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  1. #1
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    Smoky Mountain Riding

    Iím going to be staying at the Above the Clouds cabins on a ridge of Cove Mountain in Wear Valley, Tennessee this August. Itís a family reunion in which a day is set aside to watch the eclipse. Iíll be bringing a road bike and am looking for three routes in the 30-60 mile range. I enjoy lots of vertical both for the climbing and descending. Iím thinking this area has much to offer.

    I see the main road being route 321. How is this for riding? Iíd definitely prefer quieter roads but am not a big fan of gravel. It looks like Iíll be near Lyon Springs Road. Would this be a good starting road?
    Iíve never been to this area so Iím kind of shooting blind. Any feedback from those who know the area would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks.
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    You're in great road riding area.

    321 is not great for riding - 4 lane divided highway, but it has a shoulder and you can ride on it, it's not too dangerous. Now the part of 321 that is Wears Valley is windy and hilly, no shoulder, lots of traffic at times. But you can ride Wears Valley during non-peak hours. You've got great options from your cabin. Take Lyon Springs towards the park, go thru Metcalf Bottoms to get to Little River Road. You'll have a long steep climb to get there. Then you're at River Rd - take a right and loop back to 321, take a right on Wears Valley to get back to your cabin. Actually, that ride flows better if you do it in the opposite direction.

    Or when you get to River Rd, take a left and you'll have a long gradual climb (4 miles) up Fighting Creek Gap, then take a right on 441. Then you've got about a 10 mile climb to Newfound Gap (5,200 ft), and you can go another 7 miles (mostly up) to Clingmans' Dome, which is only about 30 feet lower than Mt. Mitchell. That's an out and back ride, and LOTS of traffic on 441. Go very early in the day if you do that.

    A good starting point is where Wears Valley Rd meets 321. Anywhere you go off of 321 you'll start climbing. For a 7+ mile climb (4-5% grade), look at Foothills Parkway, which is probably 4-5 miles from that point. If you take Old Walland Hwy back towards Knoxville/Maryville, which parallels 321, you're on one of the most popular biking routes in the area, and it's relatively flat. Again, go off the main roads if you want to climb.

    The local club is Foothills Striders. Foothill Striders

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    p.s., you need to head west/southwest for the eclipse. The epicenter around our area is in Sweetwater. All the cheap interstate hotels are all booked up. I've already planned a gravel ride up to the Cherohala Skyway to enjoy the day.

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    Thanks very much for all the info including specific roads! Iíll use that with ridewithgps.com to map out some routes before I go. I donít use a GPS so Iíll be printing maps. Maybe I can post the routes here and you could take a look. A friend of mine had mentioned Clingmanís Dome as a good and challenging destination.
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    Everything mentioned is main roads sort of and nothing is steep. All gradual climbs, pretty boring.

    Over by the foothills parkway, look at Butterfly Gap and Happy Valley Road (Walland Wall) as alternate routes up to Look Rock.

    Go to Strava and do the segment explore thing. Click ride and click the slider to whatever category you want. There's everything in the area from HC to steep Cat 2 stuff and everything below as well, lots to choose from.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by ogre View Post
    You're in great road riding area.

    321 is not great for riding - 4 lane divided highway, but it has a shoulder and you can ride on it, it's not too dangerous. Now the part of 321 that is Wears Valley is windy and hilly, no shoulder, lots of traffic at times. But you can ride Wears Valley during non-peak hours. You've got great options from your cabin. Take Lyon Springs towards the park, go thru Metcalf Bottoms to get to Little River Road. You'll have a long steep climb to get there. Then you're at River Rd - take a right and loop back to 321, take a right on Wears Valley to get back to your cabin. Actually, that ride flows better if you do it in the opposite direction.

