I am heading to Smokies this weekend, and want to do a long ride on Saturday (or Sunday), going up and down both sides of Clingmans Dome on HWY 441. My plan subject to suggestions here is to ride up from Gatlinburg to the parking lot of Clingmans Dome, then down to Cherokee, then back up to the Clingmans Dome parking lot, then back to Gatlinburg. I would love some logistical help from those in the know about the route. My questions are:
1. Is there water in the parking area at Clingmans Dome?
2. I know there is a lot of traffic on that road, but wonder if one side is worse than the other. I would guess the Gatlinburg side, but maybe I am wrong. I plan on leaving very early in the am, and the total 90 miles or so with 9,100 feet of climbing will take me maybe 6.5 hours or so. To get my riding on the Gatlinburg side over as soon as possible, I could park at the top and descend really early to Gatlinburg then head back up, and then go down and up on the Cherokee side back to the car.
Any suggestions will be welcome. For those who have ridden on 441, if you feel it is not safe at any time, I will appreciate that info as well.
Mark, people do ride that road, early in the morning is the key. The speed limit is low but the road is narrow. After a while, the volume of traffic increases to a constant flow. I choose to avoid it. However, as I said others ride it. I think an early as possible start with a flashing taillight is best. There is road repaving on the NC side. Work is only done at night so you should be fine but I would expect a rough road.
There is water in the bathrooms at Clingman's Dome. It is just up the paved trail at the end of the parking lot a few yards. There is water at the Occonluftee Visitor's Center in the restrooms also. Same for Sugarlands on the Tenn. side.
Remember, this weekend starts the July 4th week and the absolute peak of summer visitor traffic in the Park. Be careful.
An alternative to riding US 441 is to drive to the NC side and ride the Blue Ridge Parkway starting near Cherokee. You can ride to Richland Balsam and back for about 80 miles and 11,200' of climbing. There is water for purchase at Waterrock Knob and a good spring flowing from a pipe on the left near mp 432 just before the Richland Balsam summit.
Thanks for the info. I actually plan on riding a similar amount both Saturday and Sunday, and was thinking of riding out from the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway on Sunday, probably the route you were mentioning. I need two back to back days of around 100 miles each day and an aggregate of 18-20k climbing. I was too late to get in the Blood Sweat and Gears for one of the days, so I am on my own this weekend. Thanks again. Mark
Forgot to mention, it probably is best to carry three water bottles especially on the BRP. I don't know what the water costs at Waterrock but it can't be cheap. Also, there are 5 tunnels on the way up from Cherokee so have a taillight.