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Endless Exploration

Mountain Range

The Southern Blue Ridge Mountains are full of beautiful backroads that wind in and out of the Cherokee National Forest east of Chattanooga, offering endless opportunities for exploration! To help sort through all the options, we've provided some of our favorite bikepacking and gravel bike routes below.

 

We've categorized the routes based on their proximity to the three rivers that define this region, with the Ocoee to the south, the Tellico to the north, and the Hiwassee in the middle. (We've also included a few less challenging routes around Chattanooga. For routes in other parts of the state, check out the Gravel Grinders of Tennessee route collection.)

Use the filters below to narrow your search, and click on the maps to open a downloadable Ride With GPS file for each route.

If you're new to bikepacking, we highly recommend you check out this primer from our friends at Bikepacking.com: https://bikepacking.com/bikepacking-101

Cell Service

Cell service is limited or nonexistent on most of these routes. Please come prepared with an emergency plan that does not depend on a cell phone!

Horses

Many of these backroads are also used for horseback riding. If you encounter a horse, please stop and dismount until the horse has passed. Horses can be extremely skittish around bikes.

Liability

We're offering these routes as a free service and in no way assume any liability for your experience in choosing to ride them. Be safe and have fun out there!

Traffic

Although the forest service roads may seem incredibly remote and untraveled, they do occasionally have vehicles. So please stay in your lane and don't cheat on the blind curves!

Road Surfaces

Please ignore the road surface designations provided by Ride With GPS. The percentage of gravel roads on these routes is significantly underestimated by Ride With GPS.

Epic Challenges

If you want to go beyond the challenge of the routes below, push your limits with the killer routes we offer as part of the Three Rivers Individual Time Trial Series and the epic bikepacking adventure of Three Rivers Way!

BE ADVISED:  North River Road is undergoing significant maintenance and is closed to public access until March 2023. This work affects the following routes in the Tellico region: 36, 52, 95, and the Tellico Highlands ITT Challenge.

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CHATTANOOGA

8 miles/400 ft

Reflection Riding Arboretum and Wildlife Center.

OCOEE

15 miles/2,100 ft

Oswald, Clear Creek.

95% unpaved.

Park at Chilhowee Recreation Area. $3 for parking. Flush toilets available. More info.

The best way to reach the ride start is to drive up Oswald Road (off of Hwy 64). Be sure to stop at the overlooks on your way up the mountain for some amazing views! The other way up the mountain is Benton Springs Road, which is steep and unpaved. (If you're looking for bonus miles, you could start in Benton and ride your bike up this 3-mile climb!)

This ride can be combined with an easy hike to Benton Falls which starts from the Chilhowee Recreation Area parking lot. Only 3 miles round-trip with a beautiful 65-foot waterfall as the payoff!

Chilhowee Recreation Area also has mountain bike trails!

Although not very long, this is a challenging route with steep climbing and descending. (Skipping the big descent & climb and simply riding it as an out & back reduces the mileage to 9.5 and the climbing to 1400 feet.)

OCOEE

18 miles/1,900 ft

Sina Branch, Baker Creek.

90% unpaved.

Park at King's Slough Boat Ramp. $3 for parking. Pit toilet available.

HIWASSEE

24 miles/2,900 ft

Powerhouse, Lost Creek.

70% unpaved.

Park at Hiwassee State Scenic River Boat Ramp in Reliance. No parking fee. Pit toilets available.

Don't miss the scenic overlook of the Hiwassee River at Mile 2.6. It's on the right as you crest the climb.

The suspension bridge over the Hiwassee River at Mile 5.5 is perfect for pictures.

CHATTANOOGA

25 miles/2,000 ft

Prentice Cooper.

HIWASSEE

28 miles/2,500 ft

Unicoi Gap, Shulers Creek, Old Hwy 68, Buck Bald.

70% unpaved.

Park off to the side at the Coker Creek Welcome Center. Flush toilets are available when the welcome center is open.

The Buck Bald out & back at Mile 17 is totally worth the effort. The 360 degree view of the mountains from the top of the bald is amazing!

HIWASSEE

32 miles/3,200 ft

Fingerboard (long section), Fingerboard (short section).

30% unpaved.

Park at Hiwassee State Scenic River Boat Ramp in Reliance. No parking fee. Pit toilets available.

