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Old 01-19-06, 09:41 AM   #1
Illini Trekker
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Biking The Smoky Mountains

Planning a trip to the Smokies this summer, will try to go for two weeks. Were wanting to hike and bike allot of those day were out. I've seen that the park shuts down the car traffic around the Cades Cove cercal two mornings a week. Has anybody road this ride, are there many hills, and what is the length of that ride.

Thatís about all the biking I have found and the area, are there others?

Iím 50 wifeís 50 we ride 3-4 days a week here in Illinois, now use the stationary bike with not much of a view. Use comfort bike and do not mountain bike. Thanks
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Old 01-19-06, 10:39 AM   #2
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I would recommend riding the Blue Ridge Parkway. It climbs an average of around 100' every mile. It is very scenic. Also the grades are limited to a rather moderate 7%.
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Old 01-19-06, 11:47 AM   #3
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The Cades Cove loop is a great ride - not too hilly. As I recall, about 12-15 miles. Another good ride is on the Foothills Parkway about 10 miles east of Maryville. We rode it to US 129 and back. This is mountainous, but if you're patient, a great ride with teriffic views. The Blue Ridge Parkway is also a nice ride, however, it is very mountainous between Cherokee and Asheville and from Asheville north, it is 18 miles of climbing before the first downhill.

I rode many miles on these roads and highly recommend them. Living in Florida now, I do miss cycling in the mountains!
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Old 01-19-06, 08:29 PM   #4
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Cades Cove is closed to auto traffic on Sundays ( I believe) till about 11am. Great riding of the eleven mile one way loop. Buy the $1 guide to the Cove at the pavillion just before the one way section begins. LOTS of old home places, churches, graveyards, mills,etc. Some are as much as a half mile hike from the road, so wear appropriate shoes. Lots of deer around, and you might get lucky and see one of the elk the Park service is trying to introduce into the park. Two weeks ago we let a nine point buck get within 20 feet of us.
IMHO, biking anywhere else in the park would be a bit risky,as the roads are not wide and traffic can be unpredictable.
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Old 01-19-06, 08:52 PM   #5
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The Cades Cove road is closed to auto traffic on Wed. and Sat.mornings until 10:00 am. The local club has one ride a year from Sugarlands to Newfound Gap but I wouldn't recommend doing anything other that the Cades Cove loop. The park roads are narrow two lane with heavy traffic all the time, 10 million visitors a year. Here is a link to the Park Service site about biking.
http://www.nps.gov/grsm/gsmsite/justforfun.html#biking

Al
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Old 01-19-06, 09:02 PM   #6
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Lots of people bike on the Blue Ridge Parkway. While the grades aren't bad on the parkway, some of the grades getting onto the parkway are pretty steep but mercifully short.

