Where to live in northern Georgia?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Where to live in northern Georgia?

    Thinking about retiring to northern Georgia or maybe spending part of the year down there. I am wondering if those who live down there would have a suggestion of the best places to live for biking and low cost of living. I often read about Dahlonega, Blue Ridge, and Ellijay, but wanted some locals' opinions

    I am interested in finding the following, but realize I may not get everything.

    1. A variety of mountain biking trails nearby for 1.5-2 hour rides: I get bored doing the same loop over and over so I like a variety of trails I can tie together, depending on the mood. They all don't have to be singletrack. I don't mind combining 2-tracks too. Also, I am currently blessed for living in Marquette, MI, where I can bike from my house and quickly access several nice single track trails. Although I am willing to drive to trails, I'd prefer they are within 20-30 minutes
    2. Lots of low traveled, paved or decent dirt roads for crossbike riding: I haven't done much crossbike riding since moving into Marquette. You have to ride on too many busy roads to get out into the country where there are dirt and paved side roads. However, as I said, I don't need to drive to mountain bike, so I do more of that now. In Georgia, I wouldn't mind driving to mountain bike once a week, if I could do cross rides from where I live on low traveled roads.
    3. Low cost of living for housing/land: My wife and I aren't wealthy, but we are far from poor. I am looking for towns or areas where housing or land is not super expensive.
    4. Close access to a town with Walmart/Meijer and Lowes/Home Depot: I want to be within 20 minutes some established grocery and home improvement chains. Ideally this town would have one or two great places to eat (homemade, healthy food, farm-to-table, etc). We generally don't eat out much because Marquette really doesn't have great restaurants
    5. 1.5 - 2 hours distance from a larger city for cultural events: It would be nice to have closer access to concerts and expanded shopping opportunities than we currently have in Marquette. This is probably the least important item on the list, but still a consideration


    I'd appreciate any feedback local Georgians can provide. Thanks much.

  2. #2
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    I'm interested in hearing others' thoughts, but here are mine:

    For riding singletrack, I would say Ellijay is probably the best. Dahlonega has plenty of good nearby trails also, though. I don't know much about the riding around Blue Ridge, but Stanley Gap is nearby. Otherise, I don't think there is quite as much around Blue Ridge as there is around Ellijay.

    As far as backcountry roads and gravel, you'll be surrounded by it in any of the three. There's national forest all around there. Note that there are no flat roads. People are often surprised by how mountainous and steep north Georgia is. If you can ride a cross bike with cross bike gearing in that terrain, you are a pretty strong rider. I ride the forest service roads sometimes and find the gearing on my hardtail to be about right. Paved roads are obviously a bit tamer.

    Ellijay is about 1.5 hours from midtown Atlanta and 1.5 from Chattanooga. Blue Ridge is just a little further from each. Dahlonega is a bit closer to Atlanta, and a bit further to Chattanooga. Keep in mind, though, that Atlanta sprawls like crazy, and those travel times are to the city center. Dahlonega is practically the exurbs of Atlanta. Also keep in mind that during non-virus times, if you want to drive into Atlanta you should either leave at 4:00 am on a Sunday or double the time estimate I gave you. Traffic around Atlanta is fierce. You'll have no trouble finding a Walmart or Home Depot in any of those three towns. Meijer is a non-entity around here.

    As far as cost of living, I think that Blue Ridge is the highest. It has become a popular retirement destination for northerners. It also has the more sophisticated feel with community arts, restaurants, etc. In no way whatsoever will that scene compare to Atlanta, but depending on what you are looking for it might satisfy you most of the time. Ellijay and Dahlonega feel more like small southern towns to me. The best food will be barbecue joints attached to gas stations.

    All of north Georgia real estate is really hot now. It was getting pricey before COVID, and it seems like the virus is making Atlantans think about how nice a mountain getaway would be.

  3. #3
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    Dunleavy, wow that was a very thoughtful answer. Thanks. I appreciate that and look forward to seeing if anyone else can chime in.

    I also wonder about northwest Georgia. I've heard of Trenton and 5 Points for biking and I like how it is closer to Chattanooga. To be honest, I am not as excited to have Atlanta as my cultural destination because of the sprawl and traffic. That was my initial concern and Dunleavy reinforced it. Plus, I would think housing and land will be a little cheaper in NW Georgia as it is farther away from Atlantans wanting vacation homes.

  4. #4
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    Chattanooga is a great city and, in my opinion, the perfect size. Greeneville, SC is another great small city, but I can't speak to the mountain biking.

