the usual sticks and leaves to the trail and probably more black walnuts than usual.  The tree branches across the trails weren’t the norm nor were the logs that presumably washed up from somewhere.

I stop to take a picture of a goat and narrowly avoid stepping in one of the million anthills along the trail.

At the state boundary, we take our “proof of crossing” photos under the gateway arch.  Two other cycling groups join us. We have a mini-cyclist party, munching on snacks and swapping stories.  

One biker questions our low mileage for the trip. Dad tells him the broken spoke slowed us down. The cyclist promptly leans over, flicks the spoke and says “Yep, that’s broke”.  I hide my grin as Dad bites his tongue.

Man standing under arch at the Georgia/Alabama state line
Gateway Park

We spend a second night at the Quality Inn in Cedartown.  

Expect the unexpected on a bike tour – that’s not a dog

Walking back to the hotel with carryout for dinner, a dog barrels straight towards me.  I brace for barking or slobber. But it’s not a dog. It’s a pig.

A pig? At that moment, the homeowner opens the front door and whistles.  The pig pauses, turns around and trots back to the house.

Day 4 – Cedartown to Hiram

Starting Trailhead:Cedartown Depot
Endpoint Trailhead:No trailhead
Metromont Road intersection
Daily mileage
including side trips:
Trail Description:Hilly as you leave Cedartown
Points of Interest:Rockmart River Walk
Coot’s Lake
Brushy Mountain Tunnel
Pumpkinvine Trestle
Eating Suggestion:Soli’s Soups, Salads & Sandwiches
Hotel Suggestion: Sleep Inn and Suites
181 Metromont Road, Hiram

Turnaround day has arrived. It is time to start the trek back towards Smyrna.  

Dad has been dreading the hills at the beginning of the day’s ride.  His stalling tactics were second to none – a second-helping at the hotel breakfast, waiting for the weather to warm up, and more than once checking his email “one last time”.   

Cyclist riding past a puddle up a hill on Silver Comet Trail bikeway
The start of the hills before Mount Trashmore

Within an hour of starting our ride, we are past the hilliest section.  The day is warming up so I stop to remove an outer layer. Dad joins me and exclaims “The hills weren’t that bad this direction.  Mount Trashmore is way more fun this way!”. We agree it was rude of the trail designers to have a stop sign at the bottom of the steepest decline – what a waste of free speed.

Pedestrian bridge decorated with holiday garland
Pedestrian bridge along the trail in Rockmart

Craving coffee, we ride into Rockmart.  It’s a bit of a ghost town on a Sunday morning.   The coffee shop doesn’t open until the afternoon.

We duck into Soli’s Soups, Salads & Sandwiches.  A local, in line ahead of us, encourages his friend to order a chicken salad sandwich. “It’s the best you’ll ever have.”  I decide to take that advice. I don’t regret it.

The weather is the most pleasant that it has been in ten days.  Approaching the Dallas trailhead, the trail crowd thickens with Sunday morning runners and dog-walkers.

My North Carolina cyclist etiquette has me calling out “on your left” as I pass by. In Georgia, that doesn’t get you a wave of acknowledgment or a thank you.  It gets you a confused stare. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. I adapt to riding silently by other trail users.

At the Dallas trailhead, a sign points to historic downtown.  We gamble and follow the sign in search of smoothies.

A few hills later and downtown still isn’t visible.  Eye-balling the next uphill, Dad declares smoothies are no longer needed. We return to the trail while chatting about how actual wayfinding signs would be useful.

Our rest breaks alongside the trail become more frequent.  The typical cyclist aches and pains – tingling fingers, creaky necks, and sore behinds – are taking their toll.  Stopping for the night in Hiram becomes the goal.

Dinner is at a chain restaurant. The server want to be my buddy.  Sitting in the booth beside me, our waiter asks what brought us to town. We tell him about our Silver Comet Trail bike tour.  In amazement, he says “I bike that trail all that time. I didn’t know it was an attraction or something people actually drove here to do.”

A movie theater next to the hotel provides entertainment for the evening.

Day 5 – Hiram to Smyrna

Starting Trailhead:No trailhead
Metromont Road intersection
Endpoint Trailhead:Mavell Road, Smyrna
Daily mileage
including side trips:
Trail Description:Mostly flat. Lots of road crossings.
Points of Interest:Wildhorse Creek Trail
Eating Suggestion:Soli’s Soups, Salads & Sandwiches
Hotel Suggestion:Sleep Inn and Suites
181 Metromont Road, Hiram

Day five arrives sunny and 60 degrees – perfect biking weather.   The riding seems easy. Is that a product of the good weather, “training on the bike” or the “almost done syndrome”?

There is plenty of time to explore today.  A Powder Springs trailhead sign points to “historical downtown”.  Craving donuts, we reluctantly bite that “historical downtown” hook again.

A few miles later, we score another loss.  The only businesses open are attorney offices and a clothing store. All the diners and cafes are closed. Declaring “historic” means “Nothing is open on a Monday morning”, we return to the trail without our sugar rush.

Fourteen miles of riding and we reach the starting sign for Silver Comet Trail.

Watching us struggle to take a selfie, a nearby walker offers to take the picture for us.  In the midst of praising the weather and telling us her daily walking mileage, she works in the phrases “blessed” and “God is good” several times.  It’s an impressive skill.

Two cyclists standing beside the mile marker zero trail sign on Silver Comet Trail
The finish line

We ask her if there are any donut shops she would recommend. “Oh my, yes! 4.5 miles behind you is the best donut shop ever.” Dad thanks her, informs her he is done cycling, and asks her where she was 4.5 miles ago. Laughing, she replies “Bless your heart”.

Another two miles on the Silver Comet Cumberland Connector trail and two miles on a side street and we reach our vehicle.  Our Silver Comet Trail bike tour is complete.

We would definitely recommend the Silver Comet Trail for a bike tour. The paved, car-free riding and limited hills are major pluses. For my next tour on the trail, I’ll choose a time-frame with better temperatures and longer daylight hours. And I would definitely allow more time for exploring the small towns along the trail.

Silver Comet Trail location

One Reply to “Silver Comet Trail Bike Tour”

  • I agree that it was a fun ride. I do wish the initial weather had been better but that is part of the ‘joy’ of bike touring.
    I am looking forward to our next adventure.

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