Want to drink in the fresh air, see spectacular scenery, and get close to nature? Take a Gatlinburg bike ride! Check out these six bike routes and find one that’s right for you. (Note that mountain biking is not permitted anywhere in the park, though there are mountain bike trails outside the park boundaries.)
1. GATLINBURG TRAIL
This popular, nearly flat trail is one of only two paths open to bicycles in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail runs 1.9 miles one way starting at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and takes you along the scenic Little Pigeon River. You’ll pass remnants of ruined homesteads, too. The trail is especially good for riding with children or anyone who needs a fairly easy biking trail.
2. CADES COVE LOOP ROAD
Cades Cove is famed for wildlife and historic sites, making it a beautiful setting for a ride. You can ride here most of the year, though, between May 5 and Sept. 1, the Cades Cove Loop Road is closed to vehicles, making cycling easier. The loop is 11 miles but there are plenty of spots to turn around for a shorter outing. You can rent bikes from the Cades Cove campground store.
Ride on the roads in this relatively quiet section of the park. To find Greenbrier, look for the ranger station on US 321, six miles east of Gatlinburg. The road into the park is paved for the first mile but becomes a gravel road after that when you can choose to turn toward either the Ramsey Cascades trailhead or the Porters Creek trailhead. Watch for wildflowers in this pretty area lying off the beaten path.
4. FOOTHILLS PARKWAY
If your idea of an invigorating ride is climbing uphill and swooping downhill, the Foothills Parkway is the route for you. Don’t be daunted when you see that the Parkway stretches more than 60 miles round trip--riding shorter sections is easy if you park and create your own loop rides. Be aware that the Parkway is steep, with a total climb of about 8,000 feet, and there are no stores along the route, so bring water and snacks.
The Townsend "Y" is your starting point for an out-and-back ride of about five miles along Tremont Road. You’ll head for the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. If you’ve got a mountain bike, you can extend the ride along a gravel road past the Institute. Look for picnic sites and good views along the way.
For a very different cycling experience, try the Townsend bicycle path. You’ll ride alongside US 321, so you’ll have access to shops and restaurants along the way. Whatever the cyclist’s level of ability, this paved, three-mile route is easy and attractive to cyclists who want frequent breaks.
After your rides, return home to your relaxing vacation cabin. Book a rental cabin today.