|From Path Stone Mountain to Decatur|
Now there are many avid, serious cyclists who run 30, 40, or 50 miles without thinking too much of it, and I do not fit into this category. I am the casual biker, who rides a very durable cruiser who has aspirations of becoming a mountain bike. And because of the out and back nature of this trail we chose to park at Stone Mountain, being closer to our gathering point and bike toward the city, though this trail appears to be more popular in the other direction. And the 18 mile trek is good enough for me.
We parked in the free parking on the Southern side of Main Street in Stone Mountain. There is an additional parking lot about a half mile down Main Street by the Visitor Center. But this is a good place, and there were two other biking groups there when we unloaded our car just before 10 am. From this point the first two or three blocks is on the road headed toward Ponce De Leon, where the dedicated trail commences. The first portion is well kept and Ponce is well travelled by automobiles, so it’s nice to be off the road a little. You have to wait to cross Mountain Industrial Blvd. being the first of a few traffic crossings and one of the busiest. You cross by Melwood cemetery on the right and you could wheel through it a bit if that’s your sort of thing. Once you get to Hambrick Road, you have to cross Ponce and the railroad tracks at this light to stay on the paved multiuse path. As you approach Clarkston, the trail goes on a city street for a spell on a quiet road one block away from Ponce De Leon (or whatever they may be calling that road at this point) called Rowland Street. This road has very low use by cars and is pleasantly flat. Just after leaving the backside of Clarkston, the paved path resumes for a short bit, but then you approach 285. At this juncture, the trail puts you back on the road for about a ½ mile with heavy traffic to cross the highway. This would be the only part that maybe I wouldn’t take kids along for, or at least you could walk your bikes on this stretch. You do continue on the road for about another mile before the paved path resumes. And that trail will continue until you reach Decatur, where you will, once again, have to manage surface streets, albeit quiet ones to continue the path. All in all you visit the towns of Stone Mountain, Clarkston, Scottdale, Avondale Estates, and Decatur.
The scenery is nothing spectacular, with the exception of the approach to Stone Mountain. Most who ride the other direction see this as a goal and you can enter the park for free and cruise once around the mountain as a victory lap. There is also a nice view of some kind of Industrial equipment at the Ready Mix USA plant in Scottdale. The tour behind downtown Clarkston takes you past several churches. As you approach Decatur, there is the Marta Train Yard. The rest of the trip is pretty much road and path with homes and businesses alongside. Some of it is rundown, but much of which is picturesque in its decay. You spend much of the time very near a rail line, which has its romantic elements. About a quarter of this portion of the Stone Mountain Trail runs through park like settings. The trail is reasonably flat by Atlanta standards (which means not really flat), but there are only a handful of moderate climbs and nothing we couldn’t handle.
We made it from Stone Mountain to Decatur in under two hours (like I said we are casual bikers). We locked our bikes behind the courthouse in Decatur and looked for place a few sweaty folks could eat a nice lunch. We settled on Raging Burrito, because of its fine burritos and big open air patio. The folks at the restaurant were very welcoming despite our disheveled appearance, which always means a lot to me. A word of caution: they have great margaritas and a fine beer list, but partaking in these activities makes the ride back much more of an ordeal at least until you burn the alcohol from your system in about two miles. You have guessed right that I am speaking from experience.
So you have another portion of Atlanta’s dedicated bike trails brought to you by the Path Foundation. The other trails I’ve run (Arabia to Panola, Silver Comet) maybe more scenic, but that doesn’t make this one bad, simply the other ones better. I will tell you this, everyone I’ve told that we biked into Decatur for lunch and biked back thought that was an excellent way to spend a day of your life.
Approximate Time: 4 Hours
Approximate Distance: 20 miles
Overall Rating: B
Scenic Quality: B-
Parking: Free, Various Locations
Hours of Operation: Dusk til Dawn
Maps: Stone Mountain to Clarkston, Clarkston to Decatur