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Great Smoky Mountains

The most visited National Park in the United States, Great Smoky Mountains National Park takes our breath away each time we visit. There's something for everyone with 400 miles of roads, various trails, rivers and streams, waterfalls, diverse wildlife including a large black bear population, camping, hiking, and  historic settlements, while also close to accommodations, restaurants, shops, and tourist attractions. All roads are open to biking, and while the steep ride and narrow roads are not suited to the recreational biker there are, however, several areas where casual recreational biking is possible including Cades Cove, Cataloochee Valley, Tremont, and Foothills Parkway.


View Larger Map
Location: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina (See map, left)
Distance: Various
Surface: Paved and  unpaved roads

Scroll down or click on the links below for more details: :
Cades Cove
Cataloochee Valley
Foothills Parkway
Tremont and Middle Prong Road

Cades Cove
Cades Cove in the northwest portion of the Park in Tennessee is one of the most popular destinations in Smoky Mountains National Park, traffic jams are common as people stop to admire the scenery and watch the wildlife including black bear and deer. Biking is best from May through September when the road is closed to auto traffic until 10 a.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The 11-mile loop includes churches,  homes, and other 18th and 19th century buildings with a self-guided tour booklet available. Some of the hills are quite steep, we admit to walking part of the way. The Cove was settled in the 1800's and dismantled in the 1930's on creation of the National Park.

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Road to Cades Cove Views along the loop road One of several
historic homes
One of three churches

Cataloochee Valley
Cataloochee consists of three valleys in the southeast area of the Park in North Carolina, a remote area in the Balsam Mountain range. Originally a Cherokee hunting ground, settlers moved in during the 1800's and the settlement grew to became one of the largest in the area (1,200 inhabitants), known for its farms and orchards. The community was dissolved upon creation of the National Park in the 1930's. Today, as in Cades Cove, a few historical buildings exist with exhibits that provide a glimpse of life in the valley. Very scenic, with a variety of wildlife including elk. The valley is relatively flat for easy biking.

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Entering Cataloochee Road into the valley is narrow and twisty
with no guard rails
Biking in the Cataloochee Valley
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Historical map View along the
access road
Caldwell Place (1903) After nearing extinction, elk were reintroduced into the Park in 2001. These were near the ranger station at the Messer Barn (1902) Bobcat and Mudfish in the Cataloochee Valley
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Foothills Parkway
On the northern side of the park, Foothills Parkway has three sections open to auto traffic, with the uncompleted sections open to biking, hiking, and equestrians. Uncompleted roadway is partially paved with some rough spots. Look Rock has an observation tower and beautiful views.

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An uncompleted section of the parkway,
open to biking
Deer View from outlook along the Parkway

Tremont and Middle Prong Road
Tremont Institute is an outdoors and wildlife learning center. The road past the institute goes up the mountain along the Middle Prong Little River and is one of the most scenic areas in the Smokies. The 3-mile ride gets steeper at the top and we did walk part of the way. At the top, a bridge crosses the river to several hiking trails.

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At Tremont Institute Along Middle Prong Middle River A bridge over
the river
The road ends here, hiking trails across the bridge

More information (open in a new window):
- National Park Service-Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- National Park Service-Biking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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