The Heintooga Ridge route climbs from the banks of the Oconaluftee River near Cherokee NC to over a mile high. The route passes through two of the Blue Ridge Parkway's iconic tunnels before turning into the woods and entering Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A 17 mile descent on a one-way gravel road features shelf roads and long sections along rolling whitewater. This 47 mile mixed-surface route is unforgettable and worth the drive from anywhere in the South.
The Coopers Creek route is set in the heart of North Georgia's Blue Ridge Mountains. The 58 mile loop contains long stretches of gravel along pristine trout streams, impressive views of the mountains and a seven mile descent to the finish. The area is a mecca for road and gravel cycling. If you only do one gravel ride in North Georgia, the Coopers Creek route should be on your list.
Water defines the 66 mile mixed surface Rainbow Springs route in Western North Carolina. The route is an out & back along the banks of the Nantahala River and a significant portion of the route features crashing whitewater within river's gorge. A spin along the lake and views of 5000 foot peaks will have you reaching for your camera. A fast finish will have you grinning like a little kid.
The 100 mile Alabama Skyway route starts along the Chief Ladiga rail trail in the city of Piedmont, Alabama. 41% of the route is on gravel roads through the Talladega National Forest and along the edge of the federally protected Duggar Mountain Wilderness. Much of the route follows the Skyway Motorway which runs the crest of the Talladega Mountains and includes a paved climb to the highest point in Alabama at Cheaha Mountain State Park. The route is well suited to a two day bikepacking trip if 11,000 feet of climbing is too much for one day.
The 100% paved Taylorsville route starts a few minutes west of Cartersville GA on the banks of the Etowah River. Flat by north Georgia standards, this 44 mile road route loops through farms and pastures and includes the classic Taylorsville Rd so loved by locals.
The 33 mile Little Crusher gravel route is the lite version of the full Conasauga Crusher. Set 35 miles east of Chattanooga TN in the Cohutta Mountains, the route is as rugged and remote as it is beautiful but with 10 fewer miles and 1300 feet less climbing than the full Crusher version.
Paved start and finish sectors bookend almost 40 continuous miles of gravel fun near Reliance, Tennessee. This is classic Southern Appalachian gravel - steep, rough, and incredibly beautiful. The Little Frog Mountain route crosses a 450 foot long cable suspended bridge over the Hiwassee River and includes many ridge traversals and shelf roads, some of which are unmaintained. Mushroom hunters will want to bring a bag to carry out some booty.
The 53 mile mixed-surface Cades Cove route enters Great Smoky Mountains National Park via a seldom used gravel road over Rich Mountain. Cades Cove is one of the most visited locations in the entire national park system and simply too beautiful to ride fast. The 11 mile paved loop road and gravel roads within the cove are sometimes closed to motor vehicles to allow car free access to cyclists.
The 45 mile mixed-surface Talking Rock Gravel route is an absolute blast. Portions beg to be hammered and lots of climbing adds spice. The route starts one hour north of Atlanta and features impressive views of Rich and Burnt Mountains, meadows, orchards and genteel countryside. For those so inclined there's even mid-ride charcuterie and tasting available at a winery right on the route.
Congress authorized the Foothills Parkway as a scenic drive to provide magnificent views into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Located in East Tennessee, 31 miles of the roadway are open as of 2020. The Foothills Parkway route is 63 miles and 8100 feet of climbing if ridden end to end as an out-and-back. Climbers will love it but even if you don't have the legs for the whole route then at least do the newly constructed eastern section for its stunning views.
The 39 mile Murder Creek and 60 mile Double Murder gravel routes meander through pecan groves and past country churches on the rolling back roads of middle Georgia's Jasper County. The start is less than an hour from downtown Atlanta but it feels a world apart.
The 46 mile Cloudland route consists of three long horizontal paved sectors interrupted by two short vertical gravel sectors. The first gravel sector descends the west side of Lookout Mountain to the hamlet of Rising Fawn, GA and another ascends back to the crest. Stunning views, the gorge and waterfalls at Cloudland Canyon State Park and the ride along the escarpment make this an unforgettable route.
The paved Tower of Terror road route climbs and descends the hills northeast of Sosebee Cycling Park in White, Georgia. There is a tower but the only thing frightening about this 66 mile road route is a bit of chipseal. Expect lots of elevation change, some technical descending and virtually no traffic. The area has many interesting features including rushing creeks, a spring which pours out of the mountain and some truly bizarre roads.
North Georgia's 46 mile Haywood Valley route ranks among the classics. These roads are well traveled by local riders and used for organized charity rides throughout the year. The 100% paved route travels through part of the Johns Mountain Wildlife Management Area, into "The Pocket" and along gorgeous Haywood Valley Rd from which the route gets its name. Expect mountain views, gently undulating terrain and little to no traffic.
The term "endless rolling hills" define the area around White Georgia and the Loves Bridge route is just an example of what's available. This 51 mile paved route starts at Sosebee Cycling Park. On a Saturday morning, if the weather is nice, you might find a dozen groups here, getting ready to clip in.