Where to move in the South East for most balanced family life?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Where to move in the South East for most balanced family life?

    I would love some help figuring out where to move, I am from Miami and live in Orlando now but want to be in a more rural location that has biking and but also can provide a good home for my family. I loved the South Florida bike parks and Orlando has nothing good less then an 45 minutes away, I have been looking at Ocala and northern Georgia but I haven't found anything relatively affordable that fits our needs yet. Priorities are biking, good schools, acreage, and access to city amenities not to far away. We have roughly 30-45k to put down on a property and move which limits us to housing under 250K which is a significant limiting factor. Any suggestions for us to look into would be a huge help.

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    I'm assuming you're wanting to stay relatively close to Florida for some reason (family?), since you seem to be focusing on areas near there. If not, I'd highly recommend Northwest Arkansas. Plenty of acreage available within driving distance of the cities. Excellent school options (Public, public charter, and private), and... of course.. the biking speaks for itself.

  3. #3
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    Thank you for the suggestion hogfly and you are correct about why i am looking in the south. I have only ever lived in Florida and want to stay relatively close to the family. I have seen some amazing mountain bike videos from Arkansas and i actually did some very basic research on the state but i wasn't even sure which regions to look at. I will definitely look into the northwest region now, is that where you're located?

  4. #4
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    Look at the Chattanooga area as well. Great City, great riding.

  5. #5
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    Yes. I'm in Fayetteville, but the region is collectively called "Northwest Arkansas" and includes Fayetteville, Rogers, Springdale and Bentonville as the "larger" (relatively speaking) cities. More rurally you have: Bella Vista, Centerton, Gravette, Huntsville, West Fork, Farmington, Prairie Grove, and a whole host of small, rural towns that sprawl out across the area.


    We have family who snowbird in Palm Beach and we vacationed on 30A for years. The drive definitely isn't close, especially if you're trying to get to more Central and South Florida. We've driven from here to Palm Beach once, so we could take bikes and had a great time riding down there at Dickerson, DelRay and some other trails. Didn't get to Santos, though, unfortunately.

    I think Huntsville, Alabama has a pretty good MTB scene and would be closer to Florida.

  6. #6
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    Auburn, AL is worth a look. Similar trail features at Chewacla to the trails in FL, easy access to more trails in Birmingham (Oak Mtn), Anniston (Coldwater), and the trails you know in FL. Lots of rural acreage available and a good school system. Most people I know that live there love it.

  7. #7
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    Thank you everyone for your suggestions, they all seem like really great locations with more access to trails then Ocala would have. I have already been doing research on them and planning a trip to go see AR and AL in person.

  8. #8
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    We live in Oxford, Alabama and love it. The cost of living is relatively cheap and schools are good. It's a pretty small city, but there's enough restaurants and shopping to keep you satisfied day-to-day, but if you really want more city-life stuff to do, it's only 45-minutes West to Birmingham, an hour and a half East to Atlanta, or two hours North to Chattanooga. If you hear the beach calling, the Gulf is only a 5-hour dive South.

    There are many places around this area that are rural enough to find property with a lot of land, without being far from the city amenities.

    As far as Mountain Biking trails, I'm less than 15-minutes from the Coldwater Mountain trail system, which is currently over 40-miles of very nice trails.
    (COLDWATER MOUNTAIN). There are also many other trails within an hour's drive, including Oak Mountain (just south of B'ham).
    -Brian

  9. #9
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    Second Recommendation for Auburn, AL. We have two small boys (1 and 4) and the biking scene here is awesome as is family life. Check out this video to get stoked on AL. I'm the one in the teal/yellow helmet in the Chewacla segment. If you make a trip this way, drop me a line and I can show you around or can answer any other questions you may have.
    https://youtu.be/gAgDwP89n34?fbclid=...6HK9btuIfg52sc

    Also, for property, look in Neigboring Opelika. Still good schools, but less expensive than Auburn proper.

  10. #10
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    Chattanooga area. I've lived here my whole life and love it. Anything you want to do except snow related is here.

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    Looks like Alabama is jumping to the top of the list now. How are the winters Chattanooga and Alabama? I have to admit i am a little worried about the weather since I haven't ever lived where it gets cold. Is riding year round pleasant? Loved the video from coldwater mountain, that was awesome JSU and really appreciate the invite Tim. I am going to see about coming up around the 4th of July as long as i can get the time off.

