Silver Comet Trail

Georgia

At a Glance

Name: Silver Comet Trail
Length: 61.5 Miles
Trail activities: Bike, Inline Skating, Wheelchair Accessible, Walking
Counties: Cobb, Paulding, Polk
Surfaces: Concrete
State: Georgia

About this Itinerary

For recreational biking enthusiasts, the Silver Comet Trail is about as close to perfection as you can get in an off-road trail. With 61.5 miles of paved surface that passes through a few small towns, but with a focus largely on beautiful natural surroundings, the trail provides a tranquil, stress-free ride with several trail adjacent diversions, including a popular lake for a quick and refreshing swim, walking paths and historical sites.

The Silver Comet Trail (SCT) is named after the luxury passenger train Silver Comet, which passed through this section of northwestern Georgia from 1947-69. The rail corridor itself dates from 1897 and was in use until 1989 when the owners at the time, CSX Railroad, discontinued operating on the route. Construction on the multi-purpose trail began in 1998 and the first section opened in Smyrna. Today’s SCT begins 13 miles northwest of Atlanta in Smyrna at the Mavell Road Trailhead and travels west, ending at the Georgia/Alabama state line near Cedartown and at the Esom Hill Trailhead.

Our base for this itinerary is the small town of Dallas, which is located at the 22 mile marker along the SCT, which makes it a few miles shy of the halfway point. The historical, bike-friendly Ragsdale Inn, close to downtown, provides the ideal spot to return to after a long day of biking. This small B&B was built in 1905 and is a popular spot for bikers of the Silver Comet. The property features three rooms each with a private bath, full southern-style breakfast, snacks and fresh baked goods in the evenings, plus a spacious front porch with rockers (perfect for relaxing post-ride). The Ragsdale Inn is about 40 miles from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport. To reach it, take I-278 W to 61N all the way to Dallas. In town, 61N veers right, continue to follow it and take the third left on to Polk Avenue. Look for the inn on the right at the corner of Ragsdale Place. If rooms are not available at the Ragsdale Inn, nearby Hiram has a Country Inn & Suites that is also close to the SCT and is a good alternative.

At 61.5 miles, the Silver Comet is a long trail, but with a smooth paved surface and minimal intersections, the route can be biked in one or two days by those who are ambitious. While the trail is relatively flat, especially at the eastern end, the western end does have some rolling hills. On our itinerary, we are covering the distance over the course of three days in order to travel at a leisurely pace and explore points of interest along the way. For two days of the itinerary, we will be biking directly from the Ragsdale Inn to the trailhead, located just a little over one mile away. On day three of our itinerary, we will drive to a trailhead in nearby Rockmart. Scattered along the route you will find restrooms facilities as well as water fountains, but not a lot of trailside businesses. As always, be sure to bring plenty of liquids and pack some snacks.

If you end up with extra time during your stay, you may wish to visit one of the best preserved Civil War battlefields in the country at Pickett’s Mill. Located in Dallas, this 765-acre site has over four miles of trails. Visitors can walk routes used by Federal and Confederate troops; see earthworks constructed by the soldiers; visit an authentic 1800s pioneer cabin; and learn more about the battle through exhibits, artifacts, and a short film available at the visitor center.

Bike rentals are not available in Dallas. Boneshaker Bicycles in Powder Springs rents cruiser bikes and Silver Comet Cycles in Mableton rents hybrid, road, mountain and kids bikes, in addition to having two types of car racks available. Both have trailside locations and will rent for multiple days.

Day 1

After a hearty breakfast at the inn, fill up water bottles and depart for the Tara Drummond Trailhead. To reach, follow Main Street south through town. Shortly after crossing over Confederate Avenue, keep going straight when Main Street veers to the left. You will be on S. Main Street. Follow this road along and take the first left onto Seaboard Drive after S. Main curves to the right. Follow Seaboard and cross over a four-way intersection with highway 278. Look for the trailhead on your left (you will pass under the SCT bridge to get to the trailhead entrance). You will find restrooms, a water fountain and parking here. Bike east on the trail towards Smyrna, 20.3 miles away.

At mile marker 8.6 (Carter Road), take a slight diversion to bike 1.5 miles (three miles round-trip) on the Wildhorse Creek Trail. This paved spur that starts at the trailhead and runs along Wildhorse and Noses creek, has an observation tower that looks out over wetlands. Look for woodpeckers and thrashers, and observe bat and owl boxes hanging on some of the tall trees. Also keep your eyes open for Georgia’s largest known red maple. This small trail is a nice respite from some of the crowds that you will begin to encounter as you get closer to Smyrna. This section of the SCT sees more traffic than any other, and given its proximity to Atlanta, gets a lot of weekend cyclists. If you are renting bikes or need repair services, Silver Comet Cycles is located at mile marker 4.2. There is also a small convenience store and restrooms here. The trail ends at the Mavell Road trailhead. Here you will find restrooms, parking, picnic tables and water. Note that if you decide to drive and start the trail here, plan to do so early in the day as this trailhead has limited parking and fills up quickly.

