Fall is the perfect time for you and your family to bring your bikes to the Peaceful Side of the Smokies. There is a vast selection of cyclist-friendly roads and bike trails that range in difficulty from family-friendly to those just for the experts. They range in distance from under a mile up to many miles long. If you are looking for something you can add to your bucket list and mark it complete, biking the Smokies is a great choice.
In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Keep in mind that bicycling inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is very limited. You can ride on any paved road, (the only exception is the Roaring Fork Motor Trail), and on three trails. These trails include the Oconaluftee River Trail, the Lower Deep Creek Trail, and the Gatlinburg Trail. All other trails and the backcountry are off limits to any type of bicycle or motorized off-road vehicle. Again, you can cycle on the paved roads, but the amount of vehicular traffic can make this a less-than-pleasant experience.
This being said, from the first part of May to the last part of September, the park closes the Cades Cove Loop to vehicular traffic on Wednesdays and Saturdays from sunup until 10:00 a.m. The loop runs for 11 miles and can be completed in less than 2 hours by most people. Along the way, you might see numerous members of the local native inhabitants (fox, deer, rabbits, numerous birds…Oh! And maybe even a bear). The road does have a few steep grades to deal with, but there are cross-trails you can use to cut the ride short if you are getting tired.
Bike Ride for the Whole Family
If you have younger children in your family, the Gatlinburg Trail in the Park could be just the trail to match their skill levels. The trail is one of the two trails in the park that allow bicycle traffic. The trail starts at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and runs for two miles until you reach the outer edge of Gatlinburg. One reason this is a good trail for kids is that it is flat. Unlike many of the trails in the area outside of the park that include steep climbs and drops, this one is quite level all the way into town.
The other trail in the park, the Oconaluftee Trail, is only 1.5 miles long. The trail runs along the Oconaluftee River. The trailhead starts at the Oconaluftee Visitor center and drops into Cherokee, NC. The trail offers superb views as it passes through the forest on your way into town. Like the Gatlinburg Trail, this one is open to joggers, hikers, pets, and of course, cyclists, so it tends to become crowded later in the day. If you want to cycle in more complete peace and quiet, you need to get here early and get out ahead of the crowd.
This is only a small sampling of why bringing your bikes to the Peaceful Side of the Smokies this fall can be so much fun. The fall foliage is breathtaking, the trails are family-friendly, and the weather is perfect for taking those longer rides. Bring your family and your bikes out to our neck of the woods this fall; we promise you won’t be sorry.
Story used by permission from the Knoxville Mercury. In Cover Stories by Élan YoungJune 29, 20163 Comments Before I became a parent, I traced in green highlighter roughly two-thirds of the...
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