Best Places To Go Cycling in the Smoky Mountains

bicycling in the great smoky mountains

Best Places To Go Cycling in the Smoky Mountains

Hopping on 2 wheels and hitting the open road…or mountain trails…can be an amazing experience, especially in the Great Smoky Mountains. While you may immediately think about motorcycles when you hear the term “2 wheels” but this time we’re talking about bicycles. Cycling in the Smoky Mountains is soBicycling in the Great Smoky Mountainsme thing every cyclist should try. The scenery is unmatched and there are so many different trails for both road and mountain bikers.

Before we jump in to the best places to ride in the Great Smoky Mountains, keep in mind that these trek’s are in the mountains, so there will be inclines and possibly rough terrain. Just remember to stay in your comfort level and be safe. Bring plenty of water and snacks to re-energize!

Mountain Bike Trails in Tennessee

While there is no mountain biking trails in the Smokies, bikes are allowed in a small handful of areas. The trails are specifically geared towards cyclist. Keep to these areas and you’ll be in good shape.

Gatlinburg Trail

The Gatlinburg Trail is just under 2 miles one-way from the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Considering the trail is in Gatlinburg, the terrain is pretty flat. The trail runs through the forest next to the Little Pigeon River. Between the forest and the river, you can imagine how incredible the views truly are! Keep an eye out though, the trail usually has several people either walking, jogging or walking their dogs.

Cades Cove Loop

The Cades Cove Loop is probably the most popular route for cycling in the Smoky Mountains. Both road bikes and mountain bikes are welcome. The 11 mile loop provides several different options for those on a mountain bike.
•Parsons Branch Road/ Forge Creek Rd.- This gravel road heads to the Gregory Bald Trail which is just past the turn for the Cades Cove Visitor Center. As far as difficulty, this ride is fairly steep, especially for about 5 and a half miles along the crest of Hannah Mountain.
•Sparks Ln./ Hyatt Ln.- Think of these roads as a “bypass” of the loop. You can either make the trip shorter or longer by taking these roads. Either way, the scenery is amazing!
•Rich Mountain Rd.- Just past Hyatt Ln, this gravel road is fairly steep which runs 7 miles along the park boundary of Rich Mountain Gap. There will be traffic on this route so proceed with caution!


Greenbrier is located about 6 miles east of Gatlinburg. This route is fairly unique as the first mile is paved but the remaining trek is on gravel. You’ll have an option at the fork to either head up the Ramsey Trailhead, the Porters Creek Trailhead…or both! A fork with 3 options? Always take both.

Mountain Bike Trails in North Carolina

There are 3 wonderful trails to ride once you cross over the mountain from Tennessee in to North Carolina.

Tsali Recreation Area Trail System

Thousands of mountain bikers a year visit the Tsali Recreation Area Trail System. This trail is actually world famous, so if you decide to take this route, you know you’re in for a special day. The trail system begins, roughly, 15 miles west from Bryson City, NC. Why is this trail considered a “system”? There are 42 miles of trail available to ride. That would be a very LONG day. Within the 42 miles are 4 loops, averaging 4-12 miles and different terrain.

Oconaluftee River Trail

If you’re looking for a shorter ride with amazing views, the Oconaluftee River Trail may be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s located outside of Cherokee and is a one-way trail that runs about 1.5 miles. There are a few small hills but overall, the ride is pretty flat. The trail runs through the forest along the Oconaluftee River. The trail often has runners, walkers and folks walking their dogs.

Road Routes in Tennessee

If you’re feeling brave and don’t mind sharing the road with your friends on 4 wheels, there are some great road courses in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Gatlinburg to Newfound Gap

This route is for the extreme and serious cyclist and even could challenge the most skilled biker. The average grade of the 13 mile course is just over 5%. This section can be heavily traveled, so plan your trip to avoid the traffic if at all possible. The fewer cars, the fewer possibilities for an accident.

Townsend Bike Path

If the course from Gatlinburg to Newfound Gap could have a polar opposite, the Townsend Bike Path might be it. This is a paved trail that is roughly 3 miles in length. There are a few short and easy hills and is great for the older kids. There are places to eat, shop and even places to stay. This route holds true to its nickname “The Peaceful Side of the Smokies”.

Foothills Parkway

If hills are your thing…look no further than the Foothills Parkway. This ride is beautiful but full of hills and runs just under 17 miles. There’s not a lot of traffic which makes the ride a bit easier, but if you aren’t an experienced cyclist or don’t have the endurance for a hilly ride, expect to pull over a lot to take pictures and catch your breath.

Road Routes in North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is really a buffet of choices. You can ride portions of the parkway or, if you’re feeling overly adventurous, you can attempt the entire 470 miles. Your choice. There is some serious climbing at the beginning of the parkway but you can expect beautiful views whether you go a handful of miles or the entire 470.

Lakeview Drive

Is known as the “Road to Nowhere”. The road is lightly paved and runs about 8 miles in to the Smokies just ahead of Bryson City. You can see some great views, especially of Fontana Lake.

These are just a few of the great route you can take as you cycle in the Great Smoky Mountains. Always remember to wear a helmet, take plenty of water and be mindful of things around you. A great trip is a safe trip!

Other blogs you might be interested in…
Zip Lining & Mountain Biking with CLIMB Works Smoky Mountains
Whitewater Rafting in the Great Smoky Mountains
Where To Picnic in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

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