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.

This is also one of our most challenging climbing tours in that if one rides all the routes and distances each day they can expect to have over 31,000 feet of climbing for the week. Wow! But keep in mind that we will always offer a “bump” for any route if you want less climbing and prefer to enjoy more descending – it’s up to you. 🙂

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: Testimonials

Read what previous guests on our Great Smoky Mountains Bike Tour have to say…

I loved the Smoky Mountain Tour and I loved traveling with your company and guides! I have done a bunch of cycling tours with different companies and this was the most hard core adventure I have been on. The guides were helpful each morning planning the toughest segment that I could skip without taking away from the overall experience for me. Our picnic lunches also seemed above and beyond every single day. Who knows if I will get to do something like this again but I will treasure the memories of this trip always. Thank you! – Sheila

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

To easily register for a particular tour, please click the Book Now! link after the tour date listed below. This will select the tour name and the appropriate date on the registration form.

NOTE: All tours start on Monday and end on Saturday in order to avoid weekend vehicular traffic in the Great Smoky Mountains region.

2024 Tour Dates

2025 Tour Dates

Tour Status Notes: NO STATUS = Date Set, no riders have signed up. TOUR OPENED = Tour Opened, rider minimums not met. TOUR A GO! = Tour is Go, rider minimums met. SOLD OUT = Tour Full, rider maximums met.

Why Should you Sign-Up Now and OPEN a Tour Date?
This is the proverbial chicken and the egg conundrum! We need our cyclists to first commit to the date that works for them so that we can commit to that date.

For starters, when you OPEN a date you get to pick your preferred departure date, and there is no penalty if the tour does not run. Once you pick your tour date, Lizard Head closes nearby dates and funnels all additional riders to your chosen date until the tour meets its 6 rider minimum.

BONUS: As an added bonus, we can also hold a spot for you on another tour date of your choosing. There is no fee to switch to another tour date.

In conclusion, if you want a tour to run, we need you to sign up and not wait for others to do the same! Waiting for others may mean that a tour date takes longer or does not confirm. Just Do It! Once a few riders jump into the proverbial waters, others will follow!

Great Smoky Mountains Bike Tour: Overview

Reptile Rewards

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: $3,570 per person with shared accommodations. Add $575 per person to this Tour Cost for a private room each night of the tour (5-Nights).

Tour Discounts: Please see our Reptile Rewards & Tour Discounts page to learn more about Reptile Rewards, Tour Discounts, and Group Discounts. Tour discounts are not stackable with any other discounts or promotions – only the highest valued discount is provided. Please note that for discounts to apply the tour minimum must be met.

Tour Includes: 6-Days guide service, 5-Nights lodging, all meals (except for dinner on Day 4 and lunch on Day 5), entrance fees, energy food, liquid refreshments, in-tour shuttles and mechanical support. Alcoholic beverages, bike rental, and massage (if available) are additional.

Non-Riding Spouses & Partners on Tour: If a non-riding spouse or partner would like to join you on tour and they have their own transportation, they can stay in your room for the cost of the tour's single room supplement. Please note that non-riders cannot check into hotels prior to guide arrival as the guides need to manage the check-in process. Checking in a large group can be challenging and take longer than normal, so non-riders need to hang back and be patient. Non-riding spouses and partners are welcome to join the Lizard Head meal plan which includes breakfasts and dinners for $75 per day. Note: Lunches are not included for non-riders driving their own vehicles due to the inherent variability of both lunch timing and locations. It is best for non-riders to plan to explore each day.

Includes 5-Nights Lodging: (subject to change)

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.

Road Bike Rentals

NOTE: The make, model, and specifications of rental bikes may differ from what is described below. Please contact us if you have any specific needs for a rental bike or have any questions about rental bikes.

Lizard Head Cycling Guides is proud to rent Scott Bikes. The Scott Addict 10 Disc was designed from the ground up with those longer days in mind. With geometry that is less focused on racing and more on enduring, the Addict 10 will be your go to when you’re looking to put the miles in.

