Chewacla State Park offers a peaceful retreat for locals and visitors alike to enjoy outdoor activities, connect with nature, and unwind in a beautiful natural setting. In the last several years, the park has grown responsibly and sustainably by increasing lodging accommodations like glamping, RVs, and cabins and providing outdoor recreation opportunities like fishing, camping, hiking, and kayaking that draw visitors to the Auburn-Opelika area. 

While many come to hike the scenic trails or cool off in the refreshing lake, there's another adventure waiting to be discovered – mountain biking. With over 30 miles of single-track trails, Chewacla offers a place for individuals of varying ages and skill levels the chance to enjoy the outdoors in all four seasons. This network of trails was made possible by a designated group of volunteers who are passionate about mountain biking and outdoor recreation. 

The trail creation initiative started with a group of volunteers who were developing trails at Lake Wilmore and Tuskegee National Forest at the time. However, there were a few individuals concerned about the quality and safety of the trails for the sake of mountain bikers. One of those was Philip Darden, a founding member of Central Alabama Mountain Pedalers (CAMP). In 2011, CAMP officially formed as an organization with a mission to promote trail advocacy, health, wellness, and education by developing, maintaining, and riding sustainable multi-use trails.


Philip Darden

“I was involved with CAMP from the beginning,” Philip Darden said. “I was the founding vice president, and then later, the president for about six years. During that time, we saw a lot of growth and have built a significant trail system at Chewacla State Park. 

With humble beginnings, the volunteers started "fairly ragtag" according tp Philip, but as the park made more land available for the group to develop mountain biking trails, the efforts grew. 

“We noticed there were a lot of people coming in with bikes on the back of their cars, and the park manager would ask us to build some more trails here and there,” Philip said.

After a few years of hard work in trail building, CAMP received a federal Recreational Trails Program Grant from the Federal Highway Commission to complete the trail system and develop a master plan for the upper Chewacla trail system.

“We were able to work out an agreement with the city of Auburn Economic Development Department, and they were gracious enough to help,” Philip said. ‘Without that support, we would have never been able to execute the grant.”

Because of people like Philip, the mountain biking trails at Chewacla State Park have added another level of tourism for Auburn-Opelika. CAMP hosts multiple competitions and festivals throughout the year to raise awareness for mountain biking in Auburn-Opelika including events like the weekly Super Sunday Rides, SORBA Summit, and Trail Work days. These trail events have helped raise awareness of the local and nationwide mountain biking community.

“We've seen kids grow up through the youth mountain biking programs and the sport has become an activity they can do when they're in school and after they graduate high school,” Philip said. “We've seen some kids race at a collegiate level who got their start at Chewacla State Park. They wouldn't be where they are now without the trail system we built.”

After over a decade of involvement with the local mountain biking community, Philip has become something of a local legend. While Chewacla State Park is an established location for adventure, Philip has personally spent time and energy creating a thrilling trail experience for visitors and mountain bikers alike. Directing volunteers, advocating at local, state, or regional levels, and orchestrating grant criteria and financial obligations; Philip has had a guiding hand in the trail’s success since day one.


philip darden


“The strength of CAMP is not the efforts of one person, but the efforts of a lot of folks over almost 15 years,” Philip said. “It didn't come easy, and we all need to celebrate the fact that the volunteers did an incredible job to get that done.”

Today, Philip continues to serve the mountain biking community as the Executive Director of Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA), a regional organization that strives to create challenging and sustainable mountain biking trails for 47 chapters across the Southeast, including CAMP.

 “We are an educational resource and a support organization for the chapters. We're there to help them with funding opportunities and developing relationships with land managers,” Philip said. “I see a continuing interest in the outdoors, and mountain biking in particular has grown substantially. We're going to be there to support it.”

Support the local mountain biking community by participating in weekly CAMP events like Super Sunday Rides and the Tuesday Night Ride and Grill. The next time you explore Chewacla State Park, visit the mountain biking trails and discover a new adventure that will heighten your time in Auburn-Opelika.


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