There are no lunch options close to the trail in Smyrna; however, the Silver Comet Connector is a mile-long paved trail that goes from the Mavell Road trailhead to Highland Station, a complex with a Publix grocery store, Firehouse Subs, Smyrna Bicycles (offering service but no rentals), Sub Zero Yogurt and other food options (note that there is a relatively steep hill on this route.) Pick up lunch and head back on the trail to mile marker 2.6 at Concord Road to explore the 105-acre Heritage Park nature preserve. The park has an almost two-mile walking trail that travels along Nickajack Creek, passes the ruins of Concord Woolen Mills and is near the historical Concord Covered Bridge. Picnic pavilions are available and provide the perfect spot to enjoy the surroundings and refuel before heading back to Dallas.

Day 2

Today’s ride will take you 17.3 miles (34.6 round-trip) to downtown Rockmart. In addition to full water bottles, also pack your bathing suit today. Retrace your path to the Tara Drummond Trailhead and head west toward Rockmart. Shortly after setting out, you will cross over one of the more dramatic points on the route, the Pumpkinvine Trestle. Built in 1901, the bridge is more than 750-feet long and rises 126 feet over Pumpkinville Creek. This area is considered to be one of the most remote sections of the trail and travels through parts of the Paulding Wildlife Management Area, which contains more than 25,000 acres of land. In this section, you will also find an impressive railroad tunnel under Brushy Mountain Road that was built in 1912.

As you get closer to Rockmart, you will start seeing more people, especially near Riverwalk Park in the downtown area. In this section the park and the SCT are combined and it can get busy with pedestrians. At the depot building along the trail, you will find restrooms and a water fountain. This will also be turnaround point. Located one block from the trail, stop by Frankie’s Italian Restaurant at 108 East Church Street for a slice of pizza, salad or a filling sandwich. For a cold treat, visit the Rock Ice Cream Shop at 103 Elm Street for a cone or milkshake before heading back toward Dallas.

At mile marker 33.5 is the Coot’s Lake Beach Trailhead. Coot’s Lake is a popular local swimming spot and the perfect place to relax and cool down for a bit. A concession stand and chairs are available. Dive from the floating platform and frolic in the refreshing clean lake water before heading back in the saddle and returning to the SCT.

Day 3

This morning, drive to Rockmart. To reach it, take Highway 278 to Rockmart. In town, turn left on Piedmont Avenue (Old Atlanta Highway), turn left on Elm Street, and left on Marble Street. Parking is plentiful in town, so park anywhere here and follow signs to reach Riverwalk Park/Downtown Rockmart trailhead. This area will look familiar as the turn-around point from the day before. Once on the trail, head west toward the Alabama border to begin the final 23.6 mile (47.2 mile round-trip) leg of the Silver Comet Trail.

Chief Ladiga Trail

This section of the trail is notable for having the steepest hills. At mile marker 45.8, you will encounter the infamous ‘Surprise Hill,’ named this because the hill is taller than it looks and at the top you will be surprised to discover there are more rolling hills. At mile marker 51.4, stop at the Cedartown depot for restroom facilities, as well as to meander through the small exhibit which provides some background on the trail’s namesake, the Silver Comet. After refilling water bottles, head back out to bike less than 10 miles to the end of the trail. You will find that trailheads and facilities are not as close together out this way. Plan accordingly and be sure to set off from Cedartown with plenty of water. At the Esom Hill Trailhead, there are no restrooms or nearby businesses. About a quarter mile west of the trail is the entrance to the Chief Ladiga Trail and the state line. This rail-trail travels for 33 miles in east-central Alabama and, combined with the Silver Comet, forms the longest paved trail in the U.S.

On your return trip, stop in Cedartown for lunch. On Main Street, you will find several options including Pirkle’s Deli (306 Main Street), which serves a variety of soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts. After a hearty lunch, return to Rockmart.

Back in Dallas, consider local favorite Rodney’s Bar-B-Que for dinner. It has an enormous menu of various barbecue meats, homemade breads and a seemingly endless selection of side dishes. If you are in town the last Saturday of the month, be sure to stop by for the popular ‘Low Country Boil,’ featuring shrimp or crawfish. Satisfy a Mexican-food craving at Totopos, a casual dining spot serves traditional favorites such as tacos, burritos and enchiladas and, on Friday and Saturday nights, enjoy live entertainment. Another option is Thai Mango in nearby Hiram, serving authentic Thai dishes such as Pad Thai and Drunken Noodles.

Gone with the Wind Museum

For higher-end dining, farther afield in Marietta, find Seed Kitchen & Bar. One of the more innovative restaurants in the area, Seed features locally sourced food; try favorites such as the hickory smoked and grilled bone-in pork chop, slow cooked glazed beef short ribs and sweet potato ravioli. Marietta also has a number of interesting sites to explore. Visit beautiful Marietta Square and peruse the surrounding shops; stop by the Marietta Museum of History to see artifacts and exhibits that trace the city’s history, including a number of Civil War artifacts and exhibits on local Native American culture; and see an extensive private collection of memorabilia at the Gone with the Wind Museum. For Civil War buffs, visit the Confederate Cemetery located just off of Marietta Square. Established in 1863, this site is the final resting place for more than 3,000, making this one of the largest burial grounds for Confederate soldiers.

Attractions and Amenities

Accommodation/Lodging

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