  5. #5
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    I think dunleavy provided a good summary. I'm actually headed up to Blue Ridge today, but I'm not taking a bike this time. My folks have a cabin there and they used to live in Dahlonega (they now live in Rome). My son is going with me before he leaves for college and we're staying one night at the cabin and then going camping and fly fishing.

    When I'm up in BR, I'll drive to the Aska trails (which includes Stanley Gap) or drive up to Tennessee to the Ocoee Whitewater Center and ride the Tanasi trails and the connecting trails (can't remember the name but you get to them before the OWC) or head to Elijay and ride some of the trails there. I'm embarrassed to say, all the years my folks lived in Dahlonega, I never rode there.

    So Elijay is probably more central to more trails than BR. You can also head south from there just under an hour and ride the more metro Atlanta trails, Blanket's Creek and Rope Mill. And you'd be closer to Atlanta than you would be in Blue Ridge. I think any of these towns, you'll have to drive a bit to get to more than a few trail systems.

    And I agree with dunleavy about riding CX. I keep thinking I need lower gearing on mine just riding in the foothills between Atlanta and the real North Georgia Mountains. I've been riding in Sheffield WMA (Dallas) and doing ok but last weekend rode in Pine Log WMA (Cartersville) and did a good bit of hike-a-bike.

    LMK if I can provide any more info.
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    I live in Woodstock and I can be riding Blankets, Rope Mill, Big Creek, Allatoona Creek, Sope Creek, or Talking Rock in under an hour. However, it sounds like you want to be a bit more rural. Woodstock is consistently rated one of the top towns to live in because of access to outdoor activities as well as anything going on in Atlanta. Traffic can get bad but there are HOV lanes that really help out.

    All of the trail systems I mentioned are single track but there's tons of it. For true mountain riding or gravel riding you'll have to be further north. Blue Ridge is pretty expensive but has a pretty neat downtown area, tons of restaurants, and the advantage of a gorgeous lake. Ellijay is much smaller but gets you closer to the Pinhoti trail system. Canton is a growing city between Woodstock and Ellijay but has no really nearby trails.

    I know this was a kind of disjointed response. Let me know if you have further questions.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the feedback. Yes, I prefer more rural areas. A local town that is big enough for a Walmart and Home Depot or the like, but within 1.5 hours to a bigger city.

    Since my original post I was thinking it might be nice to be closer to Chattanooga than Atlanta due to quality of life. I have heard the 5 Point trail system, near Chattanooga, but in NW Georgia is supposed to have some nice singletrack. Also, there is some singletrack around Chattanooga too. Another possibility is near Dalton, Georgia. Just east of there are some biking trails in the mountains.

    I suspect land will be cheaper too in the NW since it is not as convenient access for Atlantans looking for vacation get-away and I don't think Chattanooga is growing as fast as Atlanta.

    However, I am open to all ideas at this point.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by kmcdonou View Post
    However, I am open to all ideas at this point.
    You should visit Bentonville/Bella Vista...
    -DC, just some XC Bum from FL in NW Arkansas

  9. #9
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    Yep, that is the other area we are considering. Definitely want to check it out. I really like western N. Carolina, but it seems is more expensive in there.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by kmcdonou View Post
    Thanks for the feedback. Yes, I prefer more rural areas. A local town that is big enough for a Walmart and Home Depot or the like, but within 1.5 hours to a bigger city.

    Since my original post I was thinking it might be nice to be closer to Chattanooga than Atlanta due to quality of life. I have heard the 5 Point trail system, near Chattanooga, but in NW Georgia is supposed to have some nice singletrack. Also, there is some singletrack around Chattanooga too. Another possibility is near Dalton, Georgia. Just east of there are some biking trails in the mountains.

    I suspect land will be cheaper too in the NW since it is not as convenient access for Atlantans looking for vacation get-away and I don't think Chattanooga is growing as fast as Atlanta.

    However, I am open to all ideas at this point.
    I'm not knocking Chattanooga but no way does it offer the same amount of things as Atlanta as far as culture, music, sports, dining, and access to a monstrous airport. I guess it just depends on your priorities and your definition of "quality of life."

    Five Points is awesome but I haven't ridden at Raccoon Mountain yet. I'm also not familiar with trails in the Dalton area. You said you don't want to repeatedly ride the same thing and I feel like Chattanooga or Dalton might lock you into doing that. I almost can't express how grateful I am to be able to ride something different every day of the week and all under an hour away. Woodstock(where I've lived for 33 years), Canton, Marietta, Roswell all give you this opportunity. Yes, there's traffic and it's more expensive than living an hour further north, but it's well worth it to me and my family.