    Or when you get to River Rd, take a left and you'll have a long gradual climb (4 miles) up Fighting Creek Gap, then take a right on 441. Then you've got about a 10 mile climb to Newfound Gap (5,200 ft), and you can go another 7 miles (mostly up) to Clingmans' Dome, which is only about 30 feet lower than Mt. Mitchell. That's an out and back ride, and LOTS of traffic on 441. Go very early in the day if you do that.
    Ok, I mapped out this route:
    https://ridewithgps.com/routes/23539719

    A couple of questions. I understand you said there's lots of traffic on 441 but how is the shoulder? I may not be able to leave at a very early hour. I'm willing to deal with bad traffic for one ride to get to Clingman's Dome so long as it's not downright dangerous.

    My other question is that Clingman's Dome Road just ends where I stopped mapping it. According to the satellite view, it looks like it picks up again just a few hundred yards later but there's this small gap with no road. I can't tell if there would be some rideable or even walkable path that would connect the two pieces of road. Am I missing something looking at the map? It's bizarre to me that the road would just stop and then pick up again a short distance later.

    I'll be mapping more routes but wanted to start with this one. Thanks for the help!
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    Quote Originally Posted by MMsRepBike View Post
    Everything mentioned is main roads sort of and nothing is steep. All gradual climbs, pretty boring.

    Over by the foothills parkway, look at Butterfly Gap and Happy Valley Road (Walland Wall) as alternate routes up to Look Rock.

    Go to Strava and do the segment explore thing. Click ride and click the slider to whatever category you want. There's everything in the area from HC to steep Cat 2 stuff and everything below as well, lots to choose from.
    Look Rock/Butterfly Gap looks like a great destination. I can't seem to find the Above the Clouds cabins on the map so I'm not entirely sure exactly where I would start but assuming it's around Lyons Springs Road, I was unable to map a route that gets me to the Foothills Parkway. I'd be willing to take 321 part of the way if needed but I don't see how to get off it. I don't think I'll have use of a car so I'll be needing to cycle directly from my cabin.

    I don't have a Strava account as I don't use a GPS device. Could you please point out a possible route from Lyon Springs Road that would get me to the Butterfly Gap area?
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    Quote Originally Posted by JasonB176 View Post
    Ok, I mapped out this route:
    https://ridewithgps.com/routes/23539719

    A couple of questions. I understand you said there's lots of traffic on 441 but how is the shoulder? I may not be able to leave at a very early hour. I'm willing to deal with bad traffic for one ride to get to Clingman's Dome so long as it's not downright dangerous.

    My other question is that Clingman's Dome Road just ends where I stopped mapping it. According to the satellite view, it looks like it picks up again just a few hundred yards later but there's this small gap with no road. I can't tell if there would be some rideable or even walkable path that would connect the two pieces of road. Am I missing something looking at the map? It's bizarre to me that the road would just stop and then pick up again a short distance later.

    I'll be mapping more routes but wanted to start with this one. Thanks for the help!
    There's not much of a shoulder climbing 441 to Newfound Gap/Clingman's Dome. Can't say if it's worth it or not, but if you're not leaving early I definitely wouldn't do it on the weekend. As far as bicycle tolerance, I think that the tourists inside the national park are as bad as the local rednecks and well-to-dos whose time is more precious than yours. But you definitely get an alpine feel on the climb.

    The route link you show doesn't go all the way to Clingman's Dome. (There's about a 1 mile descent about 2 miles from the top). The break in the path you mention may be the paved path at the top that goes to an observation tower. But Clingman's Dome is a dead end destination. Your only other choice other than an out and back is to continue down 441 into Cherokee NC. Then you're in for a LONG ride.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JasonB176 View Post
    Look Rock/Butterfly Gap looks like a great destination. I can't seem to find the Above the Clouds cabins on the map so I'm not entirely sure exactly where I would start but assuming it's around Lyons Springs Road, I was unable to map a route that gets me to the Foothills Parkway. I'd be willing to take 321 part of the way if needed but I don't see how to get off it. I don't think I'll have use of a car so I'll be needing to cycle directly from my cabin.