  12. #12
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    In Auburn, even in the dead of winter we usually have highs that get close to 50 degrees. I ride in shorts all but a few days a year. Summers are hot and humid but no worse than you're used to.

  13. #13
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    Why not Atlanta? Tons of trails, good schools depending on where you live, MCOL, just not rural.

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    North GA is great, though the majority of the trails don't seem to harbor progression quite as well as other places. I live in Gainesville, and I can ride after work, my kids go to a good school, and housing is cheap. BUT....Chattanooga sure seems nice when I visit. If I wasn't into ww kayaking I'd probably already be living in Bentonville. AL is good too. It's really hard to go wrong, just get out of FL. Oh....check out Brevard too.

  15. #15
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    Come to Ocala. You can ride all that Santos has to offer regularly. COL is pretty decent and tons of stuff to do with families.
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by eyeballs View Post
    North GA is great, though the majority of the trails don't seem to harbor progression quite as well as other places. I live in Gainesville, and I can ride after work, my kids go to a good school, and housing is cheap. BUT....Chattanooga sure seems nice when I visit. If I wasn't into ww kayaking I'd probably already be living in Bentonville. AL is good too. It's really hard to go wrong, just get out of FL. Oh....check out Brevard too.
    Ever been to Blankets Creek?

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by qbngringo View Post
    Looks like Alabama is jumping to the top of the list now. How are the winters Chattanooga and Alabama? I have to admit i am a little worried about the weather since I haven't ever lived where it gets cold. Is riding year round pleasant? Loved the video from coldwater mountain, that was awesome JSU and really appreciate the invite Tim. I am going to see about coming up around the 4th of July as long as i can get the time off.
    It'll be a bit colder in the winter than Auburn .

  18. #18
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    'Lived in the N. Grove for 15 years, now 10 years in Jupiter....have been riding San Felasco a lot, so am considering Gainesville move next. If you want year-around, FL is tough to beat.
    As much as I love riding GA-trails, the winter is too cold (for me), and spring weather often too wet, then summer it's as hot or hotter than FL. The good thing about Gainesville, besides the local riding, is the closer-proximity to other good trails, and 3 hours closer to GA for quick trips, when weather is suitable.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by eyeballs View Post
    If I wasn't into ww kayaking I'd probably already be living in Bentonville.
    Have you ever checked out the Northwest Arkansas paddling scene? It's not going to be as regular as the Ocoee or Nantahala, but we have a pretty serious WW kayaking scene up here.

    For paddling MTBers, it's a mixed blessing. The paddling is extremely rainstorm dependent, so it's not going to be constant and regular. But, you can't ride the trails after huge storms... but you can go paddling. So MTBing and paddling are great combo hobbies in our area.

  20. #20
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    woodstock, ga

  21. #21
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    It really depends on how you pay your bills.There are some really nice small towns close to great trails in GA, AL, and NC, but not a ton of job opportunities in some of those areas.

  22. #22
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    Bentonville, Arkansas. You just need to visit to appreciate it. Good schools, small town atmosphere with big town amenities...and the cycling is the best in the country.
    Visit us here: ArkansasOutside.com

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArkansasOutside View Post
    Bentonville, Arkansas. You just need to visit to appreciate it. Good schools, small town atmosphere with big town amenities...and the cycling is the best in the country.
    Look man, it's sweet that you're stoked on NWA. Looks like this is a work account. I've been/ridden there, it's a nice place, fun trails. But to say it is the best in the country is a bit over the top. I've ridden tons of places in NC, TN, CO, UT, NM, AZ, CA, OR and WA that are definitely ''better trails''. Now not to say that Bentonville's offerings aren't loads of fun, and it's really amazing how integrated they are with the town. But best in the country? You need to travel some more...