  11. #11
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    Look near Dalton. Easy drive to big back country rides, lots of local options including the new buzzards roost trail, and it would give you that larger town access you’re looking for.

  12. #12
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    That's a good point about being locked into the same routes. I will look into Woodstock and Canton. I like having variety of biking opportunities.

  13. #13
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    Hey OP, would you consider Asheville NC? LOTS of great riding around there as well as towards Knoxville and NE/NW Georgia. Great cultural experience around Asheville. But I think the cost of living is pretty high there, at least I know it's an expensive town to visit. It doesn't take much to get off the beaten path though.

    As someone said, we don't have Meijers in this part of the country. Kroger and Publix rule around here, not quite as mega. No problem finding Home Depot/Lowes. And Dollar Generals.

    Don't move to Knoxville. No culture. Only a dozen places to MTB close to me. Cost of living is so reasonable I feel so lower-middle-class living in such a cheap house and making a salary I'd starve on in Atlanta. Nothing to do around here.

  14. #14
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    Yes, I would love Asheville, but in looking at home values in Realtor.com, I realized it is pretty expensive to live in western North Carolina. Even 30 minutes outside Asheville is pretty expensive for what you get in housing.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by kmcdonou View Post
    Yes, I would love Asheville, but in looking at home values in Realtor.com, I realized it is pretty expensive to live in western North Carolina. Even 30 minutes outside Asheville is pretty expensive for what you get in housing.
    I did the same math a year ago when we moved from FL to NW Arkansas. Love Asheville, but so does everyone else apparently.
    -DC, just some XC Bum from FL in NW Arkansas

  16. #16
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    Other Options

    I wanted to plug some other options. These would be considered living “near” the mountains vs living “in” the mountains.

    1. NE corridor of Atlanta. (I-85) to SC border. (to me this is between Gainesville, GA – Clayton, Ga. Athens to Anderson, SC)

    This is the side I live on. Brevard is just over 2 hours from my house. Blue Ridge is under 2 hours. Chattanooga is 2.5 hours. Asheville is under 3 hours. I can be at Jake/Bull mountain in under an hour.

    As for good XC single track, which is my preferred “everyday” ride, there are so many within an hour Ft Yargo St Park, Chicopee, Hard Labor, Paynes Creek, Yonah Mtn etc.. Even Blankets/Allatoona are doable. There are Gravel/Fire Roads all over NE GA. Really all over GA. But Currahee Mtn is 25 minutes.

    As for ATL, I love ATL. However, I live 45 miles from ATL and hardly go there. Older I get, the less it is on my radar. When I do go, I have a great time, so not knocking the city. Ironically, was there both days this past weekend.

    Athens, GA might be a stretch to be considered, but is a great town, so living closer to there would give you more gravel riding, but a little further to be in the mountains. College town life is fun if you like the energy that all the young kids bring.

    My ideal would be small house either on the water or near a boat ramp at Lake Hartwell. All the essentials are in Seneca/Clemson/Anderson area. Quick access to Greenville, SC which has a great downtown/concerts etc.. Charleston, SC is 4 hours away for the beach. Putting the boat on the water at Hartwell after a long ride at Dupont with a 6 pack from one of those microbrews up there, is my picture of a perfect day.

    2. Rome, GA to Cedar Bluffs AL

    Another option is Rome, GA. My son went to Berry College and we really enjoyed that area. Berry campus has fire roads and some single track within easy ride from downtown Rome. Downtown Rome is nice and you are 1+ hour from ATL. Also, getting up to Chattanooga, TN is just over an hour. 5 points trail system is close, as well as Pinhoti (Snake Gap TT is over there). Blue Ridge, GA is 1.5 hours. And Anniston, AL is only 1.5 hours. Based on Google maps you can be getting off the shuttle at the top of Windrock in Oak Ridge, TN in under 3.5 hours if DH/Enduro is your thing.

    There was some discussion of extending a route from the Silver Comet up to Rome, but you can hit the Cedartown entrance in 30 minutes. (Silver Comet/Chief Ladiga is a 100+ mile paved Rails to Trail)
    Rome is defiantly not mountain living, but they have those high ridgelines that give you that mountain feeling. It is country living. If you want lake living, then consider out towards Cedar Bluff, AL.

    3. NE Alabama.

    I don’t have any experience here other than driving thru, but I have wondered what the Huntsville/Scottsboro up to TN border would be like. Living on the TN River within a few hours of good trails seems like a great gig as well.