    I don't have a Strava account as I don't use a GPS device. Could you please point out a possible route from Lyon Springs Road that would get me to the Butterfly Gap area?
    To get the Butterfly Gap -

    Go Lyon Springs to Wears Valley
    L on Wears Valley
    R on Cedar Creek (right before Hwy 321)
    Stay on Cedar Creek, includes a hard right at one point (to NOT go on Carnes Rd)
    When Cedar Creek ends, R on Webb
    L on Cameron (or map an alternate route thru Lovers Ln)
    Cameron turns into Old Walland Hwy, which parallels 321 for several miles
    L on Melrose Station Rd. (probably 4 miles later)
    L on Hwy 321
    next R on Rocky Branch Rd (you're not on 321 long at all)
    L on Laws Chapel
    L on Wilkinson Pike or Butler Mill Rd.
    L on Butterfly Gap

    When you get to the top, you can take Foothills Pkwy back to 321, L on 321, R on Millers Cove a quarter mile later, and left on Old Walland Hwy and come back more or less the way you came. For no navigation and giving internet directions, that's a good and fairly simple route. If you're ambitious, when you get to Foothills, continue towards Lake Fontana (away from Townsend), and take a right on Happy Valley to Montvale, (steep descent down the parkway), then Old Piney Rd to Butler Mill and trace your way back.

    Yeah, Butterfly Gap is rather steep, probably hits 20%. And I'd bet $10 that you'll have a 20% grade at least briefly getting back to your cabin. As MMs said, my initial post mentioned the more common roads which aren't super-steep. But if you want steep just take about any road off the beaten path. For example, you can take Millers Cove back to Wears Valley, and any road off of Miller's Cove will be a steep climb.

    My today story - Four of us rode the UNfinished Foothills Pkwy today (starts at the beginning of the finished portion) - climb 700 ft, descend 400, then climb 1,100 at which point you've gone 10 miles. It's a gravel ride, and this is construction in progress - there are signs telling us it's verboten and closed to traffic - we met a crew, they said the road was closed, and we told them 'hey, we've been riding this for 25 years, just getting in one more time before we can't. So they said go on! Then we passed a pickup truck a quarter mile later and he said hell no! So we had to turn around. We hoped to ride a 6 mile descent to Wears Valley (again on gravel), then go back the way we came. So instead we climbed the first 3 miles of Foothills to make up for it (at least partially).
    I've done this ride once a year for many many years (always on Sundays or a holiday), and this is the first time I've seen construction people. It's a great night ride as well.

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    Just thought of a good alternative climb for you near Wears Valley.

    Bluff mountain. (On the map it's officially called Green Top)

    It's the ridge, very pretty ridge at that, that sits just north of the Smoky's. I feel it's a nicer climb than anything in the park, or at least as good anyway.

    Really easy to get to, you can just park on 321 at Wears Valley at the park by High Valley road. From there it's a short and easy ride to Bluff Mountain Road via Henderson, Battle Hill, Sharp Hollow and Goose Gap.

    It's not too long but long enough. Has wonderful views, switchbacks, steep sections, steady sections, and best of all a fire tower at the top that's sturdy and gives wonderful 360 degree views of the area.

    If I had very limited time in the area, I would go there before butterfly gap or the the wall or the parkway or clingman's or anything else. It for sure would be at least one of my days.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ogre View Post
    To get the Butterfly Gap -

    Go Lyon Springs to Wears Valley
    L on Wears Valley
    R on Cedar Creek (right before Hwy 321)
    Stay on Cedar Creek, includes a hard right at one point (to NOT go on Carnes Rd)
    When Cedar Creek ends, R on Webb
    L on Cameron (or map an alternate route thru Lovers Ln)
    Cameron turns into Old Walland Hwy, which parallels 321 for several miles
    L on Melrose Station Rd. (probably 4 miles later)
    L on Hwy 321
    next R on Rocky Branch Rd (you're not on 321 long at all)
    L on Laws Chapel
    L on Wilkinson Pike or Butler Mill Rd.
    L on Butterfly Gap

    When you get to the top, you can take Foothills Pkwy back to 321, L on 321, R on Millers Cove a quarter mile later, and left on Old Walland Hwy and come back more or less the way you came. For no navigation and giving internet directions, that's a good and fairly simple route. If you're ambitious, when you get to Foothills, continue towards Lake Fontana (away from Townsend), and take a right on Happy Valley to Montvale, (steep descent down the parkway), then Old Piney Rd to Butler Mill and trace your way back.

