The adventurous and steep Cherohala Bald Buster route is set in the rugged Unicoi Mountains on the NC/TN border. This 36 mile mixed surface route visits mountaintop balds and descends 3000 feet on the paved Cherohala Skyway. The last mile will likely be hike-a-bike. Unique ecosystems, panoramic vistas and the opportunity to ride in a true alpine environment are some of the rewards for those willing to make the effort.
The Fried Green 28/42/50 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.
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 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.
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 41 mile mixed-surface Tellico Gorge/Bald River route circles the Bald River Wilderness east of Tellico Plains, Tennessee. The route starts and finishes on the Cherohala Skyway. It includes River Rd through the Tellico River Gorge and 18 miles of gravel through pristine federally protected forest.
The 38 mile Grassy Mountain gravel route takes in all the North Georgia Cohutta Mountains have to offer. Expect a massive climb, a blistering descent, breathtaking vistas, and a fast finish.
North Georgia's 46 mile mixed-surface Swinging Bridge routes crosses the Tocoa river twice, first an antique non-swinging steel bridge in the quaint town of Aska and again on the cable suspended bridge which really does swing. The route features broad valleys with mountain vistas, an uninterrupted 24 mile gravel sector and the blistering "High House" descent. This is one of the prettiest routes in the state.
The 197 mile Appalachia Bikepacking route provides a four to five day immersion into the rugged landscape and unique culture at the intersection of north Georgia, southeast Tennessee and extreme western North Carolina.
Expansive ranches, well groomed gravel and WMA access roads make the 48 mile mixed-surface Blue Car Body Road route through rural Paulding County, Georgia seem far removed. Several gated roads and a short section of hike-a-bike give this route an adventurous feel. Even so, a fit rider could cycle to the start from Atlanta.