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sadlebred View Post
    Why not Atlanta? Tons of trails, good schools depending on where you live, MCOL, just not rural.
    Traffic.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by qbngringo View Post
    Looks like Alabama is jumping to the top of the list now. How are the winters Chattanooga and Alabama? I have to admit i am a little worried about the weather since I haven't ever lived where it gets cold. Is riding year round pleasant? Loved the video from coldwater mountain, that was awesome JSU and really appreciate the invite Tim. I am going to see about coming up around the 4th of July as long as i can get the time off.
    As long as youíre ok with this type of mentality...Alabama might be for you
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/natio...=.7de3d0f90aae

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by griz View Post
    As long as youíre ok with this type of mentality...Alabama might be for you
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/natio...=.7de3d0f90aae
    So true. I live in an area with lots of good trails, but do not want to live in a place that puts citizens second. So Iím looking to move out of California. Just not worth the day to day headache.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vandals View Post
    So true. I live in an area with lots of good trails, but do not want to live in a place that puts citizens second. So Iím looking to move out of California. Just not worth the day to day headache.
    that's one of the reasons I still choose to live in Fayetteville over Bentonville in Northwest Arkansas. Bentonville is somewhat progressive (and the movers and shakers in Bentonville are certainly progressive), but the majority of voters there are still extremely conservative.


    Fayetteville, on the other hand, is extremely liberal, to the point of almost being annoying at times with the obstructionist city code and anti-development attitudes.

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by rpearce1475 View Post
    Look man, it's sweet that you're stoked on NWA. Looks like this is a work account. I've been/ridden there, it's a nice place, fun trails. But to say it is the best in the country is a bit over the top. I've ridden tons of places in NC, TN, CO, UT, NM, AZ, CA, OR and WA that are definitely ''better trails''. Now not to say that Bentonville's offerings aren't loads of fun, and it's really amazing how integrated they are with the town. But best in the country? You need to travel some more...
    I've also ridden across the country. AZ, MO, AL, OR, NC, CO...As far as accessible (see the Bentonville Trailhead) or diverse IMBA epics (Arkansas is tied with CO in the number of epics). I know it's a personal opinion but it's also shared by many I have met who come here to ride.

    So if you have a suggestion for the original question, throw it on out there.
    Visit us here: ArkansasOutside.com

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArkansasOutside View Post
    I've also ridden across the country. AZ, MO, AL, OR, NC, CO...As far as accessible (see the Bentonville Trailhead) or diverse IMBA epics (Arkansas is tied with CO in the number of epics). I know it's a personal opinion but it's also shared by many I have met who come here to ride.

    So if you have a suggestion for the original question, throw it on out there.
    I think we're working with different definitions of ''best trails''. I will happily say that Bentonville/NWA has an incredible variety of trails and the integration of these trails into the town/their accessibility is one of, if not the most, exciting things I've seen for mountain biking as a whole in a while. The trails are definitely excellent and well built and lots of fun. What I am trying to say is when you look at the trail itself, regarding length, views, elevation gain/loss, etc. that there are more ''Epic" rides out there. But Bentonville/NWA is definitely a cool place and would fit the OP's criteria nicely except for being a bit far away from his family in Florida.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArkansasOutside View Post
    (Arkansas is tied with CO in the number of epics).
    I would place zero weight on where has the most IMBA Epics, IMBA ride centers, etc. Having been involved in that process, the number one key to getting those statuses is money. Money to build trails and money to pay IMBA to come assess you to their standards. Last I looked, Ride Center costs ~$15k to be evaluated. Most local trail crews don't have that kind of backing, regardless of how great their trails are.

    I have always valued good access to the outdoors, with Mountain Biking, Whitewater Paddling, and Rock Climbing taking a big role in various times in my life. I've also moved 4 times for job reasons, so I'm pretty familiar with selecting places to move. To the OP, I'd pick your top three candidates and if you have the time spend at least a long weekend in each. Research housing for sale in each and spend at least an afternoon driving around looking at where housing is, what the community feels like, etc. Look at where the trails are in relation to where you'll be working and living. Try and meet and talk to some locals. Then make a decision. Best of luck to you. It's an exciting (and scary) proposition to pick a new place to live. The other thing I've learned is a new place is much better if you can find a way to plug into the community. Join and get involved with your local IMBA chapter (or an unaffiliated group of riders and builders). Meeting people and making connections will make a home feel more like home than miles of singletrack among strangers.

