With so much scenery and so many roads in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the area around Gatlinburg, it’s not surprising that you can find some nice biking adventures too, IF you know where to look. The trails of the park are prohibited to cyclists, but the roads are wide open. Traffic is the problem, of course, so you want some of the less traveled roads, greenways and destinations for the best results. Here they are, along with rental and tune-up shops in the area.
Mountain Bike Stores and Rentals
Smoky Mountain Outdoor Center
209 Wears Valley Road, Townsend TN, 37882
In Townsend, over on the Quiet Side of the Smoky Mountains, you can check out Smoky Mountain Outdoor Center if you are in need of a bike rental – or a tune-up or customization. This shop is also located near many of the great trails and greenways near the town, including the Townsend Bicycle Trail, Little River Run, and Ellejoy Jaunt.This outlet also offers Tubing on the nearby Little River.
112 W. Main Street, Sevierville, TN 37862
Shifting Gears is a full-service bike shop located in Sevierville, just north of Pigeon Forge. They offer rentals – from road bikes to mountain bikes – and equipment, as well as repair services in case your bike needs a tune-up before you hit the road.
Cades Cove Campground Store
10035 Campground Drive, Townsend, TN 37882
The campground store at Cades Cove inside the national park offers bike rentals for adults and children seasonally during the summer and fall. This is a great spot to rent a bike and hit the road, because while bikes are permitted on all roads (not trails) inside the park, many of them are not well suited for cycling because of vehicle traffic and narrow lanes. However, the Cades Cove loop is an exception. This 11-mile, one-way road provides bicyclists with excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing and touring 19th century home sites. Beginning the second week in May, the loop road is closed to motor vehicle traffic Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10:00 a.m. to allow bicyclists and pedestrians to enjoy the cove. This closure continues through the second-to-last Saturday in September.
Biking Trails in the Smokies
While most of the highly trafficked roads in the Gatlinburg area are not very safe for cyclists, the roads and outdoor adventures that are less traveled may also offer some of the best bicycling – they frequently offer some of the best scenery. Check out our guide to Easy Outdoor Adventures for some more ideas, and read on here for biking adventures.
Pigeon Forge Greenway
The Pigeon Forge Greenway runs along the West Prong Little Pigeon River in the heart of Pigeon Forge, connecting the Community Center with Patriot Park, and also passing by The Island. This is a great option if you want to combine a day of cycling with visiting some of the great attractions in town.
This trail inside the park is flat and easy, a 1.9-mile one-way ride to Gatlinburg from Sugarlands Visitor Center, with beautiful river scenery and forests. It’s one of the few park trails that allows bicycles and pets.
The Greenbrier area is a quiet valley that enters the national park from Hwy 321, 6 miles east of Gatlinburg. The road itself is one mile of paved and then 5 miles of gravel – it’s a driving road but bicycling is allowed and traffic is light. The road passes a ranger station and a picnic area, and ends at two trailheads well worth exploring. This area is filled with history and gorgeous scenery – and although less visited, it’s also one one of the best places for spring wildflowers.
Entering the national park from Townsend, take the Cades Cove road and fairly soon turn off towards the Institute at Tremont. This two-mile paved road is the Lower Tremont Road, less traveled than most and hugely scenic, with river and forest galore. The road turns to gravel and becomes the Upper Tremont Road for 3 more miles. This is a hidden gem about which we’ll say no more, except that it richly rewards the explorer.
Foothills Parkway is open to vehicles but generally sees less traffic than the roads in the national park. This 17-mile ride features some dramatic elevation changes alongside the spectacular mountain views.
Tsali Recreation Area
Tsali Recreation Area in western North Carolina contains approximately 40 miles of connected trails and is one of the most renowned cycling trail systems in the country.
Other Public Recreation Areas
Mountain biking trails are open on national forest and recreation lands outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For information on mountain biking in these areas, please contact the following offices:
- Chattahoochee National Forest: 770-297-3000
- Cherokee National Forest: 423-476-9700
- Nantahala National Forest: 828-257-4200
- Pisgah National Forest: 828-257-4200
- Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area: 423-286-7275
- Mount Rogers National Recreation Area: 800-628-7207
Additional Cycling Information
Please be aware that there are no mountain biking trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Gatlinburg Trail, the Oconaluftee River Trail, and the lower Deep Creek Trail are the only park trails on which bicycles are allowed. Bicycles are prohibited on all other park trails.
Don’t forget to ride safely, and follow all traffic regulations when you are on a shared road. Cycling with a helmet is always recommended, and the state of TN requires that children age 16 and under wear a bike helmet.