Peddling Your Way to Adventure
May is National Bike Month and the 9 Lakes Region is a top bike destination for road to mountain gravity riders. Pedaling through the region is a great way to explore the countryside and scenic overlooks, not to mention a less expensive way to travel. For the cycling adventurists, the beauty and terrain of the lake and mountain trails draw riders from around the country. Every year, new trails are opening providing more places to ride and discover.
No matter your skill or thrill, this is a great time to plan your next biking vacation. Here are some of our favorite biking trails and bike events across the region.
Road racing on the Cherohala National Scenic Byway is a rite of spring for many road racers who annually compete in the Cherohala Challenge. The event offers three race distances- 115 miles, 62 miles, and 45 miles. Each of the rides is designed to offer a road race challenge for road cyclists with limited experience up to the seasoned veteran seeking to earn the elusive title of Cherohala Dragon Slayer. New this year is the inaugural Skyway Cycling Fest, a two day free festival celebrating the cyclists and their families. Live music, food trucks, and vendors are all part of the fun. Suggested nearby lodging is available in Tellico Plains, Mecca Resort, and Sequoyah Marina Resort.
Knoxville has become a hub of greenways and trails with over 100 miles to roam. The city streets can be easily navigated by cyclists, connecting you from your downtown lodging to multiple trail systems. Begin by stopping by the Knoxville Visitors Center to get a “lay of the land” guide to the city. Or plan to volunteer at the 2022 USA Cycling Professional Road National Championships. This is an exciting weekend of racing for participants, spectators, and volunteers.
Mountain biking fans will want to check out Windrock Bike Park and the nearby Norris Area Trails System (NATS). Windrock is an uplift park, while NATS offers 93 miles of varied terrain ranging from flowing trails to gnarly uphill climbs. Don’t sweat it. The waters of beautiful Norris Lake are the backdrop. Ride. Rest. Repeat.
Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is an under- appreciated destination for hiking and biking. The John Muir Trail offers riders a flowy scenic ride with views of the river gorge. The Park is a great escape from crowded trails in the Smokies. Pack your bike and plan to stay in Historic Rugby or at the nearby Grey Gables B&B. If you are an avid hiker, you can also walk portions of the Sheltowee Trace footpath. The Big South Fork Visitors Center in Rugby can provide you maps to the lesser known arches and waterfalls.
When the Smokies are on your must do list of places to bike, plan to ride the Cades Cove Loop on Wednesdays. The loop is closed to vehicle traffic every Wednesdays beginning in May through the last weekend in September. Ride or hike the 11 mile loop without worrying about competing for the road with motor vehicles. Stay in Townsend and explore the 10 mile Townsend Historical Trail while visiting.
At the end of a satisfying day on the trails, dine at one of the many local restaurants to be discovered across the region. Great trails and great events await you in the 9 Lakes, because Great Adventures begin in Great Places!