    Yeah, Butterfly Gap is rather steep, probably hits 20%. And I'd bet $10 that you'll have a 20% grade at least briefly getting back to your cabin. As MMs said, my initial post mentioned the more common roads which aren't super-steep. But if you want steep just take about any road off the beaten path. For example, you can take Millers Cove back to Wears Valley, and any road off of Miller's Cove will be a steep climb.

    My today story - Four of us rode the UNfinished Foothills Pkwy today (starts at the beginning of the finished portion) - climb 700 ft, descend 400, then climb 1,100 at which point you've gone 10 miles. It's a gravel ride, and this is construction in progress - there are signs telling us it's verboten and closed to traffic - we met a crew, they said the road was closed, and we told them 'hey, we've been riding this for 25 years, just getting in one more time before we can't. So they said go on! Then we passed a pickup truck a quarter mile later and he said hell no! So we had to turn around. We hoped to ride a 6 mile descent to Wears Valley (again on gravel), then go back the way we came. So instead we climbed the first 3 miles of Foothills to make up for it (at least partially).
    I've done this ride once a year for many many years (always on Sundays or a holiday), and this is the first time I've seen construction people. It's a great night ride as well.
    Some of those roads don't come up on a search with ridewithgps but by looking around, I did find the route you lay out:
    https://ridewithgps.com/routes/23796341

    The mapping tool says that Foothills Parkway is not open to cycling. Is this true or just a glitch? In any case, I can see that I'm close to Look Rock where I end. The only thing negative about the route is that it looks like it's very flat for 25 miles before getting near Look Rock. Thanks for taking the time to point out the route!
    Last edited by JasonB176; 08-02-2017 at 07:01 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MMsRepBike View Post
    Just thought of a good alternative climb for you near Wears Valley.

    Bluff mountain. (On the map it's officially called Green Top)

    It's the ridge, very pretty ridge at that, that sits just north of the Smoky's. I feel it's a nicer climb than anything in the park, or at least as good anyway.

    Really easy to get to, you can just park on 321 at Wears Valley at the park by High Valley road. From there it's a short and easy ride to Bluff Mountain Road via Henderson, Battle Hill, Sharp Hollow and Goose Gap.

    It's not too long but long enough. Has wonderful views, switchbacks, steep sections, steady sections, and best of all a fire tower at the top that's sturdy and gives wonderful 360 degree views of the area.

    If I had very limited time in the area, I would go there before butterfly gap or the the wall or the parkway or clingman's or anything else. It for sure would be at least one of my days.
    I was able to map this I think:
    https://ridewithgps.com/routes/23795727

    Is there a clearly defined top to Bluff Mountain? I just mapped it out until the end of Bluff Mountain Road. I would find some other streets to make this at least a 30 mile ride. It looks like the roads are paved which is a plus. Thanks for sharing this destination!
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    I expect that riding in the Smoky Mountains Park itself would be annoying, with all the traffic. That's not fun.

    EDIT--I see you won't be driving to a ride start. I'll leave this post here anyway.

    Blue Ridge Parkway
    The Parkway has a 45 speed limit, and is great for riding. The climbs are mostly under 8% grade with long, sweeping curves for fast downhills (with an occasional short segment at 9-10%, but that's rare.) Water sources can be scarce, though, and showers can pop up unexpectedly.

    My favorite ride, by far, is this Blue Ridge Parkway ride. It's 62 miles, 7000 feet of climbing, with a lunch stop at the Pisgah Inn, right on the Parkway. It can be shortened by starting at one of the overlooks on the first long climb. Great views from both sides of the road, and lots of overlooks to pause at. Bring a head and tail light -- the tunnels are dangerous to ride without lights: it's hard to see the road surface. You could walk through if you don't bring a headlight.
    Pinnacle Ridge to Pisgah Inn (those steep elevation spikes are at the tunnels--the map thinks the road goes over the ridge.)

