If you’re traveling to the Great Smoky Mountains for a vacation and staying in a cozy cabin, chances are you’re someone who loves the great outdoors and the soothing atmosphere the mountains provide. While breathtaking views can be found from the rocking chairs on your deck, on a ride in the Aerial Tramway at Ober Gatlinburg, or at the overlooks along a scenic drive, getting outside and experiencing the views up-close-and-personal is a must for outdoor enthusiasts.
Hiking is always popular, but one of the best ways to experience the Smoky Mountains is via the bike trails in and around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Some overlooks and views just can’t be found from a car or easy walk. If you’re up for the challenge, a bike ride can lead you to some amazing outdoor discoveries.
From easier rides for kids and families to challenging climbs for the seasoned bikers, there are rides in the Smoky Mountains that appeal to many different guests. Read on for some of the top bike trails in the area. And if you’re a practiced rider, most of the roads in the park are open to biking – if you’re ready for a challenge.
Cades Cove Loop Road
One of the top tourist destinations in the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area, Cades Cove is a treasure trove of historic buildings, wildlife, a variety of trees, fields of wildflowers, trickling streams, and rolling hills in the distance. From churches to homes, historic buildings here date back to some of the very first European settlers in the area. That same history is one of the primary reasons it’s become so popular for biking.
The 11-mile one-way road is open to cars, bikes, and pedestrians any time it’s open, but until 10 a.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the Cades Cove Loop Road is closed to cars. That gives bicycles and pedestrians an all-access pass to this scenic drive.
Throughout this valley, it is not uncommon to see deer, fox, or even bears and wild turkeys. The wildlife also tends to move more in the cooler parts of the day – early in the morning and early evening – so bikers have a good chance of spotting the area’s “mascot,” the black bear. Just be prepared for a bit of a challenge. Cades Cove Loop Road has its ups and downs (literally), so there are a few good climbs along the way.
The Gatlinburg Trail
If you are a family with small children, or just looking for an easy ride with incomparable views, check out the Gatlinburg Trail. There are more than 800 miles of trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but only a few allow bicycles. The Gatlinburg Trail is a flat 2-mile trail taking cyclists through the old-growth trees of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River.
Mills Park to Bear Mt.
This route is great for those looking for a little bit of a challenge, but still aren’t comfortable taking on some of the rough terrain that can be found in the mountains. On this route, bikers are exposed to some beautiful and historic areas throughout the region.
The path starts around Mills Park, leading past Gatlinburg – where you’re encouraged to check out some of the awesome sites – and down the smooth and winding Ogle Road. There are a few hills and climbs along the way before ending at Bear Mountain.
Oconaluftee River Trail
One of the few trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that allows bicycles, Oconaluftee River Trail features small hills along the 1.5-mile journey (1 way). It leads cyclists just outside Cherokee, NC, along the Oconaluftee River and through the trees. It’s one of the most popular rides, with plenty of chances to see wildlife along the way.
Lower Deep Creek trail | Indian creek falls
The Deep Creek area is popular for its beautiful mountain streams and flowing waterfalls, so a day biking here is sure to be a scenic one. Bicycles are allowed on Deep Creek Trail and Indian Creek Trail up to the intersection of the old roadbeds and the trailheads.
The Gatlinburg to Newfound Gap route is an adventure designed for experienced bicyclists looking to take on an incredibly awesome challenge. On this route, bicyclists are taken over a steep and rough terrain along the 13-mile course, which is a challenge for many in the Smokies. Just be sure to start off as early as possible (just after dawn) to avoid the heavy traffic on the roads.
Townsend Bicycle Path
About 3 miles long, the Townsend bike path is an easy paved trail that’s a nice pick for casual bikers and older kids. Some runs along the Little Pigeon River, and the ride offers easy access to many shops and restaurants when you need a break.
Start in the parking lot near the Townsend Y and ride along Laurel Creek Road (towards Cades Cove). The 5-miles roundtrip ride is paved, but those on mountain bikes could keep following the gravel road past the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont.
more area bike trails
Lakeview Drive “The Road to Nowhere”
Tsali Recreation Area Trail System
After a day biking through the Great Smoky Mountains, some time cozied up in front of a fire, watching TV in bed, or soaking in a hot tub is a must. Browse our comfortable Pigeon Forge cabins and Gatlinburg cabins to find a place to retreat to after hitting the bike trails. We have large group lodges for retreats and reunions, beautiful cabins for smaller groups and families, and charming 1-2 bedroom retreats for couples or a few friends heading to the Smokies for some outdoor fun.
Wherever you stay in the Smokies – near downtown, high atop the mountains, by the water, or tucked among the trees – be sure you plan to spend some time in the great outdoors. Bring along your bikes (or rent some) and check out the trails above, lace up your shoes to go hiking, have a picnic by the water, go skydiving, or just ride the trolley for a relaxing day exploring the city and checking out the views.
10 Top Tips for Biking in the Smokies
- Drink plenty of water.
- Wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.
- Check trail guides ahead of time: know where you’re going before setting off.
- Check your bike’s chains and seat height.
- Be prepared for some challenging hills (or walking your bike!).
- Know your abilities and choose a bike trail accordingly.
- Ride with a friend; just like hiking, it’s the safest way to go!
- Check your tire pressure before your ride, and air up if needed.
- Dress accordingly. Don’t wear loose, long pants that might get caught in the bike’s mechanisms.
- Be Safe! Always follow traffic laws, watch out for cars, and dress to be seen.