  31. #31
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    I I have lived all of my 54 years in the Atlanta area and love it here, but in the past couple of years I have discovered how cool Birmingham is. It has a lot to offer non -biking wise; my wife and I go there every few months to see bands and it has become our favorite weekend getaway. Great food establishments, decent nightlife, really good breweries. And it is so much more compact than the Atlanta area and easy to get around. Plus I would imagine that the cost of housing in more affordable than Atlanta (I know that Atlanta is not at the top of your list but the reason for the comparison is because Atlanta is what I know best)

    Oak Mountain State Park, just outside of Birmingham, has a fairly extensive trail network and the Coldwater Mountain trail system is only about an hour away from B'ham.

    Birmingham is definitely a city on the come up and I'd check into that. I love the city, though I have never lived there.

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by rpearce1475 View Post
    I think we're working with different definitions of ''best trails''. I will happily say that Bentonville/NWA has an incredible variety of trails and the integration of these trails into the town/their accessibility is one of, if not the most, exciting things I've seen for mountain biking as a whole in a while. The trails are definitely excellent and well built and lots of fun. What I am trying to say is when you look at the trail itself, regarding length, views, elevation gain/loss, etc. that there are more ''Epic" rides out there. But Bentonville/NWA is definitely a cool place and would fit the OP's criteria nicely except for being a bit far away from his family in Florida.
    This is totally reasonable. Like you, I think the integration of the trail system into the communities is possibly second-to-none in NWA. In addition, the potential is even greater, as it appears the Waltons are just getting started and things are just going to get better.

    That being said: places are defined by their geography, not just the number of trails. As such, there are things we lack. We don't have the slick rock riding of the Southwest or the loamy soil of the northwest, or the sheer vertical feet of the Rockies. But each of those places is also missing something that the others might have.

    I will be heading out West this summer and riding in Salida, Crested Butte, Santa Fe, Pajarito and Angelfire. All of those places definitely have more "epic" terrain than Arkansas, plus.. lift access. I would also say many of them have a "better" bike culture than us... but we're making headway.

    If the rumored lift access at Mt. Magazine happens (with supposedly 2,000 ft. of vertical and 1 mile runs possible), then we'll inch a little closer to "having it all," but we still will only have what we can geographically have, and that will never be the high altitude vistas of the Rockies, the lush loam jungles of the PNW or the slick rock of the southwest.

  33. #33
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    Depending on what you do careerwise, Huntsville AL may be a good choice. All three school systems in the county rate among the top ten in Alabama. It is a tech heavy city and business is booming here. It is a growing city with more and more stuff to do (breweries, tons of local sports leagues, open container laws in certain areas of town, cool new places being built all the time, lots of water nearby). I really love living here. 250k will buy you a fairly nice sized house particularly if you want to live outside the city. Ours was around that at 2500sq ft with a detached garage not far from downtown. Not nearly as Alabama as the rest of Alabama (if you get what I am saying). I'll admit the riding may not be the best in the Southeast but the trails are decent and more stuff is being built and you are not too far from some great trails.
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  34. #34
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    Greenville SC.

    I grew up in Miami. I've lived in Orlando. So I'm familiar with what is there. I've been all over GA, and to some of AL. Nothing compares.

    In Greenville, you have access to all the trails in SC, and good stuff in Northern GA and all of Western NC, all within 1-1.5 hour drive. You can get to more stuff in GA and NC for a day trip about 2-3 hours out, and there are way more places to camp and ride over a weekend in the region.

    It snows here maybe once a year and it doesn't usually linger. When it's cold, you have several options for riding in SC and GA. When it's hot, you head north to WNC and the massive trail systems that exist in the national forests. Is Pisgah not on your radar? It's the biggest MTB Mecca in the SE.

    You also have access to all the waterfalls and rivers in the area. If you paddle, you have everything from flatwater to whitewater.

    You have access to so much hiking, too. In the Foothills and mountains.

    Greenville has a strong economy, good schools, and housing in the price range you noted (although it's getting tight because a lot of people are moving here; because you guessed it, it's on everyone's radar).

    It's got a good mix of people, and won't be as traditionally deep South as AL or GA. More secular, too. Lots of international folks here. Several German companies have setup shop here, and French folks are here because of Michelin's USA headquarters.

    And to visit family in Florida, you simply shoot down 85/26 to 95 or 85 to 75.

    Go to www.mtbproject.com and just look at all the trails in this region.

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