    Here's an old album from one of my rides. Click next to see each photo with comments: Doubletop overlook to Pisgah Inn This was 53 miles, 6000 feet.

    I'd label this route "worth the drive". Google maps says it's 1:45 drive, 70 miles, through the Park on US441 to Balsam NC. That's a scenic drive.
    Last edited by rm -rf; 08-02-2017 at 09:57 AM.

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    Strava Heat Map
    The Heat Map is a year of strava GPS recordings, with roads (and trails) color coded by popularity.

    Here's the Wear Valley area. Click "Toggle Labels" to show town and road names. (The URL changes as you pan and zoom, so you can bookmark that view)

    A lot of the popular red lines near there are mountain bike trails or gravel roads. The local portion of the Foothills Parkway is very light blue, much less ridden; I suppose that riders have snuck through.

    This does show that US440 is, uh, "popular", but it's still not a great idea. Perhaps a very early start would be good?
    Last edited by rm -rf; 08-02-2017 at 10:00 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MMsRepBike View Post
    Just thought of a good alternative climb for you near Wears Valley.

    Bluff mountain. (On the map it's officially called Green Top)

    It's the ridge, very pretty ridge at that, that sits just north of the Smoky's. I feel it's a nicer climb than anything in the park, or at least as good anyway.

    Really easy to get to, you can just park on 321 at Wears Valley at the park by High Valley road. From there it's a short and easy ride to Bluff Mountain Road via Henderson, Battle Hill, Sharp Hollow and Goose Gap.

    It's not too long but long enough. Has wonderful views, switchbacks, steep sections, steady sections, and best of all a fire tower at the top that's sturdy and gives wonderful 360 degree views of the area.

    If I had very limited time in the area, I would go there before butterfly gap or the the wall or the parkway or clingman's or anything else. It for sure would be at least one of my days.
    All those roads have Street View on google maps.

    Wow, Bluff Mountain Road looks great, a narrow, quiet road. Example street view

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    Quote Originally Posted by JasonB176 View Post
    I was able to map this I think:
    https://ridewithgps.com/routes/23795727

    Is there a clearly defined top to Bluff Mountain? I just mapped it out until the end of Bluff Mountain Road. I would find some other streets to make this at least a 30 mile ride. It looks like the roads are paved which is a plus. Thanks for sharing this destination!
    Sort of. There's views at several points, but the best are going up Tower Road to Green Top Road. The fire tower is on Green Top road. I believe it's the first of 3 or 4 turn offs to the right that go up to radio and other such towers.

    You can come down or go up Summit Trails as an alternative. The road it connects to, Walden's Creek is a good road in itself. If you take it west it'll turn into E. Miller's Cove and end up right by the parkway.

    Look Rock is the parkway, the section that's open to cars and cyclists. From 321 east it's closed and under construction. It's a pretty boring climb, but I think I've covered that. Butterfly Gap/Top of the World Community and the Walland Wall are just other ways to get to Look Rock instead of the Parkway, but they're all the same mountain.
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    MMs suggested climb would have low traffic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MMsRepBike View Post
    Sort of. There's views at several points, but the best are going up Tower Road to Green Top Road. The fire tower is on Green Top road. I believe it's the first of 3 or 4 turn offs to the right that go up to radio and other such towers.

    You can come down or go up Summit Trails as an alternative. The road it connects to, Walden's Creek is a good road in itself. If you take it west it'll turn into E. Miller's Cove and end up right by the parkway.

    Look Rock is the parkway, the section that's open to cars and cyclists. From 321 east it's closed and under construction. It's a pretty boring climb, but I think I've covered that. Butterfly Gap/Top of the World Community and the Walland Wall are just other ways to get to Look Rock instead of the Parkway, but they're all the same mountain.
    I finished mapping my potential route having now included your suggestions of Green Top, Summit Trails, Walden's Creek and E. Miller's Cove:
    https://ridewithgps.com/routes/24029498

    I tried to use the satellite view to insure that there was actually a paved road. It was okay for most but E. Miller's Cove has so much thick tree cover that I couldn't really tell but it sounds from your description that it's paved.

