Fall weather is a great time to get out on a bike – whether you want a leisurely ride on a trail or road with the family or you want to shred on a rugged trail ride or a tough mountain road climb, the Great Smokies offer bountiful scenery and unique and varied ride options.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a spectacular place, filled with wonder and adventure across its 522,427 acres. It has countless mountain ridges among the forest that forms the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. The flora and fauna are magnificent and trails running through the park are a great way to see it all. The park contains more than 4,000 plants and 140 species of trees. They include more than 1500 flowering plants – more than in any other North American national park – and they are some of the most beautiful in the world.
The park was established in 1934 and turned 85 in September.
The MTB Project is a great source for finding the right trail for mountain biking in the Smokies. The crowd sourced web site includes maps, photos and descriptions shared by riders. Most Smoky Mountain bike trails are located on the North Carolina side of the mountains, but there are some in Tennessee and plenty of paths and roadways for cycling through Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
Stay in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge close to all the action, shows and shopping and take a day trip to the trails – whether in North Carolina or Tennessee.
North Carolina Side of the Smokies
In Cherokee, NC, – 36 miles from Gatlinburg – try Kessel Run – a short but difficult ride. Kessel Run starts at the top of Fire Mountain and can be accessed by climbing either Spearfinger or Uktena. The 2.1-mile trail “crosses over Waya at a horseshoe-shaped wooden bridge and crosses Lazy Elk at the 1.8 mile mark before ending at another intersection with Lazy Elk.” Adding the end of Lazy Elk and Kate’s Wave to this run, makes for a 3.5-mile total downhill. “The terrain is mostly smooth singletrack with tons of berms, rollers, a few jumps, and one optional technical rock garden. The flow is almost endless.”
Also in Cherokee is Fire Tower – 2.3 miles considered Intermediate/Difficult. Fire Tower starts in the main parking lot directly across from the trail kiosk and the start of Tinker’s Dream. This trail is intended for use by hikers and emergency work/ATVs but it can be ridden as well.
“The trail connects to Uktena, Kessel Run and Spearfinger on the way up to the top of Mt. Noble.” It is “incredibly steep.” Riders say it can be used to reduce the distance of both the Uktena and Spearfinger climbs to the top.
Other popular North Carolina Smoky Mountain bike trails include Indian Creek Trail – 3.1 miles one-way, intermediate; and Deep Creek Trail – 1.9 one-way, Intermediate, just outside Bryson City, North Carolina. Still in the park, but a bit further away, you’ll find Mount Sterling Road/Old Cataloochee Turnpike/Old NC 284 – 18 miles – Intermediate in Cove Creek/Mount Sterling.
Near The Nantahala Gorge
Tsali Recreation area is half an hour down the road from Bryson City & Deep Creek Picnic Area. This 40+ mile recreational complex is open to both mountain bikers and horseback riders, with trails designating specific usage based on days of the week.
Best of all – the trails at Tsali are all loop trails, returning you back to where you started. Be sure to check out this website to see which trails you can use.
- The Right Loop, rated moderately difficult, offers 13.9 miles of single track, with shorter 4- and 8-mile loops possible.
- The Left Loop, rated moderately difficult, is 11.9 miles of single track with views toward the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Fontana Lake.
- The Mouse Branch Trail, rated moderately difficult, is 8.7 miles of single track and includes old logging roads.
- The Thompson Loop, rated moderately difficult, is 7.3 miles of single track
No matter which trail system you use when you visit, you’ll get gorgeous views of Fontana Lake and the high ridgelines of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Tennessee Side of the Park
In Cades Cove, about 45 minutes from Pigeon Forge, Rich Mountain Road, Forge Creek Road and Parson’s Branch Road are easy rides.
Rich Mountain Road is 7.1 miles of easy/intermediate riding. The road has one-way vehicle traffic June through October and is closed to vehicular traffic November to May.
