My family is planning a vacation at Lake Nantahala, NC for a week. My only interest in going is if I can get some decent road cycling in. Hoping to get some thoughts about that from members on this forum. Appreciate any advice and perhaps some routes. I am from the northeast, so have no idea what to expect.
Also, is there any possibility to rent a decent road bike around there or from Knoxville (that's where I will be coming from).
It really depends on how much you want to HTFU. There's a car tour route called the Mountain Waters Byway (or something similar) that loops past Nantahala. While the southeast quadrant leg would be death defying on a bike (due to car traffic), the southwest and northwest quadrant would be a stunning ride, if your idea of a good time is riding straight up the side of a building. Granted, an incredibly scenic building with waterfalls everywhere. The car traffic on that side is pretty low as well. The route would be something like from US-19 near the town of Wesser, take Wayah Rd southeast. Continue to follow Wayah Rd for ~28mi, then turn left onto Old Murphy Rd just before you hit US-64. If you're on your own, reverse to go back from whence you came. If you can have a sag wagon, get them to pick you up on Old Murphy (there's a couple of schools and things to use as a muster point) and then drive NC-29 from Frankland down to Highlands and back. US-29 is stunningly awesome, but HEAVILY TRAFFICKED. I WOULD NOT try riding a bike on it during tourist season.
Alternately, the Cherohala Skyway and the Foothills Parkway are both lightly traveled enough that it's reasonable to bike along them. Off-season, the Blue Ridge Parkway itself is minimally traveled and safe to bike.
There are lots of great rides in the area. The only road I would avoid during the day is NC19 through the Nantahala Gorge due to summer raft traffic. If you like to climb, there are many options. Here is a website with some local rides. http://www.motionmakersbikes.com/area_ride_maps.html
There are many more rides in the Franklin area and you might contact Smoky Mountain Bicycles in town.
I enjoyed a week's vacation at Nantahala Lake in late June.
For pure pavement riding, there are a few options. Wayah Road has long climbs and some swooping descents. Junaluska Road toward Andrews is straighter, but still plenty steep in spots.
If you have a bike that can handle pavement AND dirt, you'll be in heaven. Here are some of my favorite routes:
-Wayah Road to the top of Wayah Bald. The last six or seven miles to the top is a dirt forest service road. A groovy grinding climb through a beautiful forest on the way up and a ton of fun on the way down.
-711 Loop. 711 is a paved forest service road, but it was last patched and maintained during the Nixon administration. (You may think I'm exaggerating, but wait 'til you see it!) Big climbs, tons of wildflowers this time of year, and very, very little traffic. Loop back around via Wayah Road and you'll see some nice lakeside.
-Winding Stairs Loop. Ride Wayah Road all the way down to US 74. This road follows the Nantahala River past tons of cascades and is a blast to ride. A nice greenway follows the river to Winding Stairs Road, a forest service road that climbs back up out of the gorge. Winding Stairs is dirt. It does wind a bit, which I think makes climbing a lot more fun, because you can look down on where you've been. On the top, past pretty Queen's Lake, the pavement begins again, and there is a wide open descent back to Wayah Road.
-Old River Road. This is a forest service road along the Nantahala between Junaluska Road and Wayah Road. It's pretty flat and fairly smooth for a dirt road, with lots of nice cascades along the way.
At the time of my visit, most of the dirt roads were pretty smooth and might be do-able on a road bike with some tough tires.
Winding Staircase is an AWESOME road, but not really the kind of thing the average person wants to tackle on a bike or even in a car. Being a Subaru owner, it's like a fricken playground to me though, lol.