Smoky Mountain Bicycling Suggestions
There are excellent places for bicycling all around Dancing Bear Lodge in Townsend, TN. The primary form of bicycling is road biking. While there are some mountain biking options, they are all on private land, as the National Park does not allow mountain bikes on any of the trails inside the park. So for the purposes of this post, we will concentrate on road biking.
There is a great bike shop only 15 minutes from Dancing Bear, called Cycology. It has great gear, a full service maintenance department, and even a craft beer counter. If you forgot anything, need something fixed, or just want to browse the coolest bike store within 150 miles, we highly recommend Cycology! Here are their particulars:
2408 E Lamar Alexander Pkwy, Maryville, TN 37804
Phone: (865) 681-4183
Dancing Bear Lodge offers bicycles for guests, free of charge, but we only have them available in season. You may want to reserve them just to make sure one will be available. Remember, there’s nothing better than bringing your own bike that you know and enjoy, as rental bikes (as much as we try to maintain them well) can be rented quickly in season, or not be available due to maintenance updates.
First of all, for families and for the youngsters, the Townsend Trail is right at the base of Dancing Bear, adjacent to US 321. This trail is about 5 miles of paved paths that go to the edge of the GSMNP, and there is an easy turn around if you don’t want to venture further towards the “Y” inside the Park. And if the 5 miles is too far for the little ones, you can take the trail and turn around at any point you want. We suggest riding (or walking) up to the Chocolate B’ar with the youngest ones, about 1.8 miles up the trail towards the Park on the left side of the road. They have a great selection of chocolates, coffee, and soft drinks. Or you can ride some up the Trial and come back to Apple Valley for a great selection of ice cream, fudge, and other treats (including great craft beer for dad). The long and the short of it is this—The Townsend Trail can be an 8-10 mile round trip (with some hills) to the entrance of the Park, or you can go further into the Park and take a right at the “Y” for a challenging ride towards Cades Cove.
Speaking of Cades Cove, this is an 11 mile scenic one way loop. We love biking the Cove every Wednesday and Saturday morning (before 10 am; gates open at 8 am) from May through September every year. The reason is that the Park shuts the loop down to cars for these precious 2 hours, 2 days per week, every week during these months. It’s a fabulous way to start the day and to enjoy the beauty of the Park without cars or congestion. If you have never ridden the loop on a bike, it’s tougher than you think. The first 5 miles are mostly flat and downhill, but the final 6 miles have some short and steep hills. While they generally get your blood pumping for experienced cyclists, the back half of the loop can be challenging for novice bikers. Just be careful, pack some water and energy, and you will be fine! The Rangers are out in force every Wednesday and Saturday morning to keep things safe and fun. There is designated parking for all bikers, and we highly recommend driving to the entrance to the Cove with your personal bike, and following directions on where to park from the Staff. Still make sure to pack water and energy just for this 11 mile paved loop road.
For a real kick, ride from Dancing Bear to Cades Cove and back, for a 27 mile round trip. Add the Cades Cove Loop for a challenging 38 mile ride. We only recommend riding to the Cove on Wednesday or Saturday mornings from 6 am to 10 am. Leaving by 7 am should do the trick. The traffic is too thick on any other days, with the possible exception of leaving the Lodge by 6 am most any morning in season, and forgoing the 11 mile loop. It’s still a fabulous ride that is moderately difficult (one way to the Cove, it’s mostly uphill with about 1500 feet in elevation gain). The ride back inside the Park is a blast. Mostly all downhill with easy speeds of 36-38 MPH coming back!
For another moderate bike ride, there is this 27 mile Bike Bash route linked below with cue sheets and detailed elevation gains. This ride goes the opposite direction from the Park and rides along the beautiful Little River, then ends with a challenging hill into Dry Valley, followed by a breathtaking downhill before looping back to the Lodge. This is a fabulous ride combining river scenery, short mountain climbing, and the ultimate downhill. This is the Owners’ favorite ride! Turn by turn directions included here!
For the 2 most challenging rides, follow these links:
The first is a 49 mile ride that follows the river, goes through beautiful farm land, followed by some hills with stunning back drops, and then returns back by the river.
The second is a 64 mile beauty! Make sure you print out your directions!
Helpful tips to remember:
Remember to hydrate the night before if you are doing a longer ride, get plenty of rest and pack 2 water bottles. There will be places to stop and enjoy the scenery, but retail markets will not be available on the main routes above, so take plenty of energy snacks!
Finally, a word about the FootHills Parkway. This is also an excellent biking option with the new segment opening in 2018. Just park at the base of the Parkway (5 miles towards Maryville in Walland, TN) and hop on your bike and enjoy. My favorite Parkway bike ride is from the Walland Market head on US 321 towards Townsend; turn on the Foothills Parkway towards Chilhowee Lake for a very challenging 3 mile climb, followed by 12 miles to US 129. Turn around and come back. This is for advanced cyclists only.
And remember, if you need any further information or have any questions, stop by the sales office at Apple Valley or write your questions via e mail to me. [email protected]
I’ll be happy to try and assist you!
We appreciate your business and hope this helps you enjoy time in the saddle!