Great Smoky Mountains - Lizard Head Cycling Guides
107 Aurum St, Box 855, Ophir, CO 81426 970.728.5891

Great Smoky Mountains

Please click here to jump to the Overview section with all tour details including pricing.

Great Smoky Mountains Bike Tour: Highlights

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited park in the USA and it’s no wonder as the views and vistas here are simply stunning. We start the week from Tellico Plains, Tennessee to travel along the Cherohala Skyway riding “on top of the world” to Tapoco, North Carolina. From here we take on “The Dragon” (aka: Deal’s Gap) with it’s 318 curves in 11 miles. Then it’s onto a portion of the beautiful, but little known and lightly traveled, Foothills Parkway. We also visit the remote Cades Cove for a car-free early morning riding experience through history and then in the afternoon to the top of Clingmans Dome to marvel in the 100+ mile views of purple mountains majesty.

On the second half of our tour we ride along a portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway visiting it’s highest point at 6,053 feet and then end in Asheville, North Carolina. We will have a layover day in Asheville which will be a great opportunity to explore this charming town, enjoy one of it’s many breweries, visit the Biltmore Estate, or if you want to ride, take on a challenging climb to the top of Mount Mitchell. Our final day includes a climb over Doggetts Gap and then ends in the remote town of Hot Springs, North Carolina.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Cycling in Cades Cove

Cycling in Cades Cove

Clingmans Dome Observation Tower

Clingmans Dome Observation Tower

Great Smoky Mountains Bike Tour: Dates

Potential tour dates are listed below and not all tour dates will run. Lock in your preferred tour date early as unopened tour dates will be closed. Please see the Spring/Autumn Tour Calendar and the Summer Tour Calendar for confirmed departures. Any unopened date can be a Custom Week (9 riders required). Please contact us via email or call 970.728.5891

2019 Autumn Tour Dates

  • October 6 to 11, 2019 (Book Now!) – TOUR OPENED

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Great Smoky Mountains Bike Tour: Overview

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Tour Length: 6-Days Cycling/5-Nights Lodging

Arrival/Departure Airport: McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS) – Knoxville, Tennessee

Meeting/Ending Location: Knoxville, Tennessee

Total Miles: 250 to 335 miles (additional mileage options available)

Ability Level: Advanced (3/4)  to Expert (4) 
The Great Smoky Mountains region offers some serious and challenging climbing, so this tour is recommended for strong advanced to expert level riders.

Tour Cost: $2,850 per person.
Group discount of $200 per person for groups of 4 or more. Please see our Tour Discounts Policy.

Single Room Supplement: Add $575 to the Tour Cost for a private room each night of the tour (5 nights).

Tour Includes: 6-days of guide service, 5-nights of lodging, all meals, forest service fees, energy food, liquid refreshments, shuttles and mechanical support. Alcoholic beverages, bike rental and massage are additional.

Includes 5-Nights Lodging: (subject to change)

NOTE: Meeting Hotel and Ending Hotel reservations and costs are NOT included unless specified otherwise. Guests are on-their-own to make reservations at the Meeting Hotel or Ending Hotel, or other nearby hotels.

Bike Rental

Bike Rental: Lizard Head Cycling Guides is proud to rent Scott CR-1 Pro and Scott Solace carbon road bikes with full Shimano Ultegra components for only $250/week, or $150 for 3 or 4 day tours. Both the CR-1 and Solace models are sub- 17 lb comfortable, high performance bicycles geared for climbing hills. In addition we also have electric bikes available for rental at $375/week. And finally we have a selection of straight bar road bikes and kids bikes in our rental fleet. Just let us know what you need and we can probably find it.

Electric Bike Rental: We now have a limited selection of SCOTT electric bikes that can be reserved for our tours. These are road bikes with straight bars that make the slowest rider the fastest rider in the group. Rental Price is $375/week.

Please also see this blog post for more information on bike rentals.

Tandems and Recumbents: Lizard Head Cycling Guides happily accommodates both tandem and recumbent bikes on its tours.

Read more on our Road Bike Rental FAQs page.