The Scott Addict 10 Disc features: Carbon Frame and Fork, Shimano Ultegra 2x11 Drivetrain, 34x32 Compact Gearing, 30mm Tires, and Hydraulic Disc Brakes. Approx. Weight: 16.89 lbs / 7.66 kg (without pedals)

Learn more about our Rental Bikes and Equipment

Road E-Bike Rentals: Click Here for more information on our Road E-Bike Rentals including pricing. Please note that E-Bikes are not available for certain tours including those that involve camping. Please contact us for more information before registering for a tour. NOTE: E-Bikes are great, but our tours are designed to be ridden without motorized assistance. We offer "bumps" along the road so that everyone can stay together.

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

If you have any further questions, please read more on our Rental Bikes FAQ page. You can also email us at or call us at 970.728.5891

Overall Route Map

Below is an example of the daily routes for this tour and are subject to change based on season, available accommodations, road closures, and other factors. The actual routes will be made available to registered participants before their tour, so please view these routes as a general outline as to what to expect.

Great Smoky Mountains Bike Tour: Itinerary*

*PLEASE NOTE: Tour itineraries are subject to change and modification based on the group, available accommodations, road construction, road closures, and other unforeseen circumstances including weather, wildfires, flooding, hurricanes, landslides and/or other acts of nature. Also, the distances and elevation profiles shown below may not reflect the actual distances and elevations while on tour as these are provided here to give an idea as to the anticipated mileage and terrain. Please view this itinerary, the distances, and elevation profiles as a general outline as to what to expect while on this tour.

Day 0: Arrival in Knoxville

Guests either fly into McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS), located just south of Knoxville in Alcoa, Tennessee, or drive to the meeting hotel that was designated in your confirmation documents. Guests are on-their-own for accommodations this evening either at the designated meeting hotel. Guests are also on-their-own for dinner this evening.

Day 1: Cherohala Skyway
Standard: 57 miles with up to 6,445 feet of climbing
Shorter Distance/Less Climbing Option: 41 miles with up to 4,170 feet of climbing

We meet early in the parking lot of our Knoxville meeting hotel to set-up rental bikes and then load bikes and gear into the support van to shuttle about an hour south to begin our journey from the Cherohala Skyway Visitor Center in 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 / -6445 ft
Climb #1: 25 mi / + 5914 ft / Avg 3.3 %

Elevation Profile – Lower Mileage: 41 mi +4170 ft / -5590 ft
Climb #1: 12.5 mi / + 2950 ft / Avg 3.0 %

Day 2: Tail of the Dragon & Foothills Parkway
50 miles with up to 6,155 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 31 miles above the treetops and foothills offering incredible mountain vistas across the entire face of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In fact the last 15 mile section we ride on was just opened in late 2018 after being under construction for over 70 years! So the pavement is brand new and super smooth!

Elevation Profile: 50 mi +6155 ft / -5800 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
Climb #3: 3.8 mi / + 1170 ft / Avg 5.7 % / Cat 2

Day 3: Cades Cove and Little River Gorge
Cades Cove (Standard Route): 34 miles with up to 2,330 feet of climbing
Cades Cove (Gravel Return): 40 miles with up to 3,340 feet of climbing
Little River Gorge: 21 miles with up to 1,510 feet of climbing

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. This 11 mile loop road is within one of the most beautiful areas of the park and it is CLOSED to all vehicular traffic on Wednesdays, so cyclists have the whole loop to themselves – what a wonderful treat! There are two options for a return back to Townsend, the Standard Route back-tracks along the same route as coming in, or there is a back woods Gravel Return route that includes 6.8 miles of smooth gravel through the beautiful, dense forest.

Then, after returning back to Townsend from Cades Cove for lunch, we then pedal into the scenic Little River Gorge through dense forests with amazing river views along Little River Gorge Road. The scenery along this road is simply outstanding! After passing over Fighting Creek Gap, the route ends at the Sugarlands Visitor Center followed by a to the summit of Clingmans Dome to enjoy the magnificent hundred mile view across some of the most iconic “purple mountain majesty” terrain in the country. After Clingmans Dome we head down to Bryson City, North Carolina to tonight’s lodging.