    Finally, I have not done the research, but basically you have 5 states to choose from AL, TN, GA, NC and SC to get what you want. All have different tax schemes, etc.. Make sure you consider how those borders impact your cost of living. I have wondered how costs compare living in Ducktown, TN vs Blue Ridge, GA, or Haynesville, NC vs Hiawassee, GA, or Walhalla, SC vs Clayton, GA.

    Good Luck!!

  17. #17
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    That's an awesome response! Thank you. It gives me more to look at. We had considered SC around the area you mentioned, but for different reasons. Didn't realize nice mountain biking was so close. I also am attracted to NW Georgia and NE Alabama. I don't need mountains, but country living and good mountain biking nearby (1 hour or less)

  18. #18
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    Chattanooga is not a bad spot at all. I'll do what I can to give you the details. If you like Ellijay you are only about an 60-75 minutes from Ellijay. Chattanooga for a mid-size city has a lot of really great restaurants a really nice art museum good music. Summer time you have night fall which is a free concert series downtown every Friday.
    As far as the most important thing "riding" goes....
    I wouldn't classify five points as something I would sell Chatt trails on. Raccoon mountain is definitely the most fun close to town riding with some nice descents and a variety of different trails. You have stringers ridge downtown which is nothing special, but when I lived downtown it was nice to be able to ride from your door to singletrack for a few laps then hit up a restaurant or a brewery on the way back to your house. You have enterprise south about 15 minutes from downtown where you can get in some miles and can be pretty fun. Then you have white oak trails by southern adventist university which is about 25 minutes from downtown and just got a new jump flow trail built. A little further about 45 minutes is Tanasi on the Ocoee river where you can get in some more miles with some good climbing and descending.
    ATL airport from downtown chattanooga is an hour to hour fifteen. Depending on how fast you drive that is.
    Chattanooga can put you in daytrip distance of Nashville, Knoxville, Asheville-Brevard,
    Ellijay and a whole bunch of other places.

  19. #19
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    Hey, thanks for that. What about 5 points is not a selling point for being in northern Georgia, near Chattanooga? Is it not very nice singletrack?

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by mfifer View Post
    Chattanooga is not a bad spot at all. I'll do what I can to give you the details. If you like Ellijay you are only about an 60-75 minutes from Ellijay. Chattanooga for a mid-size city has a lot of really great restaurants a really nice art museum good music. Summer time you have night fall which is a free concert series downtown every Friday.
    As far as the most important thing "riding" goes....
    I wouldn't classify five points as something I would sell Chatt trails on. Raccoon mountain is definitely the most fun close to town riding with some nice descents and a variety of different trails. You have stringers ridge downtown which is nothing special, but when I lived downtown it was nice to be able to ride from your door to singletrack for a few laps then hit up a restaurant or a brewery on the way back to your house. You have enterprise south about 15 minutes from downtown where you can get in some miles and can be pretty fun. Then you have white oak trails by southern adventist university which is about 25 minutes from downtown and just got a new jump flow trail built. A little further about 45 minutes is Tanasi on the Ocoee river where you can get in some more miles with some good climbing and descending.
    ATL airport from downtown chattanooga is an hour to hour fifteen. Depending on how fast you drive that is.
    Chattanooga can put you in daytrip distance of Nashville, Knoxville, Asheville-Brevard,
    Ellijay and a whole bunch of other places.
    You mention enterprise and white oak, bauxite is right there. I fail to understand why that system gets no love. It’s a great short ride or recovery ride.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cotharyus View Post
    You mention enterprise and white oak, bauxite is right there. I fail to understand why that system gets no love. It’s a great short ride or recovery ride.
    Exactly. Both locations have a lot of variety
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by kmcdonou View Post
    Hey, thanks for that. What about 5 points is not a selling point for being in northern Georgia, near Chattanooga? Is it not very nice singletrack?
    5 points is a favorite amongst most of the people I talk to around town, myself included. I talk to myself.
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  23. #23
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    - what I would add is that keep your location close to the interstate so you can get around easy.........I live in Flowery Branch between I-985 & I-85 and can get to quite a few places within three hours - FATS (Augusta, GA) / Coldwater Mt. (Anniston, AL), Racoon Mt. (Chattanooga, TN) and a lot of other places that are closer in two hours or less.......within 1 hour ride of my house: Chicopee & Gainesville College, Ft. Yargo, Charleston Park, Big Creek, Rope's Mill & Blankets Creek, Harbin Park, Heritage Park, & Lake Russell........that's quite a list of places to ride - Chicopee is 15 minutes from the house and my regular ride........
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