I like hiking in the Park, especially away from the AT near Newfound Gap. WAY too many people on the AT there. I particulaly like the Alum Cave Trail to the top of Mt. LeConte. Once you get past Alum Cave the trail isn't too crowded and there are some very nice views if the day is nice. A strenuous day loop would be to continue on the Boulevard Trail to the AT and then a short stretch to Newfound Gap and a few miles on US 441 back to your car. I did that (except for the US 441 part) in 2004; my family dropped me off at the Alum Cave trailhead in the morning and picked me up at Newfound Gap 5 hours later after they spent most of the day in Gatlinburg (YUCK!). You can stay at the lodge near the summit of Mt. LeConte if you have reservations, but get them WAY in advance.
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Old 01-20-06, 02:10 AM   #7
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If you have a reasonable tolerance for constant road traffic and the smell of hot brakes then the 70 mi round trip on the the main road through the park is a nice ride. It is 13mi upto the crest from Gburg and 22mi from Cherokee, once you get to the top it is all down to Gburg, but about a mile or so of climbing on the downhill to Cherokee. The grades are variable but mostly not too steep. Traffic can be more of a pain for the last 3mi on the Gburg side of Newfound gap, and there are a couple of tunnels that are a bit dark. By summer the winter sand and gravel should be mostly gone. This is a problem in April above 3500-4000' where most of the weather occurs. Be aware it will be 10-15F cooler at Newfound or Klingman's dome if you choose to ride there. The Klingman's dome road is mostly uphill to the Dome (6mi up, 1mi down). That is a nice 20mi one way ride from Gburg. It is after all 19mi down from Klingman's dome. Bear jams can be a hassle in the summer, navigable on the bike depending on where the bears are. My favorite ride, that is fairly easy, is to go from Gburg to Cades Cove, ride the loop, picnic and ride back. This is 62-64miles. There are 4mi uphill, not bad out of Sugarlands, then 22mi downhill to Townsend wye, then 7 mi uphill to Cades Cove, only 2-3 mi of which are at all steep. None of the roads discussed so far is really steep however.
The Cades Cove loop is best done early, not feasible unless you get up VERY early or camp there. Most of the foggy nice pix are then and the deer and turkeys most common then but pop up at all times of the day. Don't worry about car traffic on Cades Cove, they go slower than the bikes and the road is mostly wide enough to easily pass cars. It is a bit gravely, but ok for road bikes. There are a couple of short steep sections in the 8-10mile region of the loop and one steep downhill where they sign: bikers walk! I always ride it. If you haven't done the park before the scenic stops are worth doing around the Cove.
Other possible rides: Motor Nature trail in Gburg, but be warned, long steep climbs. The Heintooga loop out of Cherokee: long steep climbs, and about 10 of the 18 miles are gravel. As others note the Blue Ridge out of Cherokee is not for the faint of heart: 20miles of thigh busting uphill, it was bad in the car, I would never think of doing it on the bike. The Heintooga and the Blue Ridge have the same start with the Heintooga branching off after 6-8miles. Ditto the Foothills Parkway, long steepish uphills with cars doing upwards of 65mph, speeds rarely seen in the park. There is a gravel section of the Foothills about 5mi long that is closed to cars and accessed about halfway between Townsend and Pigeon Forge that will have no traffic on it but I am not sure what the rules are on biking it. I go to the Wildflower Pilgrimage in April and usually bike upto the crest and back and forth to Cades Cove once on the regular bike and once on the recumbent depending on weather. It is a bit cool then and very occasionally rainy but temps are not too bad 45F-60F depending on altitude. Cars are respectful of bikes for the most part, but the 50's + motorcyclers are out in force and in groups. A bunch of Gullwings is no problem, but a bunch of Harleys is noisy and the fumes can be a problem when you are going uphill at 8mph and 12 of them go blatting by.
Steve

Last edited by sch; 01-23-06 at 05:48 PM.
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Old 01-20-06, 05:57 PM   #8
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My experience is that when the Cades Cove loop is closed to car traffic, many families take advantage of that to go for rides. That's a terrific family activity--I hope to take my kids sometime soon--but when I rode there were what seemed like hundreds of little girls on Barbie bikes weaving back and forth across the rode at a walking pace. I had gone there hoping to get a good workout, but I spent the first few miles very frustrated at the frequent times I had to grab my brakes hard (and get a glare from the parents). Finally I decided that a workout wasn't in the cards for that day (or the second time I tried a few days later), so I just cruised and enjoyed the scenery. This was in the middle of summer, so experiences might be different at other times of the year.
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Old 01-20-06, 06:13 PM   #9
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Does anyone know what the elevation footage gain from Ashville to Craggy Gradens or Mt. Mitchell might be?
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Old 01-23-06, 09:45 AM   #10
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Thanks All for the info sounds like the loop is the best bet for my wife and I.

Trek Al I have saved the link and will look it over!

Sch your information will be very helpful!
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Old 01-25-06, 05:54 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rodfrank
Does anyone know what the elevation footage gain from Ashville to Craggy Gradens or Mt. Mitchell might be?
Asheville at the French Broad River = 2000 feet.
Mt. Mitchell Ridge Junction & BRPwy. intersection = 5160 feet.
4.8 miles up the Ridge Juction road takes you to the top of Mt. Mitchell (= 6684 feet).
Craggy Gardens Recreation Center = 5220 feet.
I pulled these stats from Blue Ridge Parkway Guide - Grandfather Mt. to Great Smoky Mt.s Natl.Pk,
ISBN 0-89732-119-7.
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Old 01-26-06, 06:29 PM   #12
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Thanks. I'll also get that book fom the library.
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