    I have to say that it appears to be a maze with so many dead ends and other roads mixed in. I won't be riding with a GPS but rather just printed maps from the route. I know from past experience that when you're actually on the ground, things can appear different than how the map shows it. Anyway, I'll see how far I get with my planned route. It seems just about all the vertical will be connected to Bluff Mountain.

    Thanks again.
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    I have my final Clingman's Dome route mapped. It will be an out and back:
    https://ridewithgps.com/routes/24029854

    I'll do my very best to get an early start. The problem is that I won't be on 441 right away so it will be later by the time I get to it. There will be some serious vertical so I think it's likely that I'll need a point to refuel at. I could normally do a 60 mile ride with just two water bottles and gels that I could carry but I don't think it will be enough in this case. I'm assuming there must be some store along the way. I'm just not sure how things will be on Clingman's Dome Road. Could somebody confirm that there's a refueling stop somewhere on that route? Even if it's just a place I could get water, I think that would be enough. Thanks.
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    You can stop at Newfound Gap, but I don't know what's there. I haven't been inside of the building. No actual stores or anything like that, just a visitor center. Water for sure.

    If you leave early, it will be cold. You probably won't drink nearly as much or eat nearly as much as you might imagine. Last time I went up my notes said that I didn't eat or drink anything at all on the way up. Too much like winter riding... in the middle of summer.

    Which brings up the last point. When I do climbs like the dome, it's about bringing winter gear with me, not food and water. The ride down can easily bring hypothermia. So I get frame bags and such and stuff them with merino wool and windproof jackets and such.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MMsRepBike View Post
    You can stop at Newfound Gap, but I don't know what's there. I haven't been inside of the building. No actual stores or anything like that, just a visitor center. Water for sure.

    If you leave early, it will be cold. You probably won't drink nearly as much or eat nearly as much as you might imagine. Last time I went up my notes said that I didn't eat or drink anything at all on the way up. Too much like winter riding... in the middle of summer.

    Which brings up the last point. When I do climbs like the dome, it's about bringing winter gear with me, not food and water. The ride down can easily bring hypothermia. So I get frame bags and such and stuff them with merino wool and windproof jackets and such.
    Wow, even in August?! I know from hiking in the White Mountains in NH that temperatures can be drastically different at even their altitude. I guess the good thing is that I can turn around at any point if need be.
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    You seem surprised that these roads are paved, but everything you've considered is paved. Most of us wear socks to work as well. But don't expect any shoulders except for Hwy 321. And back roads can get sketchy with gravel and green moss in the shade, but just ride within your abilities. If you hear banjos, just put your head down and pedal harder.

    If you do the Clingman's Dome ride - your water options are (1) Metcalf Bottoms campground, probably a couple miles and one hill climb from your cabin (2) when you get to 441, take a left (instead of right to go to NF Gap and the Dome) and shortly after is the Sugarlands Visitor Center. They may have some solid food for sale, I don't know, but definitely H2O. You can hit that on the way back if needed. And (3) Newfound Gap has water. There's possibly water at Clingman's Dome, but I don't know. Those are your options. You're in the national park 99 percent of the time. When you're at the Dome, 18 of the next 19 miles are downhill, so you won't need much for that stretch. I don't know how much of a flatlander you are, but there are no extreme grades, nothing over 8 percent. Unless you go up Bluff Mtn Rd or Butterfly Gap

    Actually, if you're at NF Gap or C Dome, you can probably just look pitiful and strangers will be more than glad to help you out. They'll be dumbfounded that you propelled yourself up with your own power.

    It looks like your cabin on Lyon Springs Rd will have about 40 seconds of totality during the solar eclipse. Do your homework and drive about 50 miles southwest and you'll have almost two more minutes of darkness. I bet you could sublet your rental for a profit right now.