TELLICO

36 miles/4,600 ft

River Road, North River Road, Cherohala Skyway, Turkey Creek.

40% unpaved.

Park at Baby Falls. Pit toilets available.

The descent down the Cherohala Skyway is fast and fun, but the overlooks on the way down are well worth stopping for!

HIWASSEE

38 miles/3,600 ft

Starr Mtn, Ivy, Fingerboard (short section).

40% unpaved.

Park at Hiwassee State Scenic River Boat Ramp in Reliance. No parking fee. Pit toilets available.

HIWASSEE

44 miles/5,500 ft

Powerhouse, Smith Mtn, Kimsey Mtn Hwy, Piney Flats, Lost Creek.

85% unpaved.

Park at Hiwassee State Scenic River Boat Ramp in Reliance. No parking fee. Pit toilets available.

Don't miss the scenic overlook of the Hiwassee River at Mile 2.6. It's on the right as you crest the climb.

The suspension bridge over the Hiwassee River at Mile 5.5 is perfect for pictures.

The Smith Mountain Overlook offers a beautiful view of the mountains.

Keep an eye out for the right turn at Mile 26.3 as you bomb down Kimsey Mountain!

OCOEE

46 miles/5,800 ft

Parksville Lake, Peavine Sneed Creek, Big Frog, Sheeds Creek, Sina Branch.

95% unpaved.

Park at King's Slough Boat Ramp. $3 for parking. Pit toilet available.

HIWASSEE

47 miles/6,000 ft

Powerhouse, Wolf Creek, Kimsey Mtn Hwy, Piney Flats, Lost Creek.

85% unpaved.

Park at Hiwassee State Scenic River Boat Ramp in Reliance. No parking fee. Pit toilets available.

Don't miss the scenic overlook of the Hiwassee River at Mile 2.6. It's on the right as you crest the climb.

The suspension bridge over the Hiwassee River at Mile 5.5 is perfect for pictures.

Keep an eye out for the right turn at Mile 28.6 as you bomb down Kimsey Mountain!

HIWASSEE

48 miles/4,800

Starr Mtn, White Cliff, Ivy, Fingerboard (short section).

50% unpaved.

Park at Hiwassee State Scenic River Boat Ramp in Reliance. No parking fee. Pit toilets available.

The three mile section starting at Mile 14.4 is a very rough horse trail and can be overgrown in the summer. It's great in the winter though when the vegetation dies back and the panoramic views really open up! (Even with the leaves there are still some great views at a couple of overlooks.)

TELLICO

52 miles/6,600 ft

Bald River, North River Road, Cherohala Skyway, Turkey Creek.

50% unpaved.

Park at Oosterneck Overlook. There is no parking fee, but there are also no facilities. It is simply a pullout at the base of the Cherohala Skyway. If you're looking for facilities, stop at the Cherohala Skyway Visitors Center or the Cherohala Market in Tellico Plains.

The descent down the Cherohala Skyway is fast and fun, but the overlooks on the way down are well worth stopping for!

Bald River Falls is a beautiful roadside waterfall just a couple miles off the route. Take a left at Mile 46.9 for the short out & back.

HIWASSEE

56 miles/5,300 ft

Fingerboard (short section), Unicoi Gap, Shulers Creek, Old Hwy 68, Buck Bald, Fingerboard (long section).

80% unpaved.

Park at Hiwassee State Scenic River Boat Ramp in Reliance. No parking fee. Pit toilets available.

The Buck Bald out & back at Mile 36 is totally worth the effort. The 360 degree view of the mountains from the top of the bald is amazing!

HIWASSEE

BIKEPACKING: 68 miles/7,900 ft

Lost Creek, Kimsey Mtn Hwy, McFarland, Buck Bald, Unicoi Gap (single track), Fingerboard (short section).

70% unpaved.

Park at Hiwassee State Scenic River Boat Ramp in Reliance. No parking fee. Pit toilets available.

The Buck Bald out & back at Mile 42.0 is totally worth the effort. The 360 degree view of the mountains from the top of the bald is amazing!

This route includes a 3-mile section of single track starting at Mile 43.3 that is beautiful but challenging and may require some hike-a-bike.

OCOEE

BIKEPACKING: 79 miles/10,200

The "Death March" (bikepacking version)

100% unpaved.