Overall Route Map

Great Smoky Mountains Bike Tour: Itinerary*

*Tour itineraries are subject to change and modification based on the group, available accommodations and other unforeseen circumstances including weather, wildfires, flooding, hurricanes, landslides and/or other acts of nature. Please view this itinerary as an outline as to what to expect on this tour.

Day 0: Arrival in Knoxville

Guests either fly into McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS), located just south of Knoxville, Tennessee, or drive to the meeting hotel near the airport. The meeting hotel will be the Hampton Inn Knoxville-Airport where there will be a late afternoon “Meet & Greet” session to meet your fellow riders for the week, get your rental bikes fitted and where guides will discuss the highlights of the week ahead.

NOTE: Guests are on-their-own for accommodations this evening either at the Hampton Inn, or at other nearby hotels. The Hampton Inn offers an airport shuttle from McGhee Tyson Airport. Guests are also on-their-own for dinner this evening.

Downtown Knoxville, Tennessee

Downtown Knoxville, Tennessee

Day 1: Cherohala Skyway
Standard: 57 miles with up to 6,625 feet of climbing
Lower Mileage: 39 miles with up to 3,365 feet of climbing

After breakfast in Knoxville, we will meet early in the hotel parking lot to load bikes and gear into the support van and then shuttle about an hour south to begin our journey from the small town of Tellico Plains, Tennessee. Those riders looking for less mileage and climbing can opt to bump up to a starting point further along in the route.

We start the week with a fantastic ride along the Cherohala Skyway which winds up and over 5,400 foot mountains from Tennessee and into North Carolina through deeply forested back country with stunning vistas all along the way. This will be a ride to remember! After departing from the skyway, we navigate around Santeetlah Lake to end the day at the Historic Tapoco Lodge to enjoy outstanding accommodations and dining for the evening.

Elevation Profile – Standard: 57 mi +6625 ft / -6355 ft
Climb #1: 25 mi / + 5914 ft / Avg 3.3 %

Elevation Profile – Lower Mileage: 39 mi +3360 ft / -5590 ft
Climb #1: 12.5 mi / + 2950 ft / Avg 3.0 %

Day 2: Tail of the Dragon & Foothills Parkway
45 miles with up to 4,220 feet of climbing

Today is going to be fun and challenging! Riding from the Tapoco Lodge, we will ride past the Cheoah Dam, a filming location for the 1993 movie The Fugitive with Harrison Ford, and soon take on an iconic beast of a road called “The Dragon” (aka: Deals Gap) so named since it’s 318 curves in 11 miles looks like a dragon’s tail.

After slaying The Dragon, we join up with the Foothills Parkway to ride 17 miles above the treetops and foothills offering incredible mountain vistas across the entire face of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We then enter the small town of Townsend, Tennessee and check into our accommodations.

Elevation Profile: 45 mi +4220 ft / -4250 ft
Climb #1: 3.3 mi / + 950 ft / Avg 5.8% / Cat 3
Climb #2: 7.3 mi / + 1800 ft / Avg 4.1 % / Cat 1

Day 3: Cades Cove to Clingmans Dome
Standard: 67 miles with up to 8,580 feet of climbing
E.F.I.: 91 miles with up to 9,050 feet of climbing

Today we need to fuel up the body and depart early as we have a special treat! Riding from Townsend, we make our way into Cades Cove, an isolated and secluded valley located in the Tennessee section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which was home to numerous settlers way before the formation of the national park. What’s special about today is that in the morning on Wednesdays the 11 mile loop road is open only to foot traffic and cyclists making for an enjoyable car-free experience along this historic route.

After Cades Cove, we pedal into the scenic Little River Gorge through dense forests with amazing river views. After passing over Fighting Creek Gap, lunch will be held at the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. From here the riding gets extremely challenging as we ride to the summit of Clingmans Dome – this is a 20 mile beyond category (HC) climb with nearly a full MILE of elevation gain! Of course riders can opt to bump some or all of the climb and E.F.I. riders can opt to add to today’s ride by riding down the other side of the climb to Cherokee, North Carolina to tonight’s lodging.

However much you intend to ride today, this will be an epic day in the saddle!

