Shauna and I have been taking a trip to the Smoky Mountains every year pretty much since the dawn of time. Last year I didn’t take my bike because the weather wasn’t looking good for cycling, but this year the weather was looking fantastic and I had to take my bike. In 2014 I rode up to Clingman’s Dome, and I’ve done that one other time, this year I wanted to try something different and shorter so I took the Roaring Fork Motor Trail, a scenic drive up the mountain over Gatlinburg.
It had been a few years since we’ve drove this mountain loop and I had forgot just how steep the road is. It was a 4.8 mile climb at 7% for 1700 feet gained. Quite a bit shorter than Newfoundland Gap, but much steeper. I was in my lowest gear just grinding up and my body wasn’t responding well to the immediate climbing effort, basically I left the motel parking lot and started climbing.
At the Rainbow Fall’s Trailhead the motor trail becomes a single lane one way. It also was gated off as it is closed for winter. I went on up. The road was covered with sticks and wild animals, I encountered deer, squirrels and turkey who were just gave me dirty looks, they were like, “Dude don’t you know the road is closed.” The downhill was frightening and I kept my speed in check big time. To much junk on the road and animals running around, plus the one lane road is constantly turning and twisting. Had the road been open and cars were on it, this would have been horrible. I remember cars easing down this thing at 10 mph
Once around the loop I took 321 to Pigeon Forge, this is a fun divided 4 lane highway with a tunnel. As I approached the tunnel I could read some kind of sign warning of danger to cyclists and something about taking a foot trail, but I just kept going, it was early and traffic was light. In the tunnel as cars approached it there was a very loud and high pitched scream. I put my camera up and focused on not getting ran over.
After the ride I did a 4 mile hike with Shauna up Porter’s Creek to a waterfall which was super scenic and alot of fun. Afterwards we spent some time wandering Gatlinburg.
The next day we drove to the Cosby campground and I rode to the Foothills Parkway, it’s about an 8 mile out and back over a 900 foot climb, not huge but definitely a climb. The road was in great shape and I really let it go on the decent. I got a second place on Strava for the decent.
We had a cabin for the next two days and enjoyed hanging out in the hot tub and checking out the area. It was a great trip.