Please note that both of the rides this day are unsupported within Great Smoky Mountain National Park, but support is offered outside the park between the rides and after the 2nd ride.

Elevation Profile – Cades Cove: 34 mi +2330 ft / -2330 ft
Climb #1: 7 mi / +1100 ft / -1100 ft

Elevation Profile – Little River Gorge: 21 mi +1510 ft / -1145 ft
Climb #1: 14 mi / +1360 ft / -185 ft

Day 4: Blue Ridge Parkway to Asheville, North Carolina
68 miles with up to 6,060 feet of climbing

After a short morning shuttle from Bryson City, North Carolina, we start from the Browning Knob Overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway. A fast 8.5 mile descent is followed by a 12 mile climb gaining nearly 2,900 feet until we reach the Richland Balsam Overlook, the highest point on the Blue Ridge parkway at an altitude of 6,053 feet. From here the Parkway undulates along the ridge line offering breathtaking views in all directions.

Following lunch near Mount Pisgah, the riding is mostly downhill for the next 15 miles as we lose 3,200 feet and only gain 300 feet – make sure to stop every now and then to take in the sights! We end the ride at the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center and then take a short shuttle to downtown and to our lodging for the next two nights. With a dozen or more breweries within walking distance, it will be a tough choice as to where to enjoy the post ride libations! Dinner is on-your-own tonight as there are dozens of restaurants within walking distance from the hotel.

Elevation Profile: 63 mi +5625 ft / -9185 ft
Climb #1: 12 mi / + 2400 ft / Avg 4.5 % / Cat HC

Day 5: Layover in Asheville, North Carolina
Optional Ride: 48 miles with up to 3,955 feet of climbing

With a layover day in Asheville, guests are on-their-own for non-cycling activities today by opting to explore this curious mountain town by strolling through the many stores, going on a brewery crawl, or taking a guided tour of the Biltmore Estate. For those that want to keep on pedaling, take an assault on Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi at 6,684 feet.

Today’s ride is optional and partially supported with a packed to-go lunch and an early morning shuttle to a starting point along the Blue Ridge Parkway, or even to the top of Mount Mitchell itself. After 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! A guide will ride with guests to make sure everyone stays on course and gets back to Asheville.

Elevation Profile: 48 mi +3955 ft / -7270 ft
Climb #1: 4.6 mi / + 1400 ft / Avg 5.3 % / Cat 2

Day 6: Asheville to Hot Springs via Doggett Gap
49 miles with up to 3,760 feet of climbing

The ride starts early from our hotel in downtown Asheville meandering along the French Broad River until turning westerly into undulating terrain. The ride today dishes out one final challenging 3-mile climb up the eastern slope of Doggett Knob to Doggett Gap at around the 26 mile point. 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: 49 mi +3760 ft / -4640 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

If you have not already, now would be a great time to consider adding travel insurance to your tour. You are welcome to use any travel insurance company you would like. We recommend Generali/Trip Mate.

Generally, if contracting COVID causes clients to cancel or interrupt their tour, trip insurance companies would treat it as any other illness as long as it is contracted after the insurance was purchased. Please check your individual plan documentation for details. Please note that quarantine is usually only covered if clients are actually sick with COVID. If a state requires quarantine upon arrival because of standardized state law, coverage is generally not covered. Again, check your individual plan documentation for details.

American Guests - use this link:

  • The Premium Plan is the only plan which offers Pre-Existing coverage so long as the plan is purchased prior to Final Payment.
  • The Premium Plan is the only plan that offers an optional Cancel For Any Reason - the policy must be purchased within 24 hours of initial trip deposit, the full trip cost must be insured, and if they cancel for Any Reason, it must be 48 hours prior to departure, and the reimbursement for an Any Reason claim is 60% of pre-paid, insured, non-refundable trip cost.
  • Customer Service can be reached at 1-800-874-2442 for coverage questions and policy modifications or to purchase by phone. Agency Code: LIZA0855

Canadian Guests - use this link:

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