Park at Thunder Rock Campground. Parking is free next to the campground (do not park in designated campsites), and pit toilets are available.

HIWASSEE

BIKEPACKING: 92 miles/10,900 ft

Lost Creek, Wolf Creek, Buck Bald, Unicoi Gap (single track), Fingerboard (long section), Ivy, Bullet Creek, White Cliff, Starr Mountain.

70% unpaved.

Park at Hiwassee State Scenic River Boat Ramp in Reliance. No parking fee. Pit toilets available.

The Buck Bald out & back at Mile 31.4 is totally worth the effort. The 360 degree view of the mountains from the top of the bald is amazing!

This route includes a 3-mile section of single track starting at Mile 32.9 that is beautiful but challenging and may require some hike-a-bike.

The three mile White Cliff section starting at Mile 72.7 is a rough horse trail and can be overgrown in the summer. It's great in the winter though when the vegetation dies back and the panoramic views really open up! (Even with the leaves there are still some great views at a couple of overlooks.)

TELLICO

BIKEPACKING: 95 miles/10,900 ft

"Tellico Highlands" (bikepacking version)

Bald River, North River Road, Cherohala Skyway, Indian Boundary, Doublecamp, Cold Spring, Citico, Turkey Creek, River Road.

75% unpaved.

Park at the Cherohala Skyway Visitors Center. The parking is free but you should let the visitors center staff know that your vehicle will be there overnight. They are cycling friendly. Clean restrooms inside the visitors center.

The first and last 5 miles are beautiful as you ride along the Tellico River, but you may have some traffic on this stretch.

The descent down the Cherohala Skyway is fast and fun, but the overlooks on the way down are well worth stopping for!

Bald River Falls is a beautiful roadside waterfall just a couple miles off the route. Take a left at Mile 85.7 on River Road for the short out & back.

HIWASSEE

ITT CHALLENGE: 130 miles/14,000 ft

Click on the logo above for details.

HIWASSEE

13 miles/700 ft

Spring Creek.

95% unpaved.

Park at Hiwassee/Ocoee Scenic River State Park. Its free to park there (as long as you're not staying out past dark), and they have restrooms at the ranger station. The wooden structure near the ranger station is all that's left of Fort Marr and dates back to 1814!

The route is a simple out & back and is a great ride for beginner gravel cyclists and those just wanting a relaxed ride with some beautiful scenery along the Hiwassee River and Spring Creek.

If you want more challenge, take a detour up Tinker Creek Road (around mile 5), which is a gorgeous little road with some steep pitches. The out & back on Tinker Creek adds roughly two and a half miles and 250 feet of climbing.

CHATTANOOGA

17 miles/1,500 ft

Guild Trail.

OCOEE

24 miles/2,800 ft

Parksville Lake, Peavine Sneed Creek, Baker Creek.

90% unpaved.

Park at King's Slough Boat Ramp. $3 for parking. Pit toilet available.

Watch out for the right turn at Mile 12.5. It's easy to miss!

TELLICO

25 miles/2,300 ft

Indian Boundary, Doublecamp, Citico.

95% unpaved.

Park at Indian Boundary Recreation Area. $3 for parking. Flush toilets available. General store open seasonally.

Although we typically prefer loops over out & backs, this route is designed to provide the best of Indian Boundary/Citico without the long, steep climbs and challenging descents.

OCOEE

27 miles/2,700 ft

Baker Creek, Peavine Sneed Creek, Sheeds Creek, Sina Branch.

90% unpaved.

Park at King's Slough Boat Ramp. $3 for parking. Pit toilet available.

Don't zoom past the beautiful roadside waterfall at Mile 10.7! It's definitely worth a stop.

TELLICO

31 miles/3,900 ft

Indian Boundary, Doublecamp, Cold Spring, Citico.

95% unpaved.

Park at Indian Boundary Recreation Area. $3 for parking. Flush toilets available. General store open seasonally.

OCOEE

36 miles/4,400 ft

Baker Creek, Peavine Sneed Creek, Big Frog, Sheeds Creek, Sina Branch.

90% unpaved.

Park at King's Slough Boat Ramp. $3 for parking. Pit toilet available.

Don't zoom past the beautiful roadside waterfall at Mile 19.1! It's definitely worth a stop.

TELLICO

37 miles/4,200 ft

Bald River, Waucheesi Bald, River Road.