Elevation Profile – Standard: 67 mi +8580 ft / -3350 ft
Climb #1: 20 mi / + 5110 ft / Avg 4.4 % / Cat HC

Elevation Profile – E.F.I.: 91 mi +9050 ft / -8155 ft
Climb #1: 20 mi / + 5110 ft / Avg 4.4 % / Cat HC

Day 4: Blue Ridge Parkway to Asheville, North Carolina
63 miles with up to 6,110 feet of climbing

After a short morning shuttle from Cherokee, North Carolina, we start from Balsam Gap along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Climbing is again on tap for today’s ride as we start from around 3,400 feet in elevation and then at 12 miles into the ride we reach the Richland Balsam Overlook, the highest point on the Blue Ridge parkway at an altitude of 6,047 feet. From here the Parkway undulates along the ridge line offering breath taking views in all directions.

Following lunch near Mount Pisgah, the riding is mostly downhill for the next 15 miles as we lose 3,300 feet and only gain 350 feet – make sure to stop every now and then to take in the sights! Exiting the Blue Ridge Parkway we will meander through Biltmore Forest and then end at our lodging in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. With a dozen or more breweries within walking distance, it will be a tough choice as to where to enjoy the post ride libations!

Elevation Profile: 63 mi +6110 ft / -7330 ft
Climb #1: 12 mi / + 2930 ft / Avg 4.3 % / Cat HC

Day 5: Layover in Asheville, North Carolina
Optional Ride: 47 miles with up to 3,770 feet of climbing

With a layover day in Asheville, guests are on-their-own for all activities today (including meals) and they may opt for a day off the bike to explore this curious mountain town by strolling through the many stores, going on a brewery crawl, taking a guided tour of the Biltmore Estate, or for those that want to keep pedaling, take an assault on Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi at 6,684 feet.

While today’s ride is also on-your-own, we will offer an early morning shuttle to a starting point along the Blue Ridge Parkway which will cut out nearly 4,000 feet of climbing. After this drop-off, riders cycle to the top of Mount Mitchell and then back to Asheville. While the elevation gain is nearly 3,770 feet, the ride back from Mount Mitchell loses over 6,000 feet – it will be a blast of a ride!

Elevation Profile: 47 mi +3770 ft / -7205 ft
Climb #1: 4.6 mi / + 1400 ft / Avg 5.3 % / Cat 2

Day 6: Doggett Gap to Hot Springs, North Carolina
32 miles with up to 2,575 feet of climbing

Following a short shuttle from Asheville, the final day of our tour offers up the shortest distance of the week at 32 miles, but it dishes out one final 3 mile climb up the eastern slope of Doggett Knob to Doggett Gap. However, the remaining miles after Doggett Gap descend through the lush farmland and valleys of Pisgah National Forest to Hot Springs, North Carolina where the riding ends and where we will have lunch. After lunch we shuttle back to Knoxville, Tennessee to end our tour. What a great week!

Elevation Profile: 32 mi +2575 ft / -3390 ft
Climb #1: 7 mi / + 1805 ft / Avg 6.6 % / Cat HC

Great Smoky Mountains Bike Tour: Logistics & FAQs

Bike Shipping

Lizard Head Cycling recommends shipping with Bikes can be shipped either to our partner bike shop in each meeting town for professional assembly or directly to the meeting hotel for self-assembly. Bike boxes can generally be left at the meeting hotel during the tour. Bikes shipped across the continental US should be shipped 8 days prior to your tour.

General Tour & Cancellation Policies

Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with all of our tour and cancellation policies, which can be found by clicking here.

Travel Insurance

Lizard Head Cycling Guides highly recommends clients purchase Travel Insurance through MH Ross Travel Insurance. A policy can be purchased individually through the sales link below or Lizard Head Cycling Guides can also set-up a policy for its clients.

The estimated cost for a 50-year old buying insurance for a $2,500 tour ranges from $100 (standard plan) to about $200 (cancel for any reason plan).

Lizard Head Cycling Guides Custom Sales Portal Link is:

  • The best options for our clients are either the Asset or Bridge plans.
  • The Asset-Plus & Complete plans both include a Cancel-For-Any-Reason option.
    • As a result these plans cost more.
    • The Cancel-for-Any-Reason option is only available when insurance is purchased within two weeks of initial deposit.

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