    I don't think the temps will get that extreme at the top. It does get pretty cold, and you won't want to hang around at the top in your SS jersey. Now if weather is marginal then yes, it can get cloudy and cold. We've had really mild temperatures around here this summer.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by ogre View Post
    You seem surprised that these roads are paved, but everything you've considered is paved. Most of us wear socks to work as well. But don't expect any shoulders except for Hwy 321. And back roads can get sketchy with gravel and green moss in the shade, but just ride within your abilities. If you hear banjos, just put your head down and pedal harder.

    If you do the Clingman's Dome ride - your water options are (1) Metcalf Bottoms campground, probably a couple miles and one hill climb from your cabin (2) when you get to 441, take a left (instead of right to go to NF Gap and the Dome) and shortly after is the Sugarlands Visitor Center. They may have some solid food for sale, I don't know, but definitely H2O. You can hit that on the way back if needed. And (3) Newfound Gap has water. There's possibly water at Clingman's Dome, but I don't know. Those are your options. You're in the national park 99 percent of the time. When you're at the Dome, 18 of the next 19 miles are downhill, so you won't need much for that stretch. I don't know how much of a flatlander you are, but there are no extreme grades, nothing over 8 percent. Unless you go up Bluff Mtn Rd or Butterfly Gap

    Actually, if you're at NF Gap or C Dome, you can probably just look pitiful and strangers will be more than glad to help you out. They'll be dumbfounded that you propelled yourself up with your own power.

    It looks like your cabin on Lyon Springs Rd will have about 40 seconds of totality during the solar eclipse. Do your homework and drive about 50 miles southwest and you'll have almost two more minutes of darkness. I bet you could sublet your rental for a profit right now.


    I don't think the temps will get that extreme at the top. It does get pretty cold, and you won't want to hang around at the top in your SS jersey. Now if weather is marginal then yes, it can get cloudy and cold. We've had really mild temperatures around here this summer.
    I live in MA and many times when Iíve mapped out routes in VT, NH and ME, my prospective route turns out to have long stretches of gravel. Iím happy to hear that more is paved down your way.

    Looking at the 10 day forecast for Townsend, TN, almost every day has a possibility of thunderstorms. Iím sure the threat is even more so at higher elevations so I guess I pretty much must prepare myself for getting wet.

    From what I understand, the roads to the Clingmanís Dome area will be closed for Sunday and Monday so Iíll need to plan for that ride later in the week. My other two destinations will be Bluff Mountain and Look Rock. My plan is to try Bluff Rock on the Sunday.
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    Yo JasonB, how about a ride report or two and your eclipse experience?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ogre View Post
    Yo JasonB, how about a ride report or two and your eclipse experience?
    I just got back tonight. I didn't have a laptop or smartphone down there. I was going to post an edited version of my facebook post but I'll just post it as is. This is for Clingman's Dome.

    We just got back from one of the best vacations. We had a family reunion in Tennessee timed to coincide with the solar eclipse of 8/21/2017. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the eclipse and spending time with so many family members. There was more to the vacation for me. I brought along my bike and was able to experience riding unlike any that Iíve done before. Iíve done mountain riding before but not on this scale. It was a treat that Iíll never forget. I was able to do three rides totaling 206 miles. I didnít have a laptop nor a smart-phone to post earlier. Iíll post more about the vacation later but for tonight Iím recounting the best ride of the three (the other two were almost as good) but my ride to the top of Clingmanís Dome was particularly special.

    Smoky Mountain National Park was closed the day of and the day before the eclipse so I couldnít do the ride when we first arrived. I ended up doing this on Friday, August 25th Ė the day before we left. However, on the Thursday, we all drove up to the top of Clingmanís Dome taking the very route that I would cycle the next day. This allowed me to check out the roads as well as take some pictures from the top that I wouldnít be able to do when cycling. We arrived just before sunset and saw some spectacular views.