Marc Upton describes the ride as “nice, gentle grade climb and descent option off the popular Cades Cove Loop Road. … “One of the very few off-road/gravel cycling adventures in the Great Smokies National Park.”
Speaking of Cades Cove – one of our favorite places to visit for many reasons – ride bikes through there on the 11-mile one-way road to see the changing leaves, the historic buildings and the wildlife.
During summer and fall, bicycles may be rented at the Cades Cove Campground Store (located near Cades Cove Campground). For information call (865) 448-9034. For more about Cades Cove, read our blog post 6 Reasons You Should Visit Cades Cove.
Forge Creek Road is a 2.2-mile scenic gravel road that connects Cades Cove Loop to Parson’s Branch Road.
Parson’s Branch Road in Wildwood is a “primitive gravel road” with great views that runs 8.3 miles and leads to The Tail of The Dragon/129. This road is currently closed to vehicle traffic, and has no set open date for vehicles the foreseeable future. This unimproved road features several water crossings and some steep hills. See our blog post on The Tail of the Dragon.
Upper Tremont Road
Upper Tremont Road is close to Cades Cove, and this one is 3.2 miles one way and also an easy ride.
Paul Heier of Guatamala and Florida wrote: “This is a super fun ride on the way down! If you have kids the way up may require some walking. It’s one solid ascent. There are beautiful places to stop and see the water and some falls. Great for a picnic. … You could do hiking at the top where there are different trails.”
In Gatlinburg, the Gatlinburg Trail is an easy 1.4 mile, one way crushed gravel trail.
Mostly flat, the trail is crushed gravel in most sections, and popular among locals for exercising. You can bring your dog on this trail. It runs from River Road in Gatlinburg to the Sugarlands Visitor Center.
Greenbrier is another excellent biking and hiking spot to hit. A 6-mile gravel road transports visitors to the Ramsey Cascade trailhead along the Porter Creek trail, the hiking trails are not open for bikes, but the roads provide leisurely routes for cyclists.
In Pigeon Forge, the main bike trail is known as the Pigeon Forge Greenway and runs alongside the Little Pigeon River. Pigeon Forge Greenway Trail system includes more than six miles of trails and connects one end of town to the other. The trails take patrons along the beautiful West Prong of the Little Pigeon River, around Patriot Park, around the old City Park behind the Pigeon Forge Community Center and throughout Wear Farm Park. There is also a section of Greenway following Veterans Blvd connecting with the Sevierville Greenway System at Center View Rd and ending at Goldrush Rd across the street from Dollywood’s Theme Park, Splash Country and DreamMore Resort.
Riverwalk Greenway is a 4-mile nature trail beginning at Patriot Park in Pigeon Forge and is a great place to enjoy riding along the east bank of the Pigeon River. Both the Riverway Greenway and The Plaza at Butler and Ashley are great places to bike in the community with the whole family.
For more on planning your bike adventure in the Great Smoky Mountains, see NPS Tips.
Plan Your Biking Trip to the Mountains
No matter what kind of biking or trail you choose for exploring the Smoky Mountains, having a beautiful cabin to come and go from, share stories and make plans is the best way to stay in mountains.
Plan an entire trip around biking during the day and attractions and great dinners by night. American Patriot Getaways can help you plan it all, we even have discount tickets for attractions.
Book now for a future adventure. American Patriot Getaways has you covered with plenty of cabins to choose from in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. No matter your group size or budget, American Patriot Getaways has a cabin for you!
Want to stay near beautiful Cades Cove? Book a cabin in Wears Valley and you are right there. Check out our great Wears Valley area cabins and find your perfect vacation destination! Stay right in the mountains in one of our secluded cabins. Have a big family? We have 10-13 bedroom cabins! Check out our budget-friendly cabins and our cabins with game rooms!
Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for all the latest area news and happenings. And check out our Smoky Mountain Travel Guide for more adventures. Be sure to look at all of our vacation guides for planning your Smoky Mountain getaway.
We’ll see you in the mountains!