Gorgeous horse ranches, tree canopy tunnels, open views and an almost complete absence of traffic make this 57 mile road route northwest of Cartersville GA as beautiful as it is challenging. Road cyclists have been climbing Boyd Mountain since the days of lugged frames and cue sheets. In spite of its name it isn't quite the mountains but it isn't flat by any stretch of the imagination. Lots of elevation change, including the 8% KOM from which the route gets its name, will exercise both your derailleurs and your legs.
North Georgia's 47 & 51 mile mixed-surface Toccoa Swinging Bridge routes cross the Toccoa river twice, first an antique steel bridge in the quaint town of Aska and again on a cable suspended bridge which really does swing. Both feature quiet country roads through broad valleys framed by mountain peaks, lakes, rivers, pristine forests and sustained gravel climbs. The longer option will test your skill on the blistering "High House" descent. Either option will likely be one of the prettiest routes you will ever ride.
Starting about an hour northwest of Atlanta, the 100% paved Johnson Mountain route enjoys 25 miles of gently rolling terrain through Bartow County, Georgia before heading into the hills east of Highway 411. Here you'll encounter 10% grades, descents to test your nerve and views which rival anything in the south. This is 53 miles of some of the finest road cycling the area has to offer.
The 43 mile Rock Creek route starts in the craft brewery and arts focused town of Blue Ridge and travels to the edge of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Along the way you will climb among million dollar mountaintop homes, meander along rushing creeks and enjoy postcard views of the North Georgia mountains. This mixed surface route is a visual delight with lots of variety and surprises around just about every corner.
Accessible from the Chief Ladiga and Silver Comet Rail Trails, the playful and rolling Duggar Mountain gravel routes are available in 41, 52 and 68 mile lengths. All three traverse ridges and climb the sometimes punchy hills in the pine glades of the Talladega National Forest near Piedmont, Alabama.
The Fried Green 27/42/50 routes explore the extensive network of gravel roads in and around the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge near Juliette, Ga. Located little more than an hour south of Atlanta, three lengths provide options for riders of all abilities. All feature pristine pine glades and hardwood forests, rolling and sometimes playful terrain, a few creek crossings and postcard perfect gravel.
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.
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.
Paved start and finish sectors bookend one continuous stretch of gravel fun near Reliance, Tennessee. The Jenkins Grave Gap routes are classic Southern Appalachian gravel - steep, rough, and incredibly beautiful. 36 and 46 mile options cross a 450 foot long cable suspended bridge over the Hiwassee River and includes many ridge traversals and shelf roads, some of which are unmaintained.
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.