Big Texas Valley isn't in Texas but a few minutes north of the city of Rome in northwest Georgia. Its the ideal start location for this 47 mile paved road route where you'll encounter easy pedaling on quiet country roads punctuated by two significant climbs. The area has a thriving cycling scene and draws cyclists from Chattanooga, Atlanta and points beyond.
Max Patch is a high alpine bald in a remote area on the NC/TN border. Surrounded by 6000 foot peaks and bisected by the Appalachian Trail, you will want to linger when you get there. There are several popular routes to the top. The 44 mile version published here approaches the bald from the southwest via the long Harmon Den gravel climb. On the way you will visit Buzzard's Roost with its sheer drop and impressive view of the interstate far below. Several roads on the Max Patch route rank among the highest quality gravel ever ridden by SoutheastCyclingRoutes.com.
This is the classic 65 mile paved road route from Asheville NC, along Blue Ridge Parkway to the summit of the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. Fit cyclists and climbers shouldn't be intimidated. New cyclists and non-climbers can drive part way up and ride the rest. Either way, its more accessible than some imagine and a chance to ride in one of the most stunning environments anywhere in the eastern US.
THE TOCCOA SWINGING BRIDGE
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.
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 ALABAMA SKYWAY
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 LITTLE CRUSHER
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.
JENKINS GRAVE GAP
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.
TALKING ROCK GRAVEL
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.
TOWER OF TERROR
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.
TELLICO GORGE/BALD RIVER
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.
LITTLE RIVER CANYON
Alabama's Little River Canyon has been called the Grand Canyon of the East. The waterfall alone is worth seeing but cyclists get to ride along the canyon rim. Two lengths are offered - 39 and 57 miles. Both are 100% paved.