    Our cabin was aptly named Above the Clouds and it sits about 1000 feet above route 321 less than three miles below! Almost 1000 feet of that is gained in just over a mile! So, as with all rides from the cabin, mine started with an extremely steep and twisty descent having to brake heavily. I then popped out on 321 which has excellent pavement but very little shoulder. I was only on this briefly before taking the left onto Line Springs Road. Thereís a bit of really steep climbing but then things moderate comparatively. I took the left onto Little River Gorge Road which becomes Fighting Creek Gap Road. Eventually it comes out to Sugarland Visitor Center at the intersection of route 441. The only potential drawback to the Clingmanís Dome ride is that route 441 doesnít have much of a shoulder and it can get lots of traffic. I could see from the night before though that the road was fairly wide. I was able to get an early start of 7AM from the cabin so it was still fairly early even by the time I reached 441. This intersection begins about 20 miles of almost all climbing! I had never done such an extended climb before.

    As I hoped, the traffic was pretty light going up and drivers were very respectful almost to a fault as some were very hesitant to pass me even when there was ample opportunity. Some motorcyclists gave me the thumbs up as they passed and I even noticed a passenger in a car also do this. They probably donít see cyclists doing this very often and I appreciated their encouragement. I stopped thrice briefly to stretch. I passed through two tunnels but both were short and didnít present too much of a lighting problem. After about 13 miles of climbing, I took the right onto Clingmanís Dome Road. Here the traffic was even less. The temperature had dropped some but it was not too cold. I picked the perfect day because it wasnít too hot anywhere nor too cold. I reached the top and there didnít appear to be any place to get water and I was almost out so I didnít spend much time up there. I had spent quite a long time the night before so didnít feel like I needed to plus it was mostly in the clouds.

    Then began the riotous descent with an added twist of excitement! Iíve done many high speed descents but this one was different because of the turns involved. I didnít reach the speeds of other ones but the turns made for an even more exciting experience. I didnít have to brake but just felt comfortable enough to lean into the turns at speed. What a feeling to experience the sensation of weight as I put my body into the turns! There were very few cars but I did manage to catch up to pickup truck and after tailing it for a bit, I decided to pull over and let it go so it wouldnít spoil anymore of the descent. I did this but then I saw it again but it wasnít moving. It was parked in the middle of the road along with another car on the opposite side. I knew instantly that they must be stopped to watch wildlife and I was pretty sure what kind. Sure enough Ė a woman was halfway out the passenger window taking picture of a bear! I was about 50 feet behind the cars and watch the good-sized black bear amble away from the side of the road. Eventually the pick-up drove off and the other car came in my direction. It stopped and the woman driving it warned me about the bear AND its two cubs! I couldnít see the cubs from my vantage point. I waited a bit longer and then decided to just go for it. I pedaled past and fortunately there was no pursuit.

    I got out on 441 and then experienced another 13 miles of superb descending on such an amazing road with incredible scenery everywhere. I made it back to Sugarland where I was able to refill my water bottles. There was a bit of headwind but I still caught up to cars twice and pulled over to give myself free space.

    By this time, there was much more traffic but because I was now descending, I could take the whole lane so it really didnít matter. When I got back on Fighting Gap road, there was a surprising amount of traffic even there but I had no incidents. That last two miles to the cabin was brutal! I didnít walk any of it but did have to stop a couple of times. My heart-rate was completely maxed out. At 112.90 feet per mile, this was the most climbing I've ever done.

    My mapping software that I use for my cycling routes, ridewithgps.com, has a glitch and it wonít allow me to map past the halfway point of Clingmanís Dome Road. So the accompanying route map is missing the last four miles to the top. I was able to get the exact elevation gain though by seeing that the road ends at 6292 feet so I was able to accurately ascertain my climbing for the route. Iím attaching some pictures taken the night before.

    Stats for the ride:
    Miles: 73.09
    Time: 4:46:54
    Average Speed: 15.29
    Max Speed: 45 MPH
    Elevation Gain: 8252 feet = 112.90 feet per mile
    Route (missing the last 4 miles to the top): https://ridewithgps.com/routes/24679712
    2012 Motobecane Le Champion Team Titanium
    2002 Jamis Eclipse
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