Cycling in the Smoky Mountains
While there are plenty of resources available for determining the best hikes in the Smoky Mountains, few resources exist for finding bike trails in the Smoky Mountains.
This is primarily due to the fact that there are no official mountain bike trails within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and most of the roads within the park are too steep and too dangerous for most cyclists. However, if you are prepared for a challenge or willing to drive a bit, you can find exceptional road and mountain bike routes around the Smokies. Many of these bike trails rest near Gatlinburg and the Smokies, but some of them rest in nearby towns or just over the mountain in the North Carolina side of the park.
Road Cycling in the Smoky Mountains
There are several spots within the Smokies that are ideal for road cycling. These areas feature paved roads and a variety of inclines and settings to match every rider’s needs.
It is important to always follow traffic regulations while biking on mountains roads. Safety is always key when cycling, but when dealing with the winding, inclined roads of the Smoky Mountains one should be sure to take extra precautions. In both Tennessee and North Carolina, children under the age of 16 are required by law to wear a helmet. However, given the terrain of the Smokies, all cyclists should wear helmets, ensure their bike is in suitable condition, and utilize rear view mirrors on their trip.
Here are some of the top bike trails in the Smoky Mountains for those interested in road cycling:
Cades Cove Loop Rd
While many people enjoy the famous Cades Cove Loop in their vehicles, enjoying a scenic ride along the 11-mile one-way road may be an even better way to enjoy viewing wildlife and exploring 19th century cabins. In the summer and fall, you don’t have to worry about bring your own bikes since you can rent bikes from the Cades Cove Campground Store. Starting in May and ending the second to last Saturday in September, the Loop is closed to vehicles until 10:00 a.m. letting you enjoy a peaceful ride around the Cove
Townsend Bicycle Path
Located in Townsend, this paved 3-mile trail in the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies” is perfect for a family cycling outing. With only a few short, easy hills, you’ll love discovering quaint shops and mom-and-pop restaurants as you bike your way along this trail that runs parallel to US Hwy. 321. There’s even a portion of this trail that runs along the Little Pigeon River, so you can enjoy some scenic views of the water.
In addition to the Townsend Bicycle Path, Townsend also offers this short five mile round trip near the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. Starting in the parking lot near the Townsend “Y”, you’ll travel towards Cades Cove on Laurel Creek Road until you turn left on Tremont Road. There is also an option for you to enjoy an extended drive if you’re using a hybrid or mountain bike, where the road turns into a gravel road.
Gatlinburg to Newfound Gap
If you’re an experienced cyclist looking for a challenge, the ride up to Newfound Gap offers an average grade of 5.2% for 13 miles – classifying it as a category 1 climb in the Tour de France. It’s a good idea to start this ride early in the morning and carry a flashing strobe for the tunnels.
Gatlinburg Mountain Bike Trails
While most of the cycling opportunities in Gatlinburg exist for road bikers, there are a few opportunities for hybrid or mountain bikers to enjoy a scenic ride through the majestic Smoky Mountains in and around the city.
Cades Cove Loop Road
While you can definitely use a road bike on the Loop, there are several side trails that are perfect for hybrids and mountain bikes. Sparks Lane and Hyatt Lane can either shorten the loop or add a few more miles of Cades Cove. Rich Mountain Road offers a steep 7-mile climb to the park boundary at Rich Mountain Gap.
This 1.9 mile one-way flat trail runs along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River and offers nice views of the river along with several ruins of old homesteads.
Smoky Mountain Cycling Opportunities Outside Gatlinburg
If you’re willing to travel a little outside of Gatlinburg, there are plenty of Smoky Mountain cycling opportunities for both road and mountain cyclists in nearby cities in North Carolina as well as the nearby city of Knoxville, TN. These options provide the perfect day-trip option for vacationers seeking unique cycling experiences near the Smokies.
Tsali Recreation Area
This 42-mile network of multi-use trails attracts mountain bikers from around the world. A top ten riding destination in the U.S., the four loop system that offers everything from 4 to 12 mile problems. Mountain bikers are allowed on the trails on an alternating schedule that’s posted on the trailheads.
Appalachian Mountain Bike Club Trails
Only an hour away from Gatlinburg, there are several interesting mountain biking trails maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club, a chapter of the Southeast regional division of IMBA, in the city of Knoxville. With 5 parks throughout the greater Knoxville area, you can experience the thrill of mountain biking in an urban setting. Additionally, you can experience the great dining and nightlife Knoxville has to offer as well as maybe pencil in a visit to the top of the iconic Sunsphere.
This road bike trail rests in Bryson City, NC – a town about an hour away from Gatlinburg. This “Road to Nowhere” offers a lightly travelled paved road that winds travels 8 miles into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and offers a moderate challenge for riders.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Beginning in Oconaluftee, NC, you can travel a short portion of the road or challenge yourself to take on the entire 469 miles to Waynesboro, VA. There are several books available on how to travel the Blue Ridge Parkway that would assist in making this challenging, but breathtakingly beautiful journey.
Cycling at Your Smoky Mountain Cabin near Gatlinburg
While there are plenty of options of scenic bike trails in the Smoky Mountains, we offer cabins located in cabin resorts that offer opportunity for cycling enthusiasts to enjoy rides in the mountain air.
One of the best opportunities for cycling at your cabin or vacation rental is at our Mountain View Condos, which provide the opportunity to cycle to top area attractions along the Pigeon Forge Parkway. Similarly, Pin Oak Resort rests near the Parkway that allows you to access top attractions via city sidewalks.
The vacation rentals located in the River Pointe Resort rest in a resort that offers flat roads and a walkway by the river accessible from the resort picnic area.
Blackberry Ridge offers roads that aren’t steep and places you only short ride to Wears Valley Road.
Whether you want to enjoy a scenic mountain bike ride in the Smoky Mountains or a relaxing ride near your cabin. A stay in one of Cabin’s USA’s cabins places you near plenty of opportunities for Smoky Mountain cycling opportunities.
Written by Brittany Tipton