Shelby County mountains

The ridges get larger and higher the farther east you go in Alabama — ultimately reaching 2407′ on top of Mount Cheaha, the highest point in Alabama. This elevation trend is true locally in Birmingham as the ridges stack on top of each other getting larger the farther east you go until you hit the Coosa River valley. The highest point in Shelby County is Signal Mountain (1566′). Nearby mountains in the 1500′ range are Sand Mountain (1540′) and Double Oak Mountain, which just barely hits 1500′ at one tiny spot on the mountain. Normally, the 1500′ contour line doesn’t show up on a map with the Google Terrain view contour settings of 40′, but if you change the settings to 100′, then it shows all the 100′ intervals including 1500′. That is how I discovered the spot on Double Oak at 1500′. I noticed on a map I created that there was one tiny 1500′ contour circle on the mountain.

Beside these three mountains, everything else drops down quite a bit with the exception of Oak Mountain, which rises back up to nearly 1300′ at Shackleford Peak on the White Trail. These trails are off-limits to bikes, so I had to hike-a-bike the red/white connector and the white trail all the way to where it connects with the new Thunder trail. This hike is strenuous without having to lug a 25 pound bike up the mountain, too so I was pretty tired by the time I made it to the new Thunder enduro trail. I noticed that this had a drop well over 700′ (if you also include the lightning trail, or take the camp road back down to the main park road). I originally had planned to turn around at the bottom and ride back up it since there was absolutely nobody in the park on a Tuesday in the middle of the day with severe weather rapidly moving into the area. But I was too tired and sore from crashing earlier in the ride that I decided to take the main park road out the back of the park to get back home.

Still, it ended up being a 70 mile adventure with 9500′ of climbing. By the end of the ride, I was feeling a bit more comfortable on the bike so hopefully I’ll be ready for the Southern Cross race this weekend in Dahlonega! I’ve included an annotated topocreator map of all the peaks in the area below as well as a gallery of pics from the ride. Click on any of the pictures to open a gallery with captions.

Annotated high points with 2015 satellite data. Click to enlarge and see detail. Click the text link below for a version that is twice as detailed 27MB.Annotated high points with 2015 satellite data. Click to enlarge and see detail. Click the text link below for a version that is twice as detailed 27MB.

Ultra hi-res version of the map above (27MB)

topocreator.com sand mountain

Made it to the top of Sand Mountain on the backside of Tannehill.

A photo posted by Brian Toone (@kartoone76) on

If you follow my instagram account, then you know that I’ve posted the picture of “The End of the Appalachians” sign several times. This sign is located in Tannehill State Park. The best reason I can figure as to why the Appalachian Mountains end right there is because of Mud Creek slicing through the remnants of the merged ridge lines of Red Mountain and Shades Mountain. I’m guessing that everything south and west of that point is considered “hills” that are formed from a different process than that of the Appalachian Mountains. Just past Bishop Ridge on Bibb County 12 is a couple climbs over two small ridges. The second climb is the larger of the two and it continues on up and to the right all the way to the back border of the state park. This ridge is called “Sand Mountain” according to the USGS places dataset. Starting from near the intersection with Bishop Ridge and climbing all the way up to the first high point on Sand Mountain is a bare minimum Cat 4 climb. I’m wondering if it is the last categorized climb in the Appalachian Mountains. I’ve included a topocreator map below of my entire ride (4 county loop that I call the “reverse western” loop). The satellite imagery in the first map is 2015 data. The USGS elevation dataset is a bit older as some quarries which have been filled in by water still show as deep spots and other quarries which have been dug since the elevation dataset was created don’t show up at all. These maps are both huge (20MB and 17MB) so you can see tons of detail if you download the JPG and use an image editing or preview program to zoom in.

Topocreator map with satellite imagery zoomed in. The "end of the appalachians" is the spur from my route down in the lower left. Sand Mountain is also down there. Click to enlarge and see detail.Topocreator map with satellite imagery zoomed in. The “end of the appalachians” is the spur from my route down in the lower left. Sand Mountain is also down there. Click to enlarge and see detail.

Topocreator.com map of my 4-county  "western reverse" loop. Click to enlarge and see detail.Topocreator.com map of my 4-county “western reverse” loop. Click to enlarge and see detail.