The Magic City Ramble is a 275-ish mile route we planned with loving care, to be ridden one way – either from Atlanta to Birmingham or vice versa – with a return trip via Amtrak. As of 2016, Amtrak’s Crescent line has six walk-up bike racks in its baggage car, but be aware that you will need to reserve a spot on the rack for your steed! You can easily make bike reservations when booking your ticket on the Amtrak website.
The route covers a wide range of terrain, from gravel backroads to rail trail to Forest Service roads to two-lane blacktop and everything in between. From downtown Atlanta it winds out of the city to the Silver Comet Trail by way of Sweetwater Creek State Park. After passing into Alabama, where the Comet becomes the Chief Ladiga Trail, it turns south through Duggar Wilderness and the Talladega National Forest. After challenging ascents and thrilling descents on three of Alabama’s tallest mountains and a number of other formidable ridges, it heads westward along country roads and into Birmingham.
You can primitive camp along the way or enjoy a little more full-featured camping at the Chief Ladiga Campground just across the Alabama state line. If you plan to camp on Cheaha, we recommend reserving a spot at Cheaha State Park, since it tends to be booked solid on weekends. The park has a convenience store with cold beer, so don’t bother schlepping your brews up the mountain. Not to be missed: the Cheaha lodge sports an ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT breakfast buffet in a mountainside dining room with a beautiful view of the valley.