1. Beach Cruising: Alabama's Coastal Connection
Distance: 4 miles out-and-back
This ride alongside the beautiful sugar-white beaches and turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico offers an excellent view of the beach. The route uses a section of the wide bike lane of Highway 182 between the Gulf State Park Pier and the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail Rosemary Dunes Trailhead, passing the unique architecture of the Gulf State Park Beach Pavilion. You can start at either the pier or at the Rosemary Dunes Trailhead. The advantage of starting at the Backcountry Trail is that Beach Bike Rentals is right there, so you don't even have to bring a bike.
2. Recreational: Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail
Distance: Over 28 miles of trail options
Difficulty: Easy to moderate (if you do a long trip)
Winding through the "backcountry" of Gulf State Park is the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail, a series of eight paved multi-use trails of varying lengths that travel through nine different ecosystems. This trail provides a fantastic opportunity to ride through longleaf pine forests, past shimmering freshwater lakes, coastal wetlands and marshes. And you never know what animals you may see as white-tailed deer, coyote, bobcat and even alligators can be spotted from the trail. The paths give you plenty of options for long and short trips and are perfect for both families and experienced road bikers. There are only a few minor hills to contend with, but nothing severe. The trail has six restrooms and two water fountains either on the trail or just off it. A favorite mid-level trip is the three-mile loop beginning at the Orange Beach Sportsplex on the Twin Bridges Trail to the Power Connector Trail, Rosemary Dunes, Catman Road and back to the trailhead on the Twin Bridges.
3. Fort Morgan Road Trail
Distance: 10.8 miles, out-and-back
The Fort Morgan Road Trail is a pleasant pedal from the intersection of Alabama Highway 59 and Highway 180, at the Rouses Shopping Center, to the Peninsula Golf and Racket Club, 5.4-miles (one way). Before heading off, be sure to fill up on some delicious beignets and coffee at Café Beignets, located at the starting point. From the shopping center, the trail is a wide, multi-use path that parallels Highway 180, but most of the trip is well off the road behind a barrier of trees. The trail is ideal for families since it is a paved, level track, but a round-trip with children could be challenging due to the length. You may consider doing a short segment with them. At the 4-mile mark, there is a "rest stop" - the Island Quik Mart convenience store, where you can pick up drinks and snacks or use the restroom.
4. Coyote Crossing Trail
Distance: 3.2 miles, round trip
Another great multi-use route is the Coyote Crossing Trail, the latest along the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail. The path parallels Alabama Highway 135 and State Park Road 2 from Highway 59 to the Backcountry Trail's Gulf Oak Ridge Trailhead. We prefer to start at the Backcountry trailhead and head west to the Gulf State Park Headquarters and return. Even though the trail parallels the two highways, for the most part, it is tucked away between a nice barrier of trees and is a reasonable distance from the road.