The beauty of Gatlinburg’s Smoky Mountain backyard begs to be appreciated from a bicycle seat. Mountain biking per se isn’t allowed in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have some awesome cycling opportunities to enjoy within its boundaries—including a route linking the city limits of Gatlinburg with one of the main visitor hubs of this most-visited national park in the country.
Here’s a rundown of a few cycling options in and around Gatlinburg, plus some miscellaneous tips for pulling off a successful bike adventure in the shadow of the Smokies.
Bicycling in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
A mere handful of the many fabulous trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park allow bicycles, but those that do are great rides. One of them really couldn’t be more convenient to Gatlinburg: The creatively named Gatlinburg Trail, just shy of four miles round-trip, links the outskirts of Gatlinburg with the Sugarlands Visitor Center via a pleasant corridor along the West Prong of the Little River.
The other trails in the park open to bicyclists are the Oconaluftee River Trail on the other side of the park and the lower, former-roadbed portions of the Deep Creek and Indian Creek trails.
That does not, however, exhaust the possibilities of pedaling within Great Smoky Mountains National Park—not by a long shot. The best cycling has got to be the 11-mile loop road through Cades Cove, that ravishingly beautiful glen stacked with historic cabins and other pioneer structures as well as the best wildlife-watching opportunities in the park. In the summer, the Cades Cove Loop Road is closed to motor vehicles each Wednesday and Saturday morning until 10 AM, offering safe and spectacular going for cyclists (as well as walkers and joggers). Those early hours are ideal for glimpsing grazing white-tailed deer, perhaps even a trotting coyote or a moseying black bear.
You can bike any park roads, in fact, though you need to be watchful for car traffic outside of that Cades Cove morning closure. Other good options are roads in the Greenbrier, Tremont, and Cataloochee areas of the park as well as Lakeview Drive.
The Pigeon Gorge Greenway System
Nearby Pigeon Forge offers Gatlinburg-based cyclists additional opportunities. The Pigeon Forge Greenway System includes the great four-plus-mile Riverwalk Greenway along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River, open to cyclists. Access points include Patriot Park, Jake Thomas Road, and Butler Street.
Tsali Recreation Area
Mountain bikers based in Gatlinburg have an extensive trail system awaiting them just a bit farther afield in the form of the Tsali Recreation Area west of Bryson City, North Carolina, on the other side of the Great Smokies near Fontana Lake.
Tennessee Cycling Laws
Naturally, you should familiarize yourself with the pertinent rules and regulations regarding bicycling in Tennessee. Among them is the law requiring cyclists younger than 16 years old to wear a helmet when on a bike. Also, if you’ve got a tyke with you for the ride, remember that passengers less than 40 pounds or 40 inches need to be secured within a child-restraining seat or a bike trailer!
Local Bike Outfitters & Destinations
In Gatlinburg, CLIMB Works (15 Branam Hollow Rd) provides a mountain biking experience via E-Bikes, which deliver some very welcome electric pedal-assist for those uphill slogs. Another option is the Pedego Electric Bikes outlet (3726 E Parkway).
For bicycles, cycling gear, and accessories, meanwhile, check out Shifting Gears Bicycles in nearby Sevierville (112 W. Main St., Sevierville).
Pedal Your Way Through Great Smoky Mountain Majesty With a Gatlinburg Home Base
From the deer meadows of Cades Cove to the riverside routes of Pigeon Forge, drink up the fresh air and hearty exercise of Gatlinburg-area cycling!