65% unpaved.

Park at Oosterneck Overlook. There is no parking fee, but there are also no facilities. It is simply a pullout at the base of the Cherohala Skyway. If you're looking for facilities, stop at the Cherohala Skyway Visitors Center or the Cherohala Market in Tellico Plains.

The Waucheesi Bald out & back at Mile 9.3 has a great view at the top, but it's very challenging and should not be taken lightly. Skipping the climb reduces the route by roughly two and a half miles and 800 feet of climbing.

The Green Cove Lake out & back at Mile 19.2 is also pretty steep, but it's only a little over a mile total with 150 feet of climbing.

HIWASSEE

41 miles/5,300 ft

Powerhouse, Wolf Creek, Smith Mtn, Lost Creek.

85% unpaved.

Park at Hiwassee State Scenic River Boat Ramp in Reliance. No parking fee. Pit toilets available.

Don't miss the scenic overlook of the Hiwassee River at Mile 2.6. It's on the right as you crest the climb.

The suspension bridge over the Hiwassee River at Mile 5.5 is perfect for pictures.

The Smith Mountain Overlook offers a beautiful view of the mountains.

HIWASSEE

45 miles/4,700 ft

Starr Mtn, Ivy, Fingerboard (long section).

40% unpaved.

Park at Hiwassee State Scenic River Boat Ramp in Reliance. No parking fee. Pit toilets available.

HIWASSEE

46 miles/5,600 ft

Lost Creek, McFarland, Buck Bald, Fingerboard (long section).

65% unpaved.

Park at Hiwassee State Scenic River Boat Ramp in Reliance. No parking fee. Pit toilets available.

Don't miss the scenic overlook of the Hiwassee River at Mile 2.6. It's on the right as you crest the climb.

The suspension bridge over the Hiwassee River at Mile 5.5 is perfect for pictures.

The Buck Bald out & back at Mile 25.7 is totally worth the effort. The 360 degree view of the mountains from the top of the bald is amazing!

OCOEE

48 miles/5,800 ft

Baker Creek, FS 221.

95% unpaved.

Park at King's Slough Boat Ramp. $3 for parking. Pit toilet available.

While we generally avoid out & back routes, this one is worth it since it takes you to a fun destination.

TELLICO

50 miles/3,800 ft

Indian Boundary, Citico, Mt Pleasant.

70% unpaved.

Park at Indian Boundary Recreaiton Area. $3 for parking. Flush toilets available. General store open seasonally.

HIWASSEE

55 miles/5,900 ft

Starr Mtn, White Cliff, Ivy, Fingerboard (long section).

50% unpaved.

Park at Hiwassee State Scenic River Boat Ramp in Reliance. No parking fee. Pit toilets available.

The three mile section starting at Mile 14.4 is a very rough horse trail and can be overgrown in the summer. It's great in the winter though when the vegetation dies back and the panoramic views really open up! (Even with the leaves there are still some great views at a couple of overlooks.)

TELLICO

BIKEPACKING: 60 miles/5,900 ft

River Road, Turkey Creek, Indian Boundary, Doublecamp, Cold Spring, Citico, Rafter Road.

65% unpaved.

Park at the Cherohala Skyway Visitors Center. The parking is free but you should let the visitors center staff know that your vehicle will be there overnight. They are cycling friendly. Clean restrooms inside the visitors center.

The first 5 miles are beautiful as you ride along the Tellico River, but you may have some traffic on this stretch.

Bald River Falls is a beautiful roadside waterfall just a couple miles off the route. Stay on River Road at Mile 9.2 rather than turning left for the short out & back.

OCOEE

79 miles/10,200 ft

The "Death March!"

100% unpaved.

Park at Thunder Rock Campground. Parking is free next to the campground (do not park in designated campsites), and pit toilets are available.

TELLICO

ITT CHALLENGE: 85 miles/10,000 ft

Click on the logo above for details.

OCOEE

ITT CHALLENGE: 93 miles/12,000 ft

Click on the logo above for details.

OCOEE

BIKEPACKING: 99 miles/13,900 ft

"The Revival"

100% unpaved.

Park at Thunder Rock Campground. Parking is free next to the campground (do not park in designated campsites), and pit toilets are available. More info. (You can also run this route starting at the south end and leaving from Mulberry Gap Adventure Base Camp.)

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