Great Smoky Mountains - Lizard Head Cycling Guides
107 Aurum Street Box 855, Ophir, CO 81426 Phone: 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 from here are simply stunning. We start the week from Tellico Plains, Tennesee 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.

On the second half of our tour, We will visit Asheville, North Carolina and stop to enjoy one of it’s many breweries. We then ride along a portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway visiting it’s highest point at 6,053 feet. We end the week with a ride to the top of Clingmans Dome and marvel in the 100+ mile views of purple mountains majesty.

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 Spring Tour Dates:

  • May 6 to 11, 2019 Monday to Saturday (Book Now!)
  • May 13 to 18, 2019 Monday to Saturday (Book Now!)

2018 Autumn Tour Dates:

  • October 7 to 12, 2018 Fall Foliage Tour (Book Now!)
  • October 14 to 19, 2018 Fall Foliage Tour (Book Now!)

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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: 300 to 350 miles (additional mileage options available)

Ability Level: 2/3 (Intermediate to Advanced)

Tour Cost: $2,690 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)

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
57 miles with up to 6,640 feet of climbing

After breakfast, 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 start our ride from the small town of Tellico Plains, Tennessee.

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, our lodging for the evening.

Elevation Profile: +6640 ft / -6365 ft

Day 2: Tail of the Dragon & Foothills Parkway
44 miles with up to 4,160 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: +4160 ft / -4220 ft

Day 3: Cades Cove Loop
50 miles with up to 3,620 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 will stop at the Lumber Ridge Trail Head parking area where guides prepare lunch while guests can explore the nearby waterfalls and enjoy the short hiking trails. Following lunch we continue the ride over Fighting Creek Gap and Incline Gap to end at the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We then shuttle a short distance to this evening’s lodging in Gatlinsburg.

Elevation Profile: +3620 ft / -3235 ft

Day 4: Hot Springs, TN to Asheville, NC
45 miles with up to 4,250 feet of climbing

After breakfast we shuttle about an hour and half east from Gatlinburg to start today’s ride from the small town of Hot Springs, North Carolina located on the edge of Pisgah National Forest. From here we follow a meandering route into the deep lush forest along a remote twisty road. After the town of Trust, the ride ascends along a five mile Cat 2 climb to top out at Doggett Gap at an elevation of 3,850 feet which is then followed by a nearly eight mile screaming descent down the other side. The remaining 17 miles are a series of rollers as we make our way to Asheville to check into our accommodations and then hit the town for a well deserved meal.

Elevation Profile: +4250 ft / -3420 ft

Day 5: Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville, NC to Balsam Gap
62 miles with up to 7,400 feet of climbing

Starting from downtown Asheville, we ride from our hotel and for the first five miles through the Biltmore Forest to make our way to the Blue Ridge Parkway where we soon find ourselves on an audacious 14 mile HC climb gaining nearly 3,200 feet putting us at nearly a mile in altitude!

We continue the ride along the Parkway enjoying the tremendous views along the way and then stop to have lunch at the Richland Balsam Overlook, the highest point on the Blue Ridge parkway at an altitude of 6,047 feet. After lunch it is a 14 mile descent to our lodging for the night at the Balsam Mountain Inn.

Elevation Profile: +7400 ft / -6300 ft

Day 6: Balsam Gap to Clingsman Dome
51 miles with up to 8,210 feet of climbing

After a hearty breakfast and starting from the Balsam Mountain Inn, we return to the Blue Ridge Parkway to continue our journey towards Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While today’s route is certainly challenging given the amount to climb, it rewards with fantastic vistas in all directions. At around mile point 27, we exit the Parkway and then turn towards our main ascent of the day to the top of Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at 6,643 feet! We’ll have lunch here and marvel in the 100+ miles views. Post lunch we shuttle back to McGhee Tyson Airport near Knoxville to end the tour.

Elevation Profile: +8210 ft / -5190 ft

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.