30 Miles / 1500 Feet of Climbing
With stunning scenery, fun roads, a perfect halfway pitstop, and a farm-to-table lunch at the end, this is just about the perfect ride!
Potential Route Modifications: This route can be lengthened by 10 miles and 1200 feet of climbing, including a challenging climb up Lookout Mountain! Please see "McLemore Cove Loop (Long)" for all the details.
This is just about as perfect a ride as you will find - stunning scenery, fun roads, a perfect halfway pitstop, and a farm-to-table lunch at the end! To set yourself up for lunch at the end, we recommend starting at Pigeon Mountain Grill. (Because the restaurant is not open in the morning, you may need to stop at the Dollar General on your drive to the ride start if you need to use the bathroom prior to the ride.)
From the Pigeon Mountain Grill, head north on 341 for a couple of miles. This road is not heavily trafficked but vehicles may be moving fast, so ride single file on this section. After two miles, turn left onto Halls Mill Road. You will immediately be greeted by a "tractor crossing" sign which means you can relax about the traffic for a while! Watch the pavement though, as the road is not in the best shape.
After a mile and a half on Halls Mill, you'll come to a "T" intersection with Kensington Road, where you'll turn left. This is a nice stretch of road with some picturesque views of farmland with the mountains in the background. A couple of miles after turning onto Kensington Road, you'll come to another "T" intersection with 193.
This is another one of those roads that is not terribly busy but does have some fast-moving vehicles. So again ride single file for the next mile and a half and focus on the farmland scenery off to the right. There's also a great view of Lookout Mountain just before you drop down a fast descent. The descent itself is not overly technical, but keep your speed in check all the same, as you'll need to take a left turn at the bottom of the hill onto Cove Road. (This turn sometimes has gravel at the intersection, so watch your lines carefully as you make the turn.) Be sure to check out the sign at the intersection welcoming you to the Cove. It lists all of the farms in the area and makes for a nice photo op.
After two miles on Cove Road, you'll turn right onto Tatum Road and head straight towards the base of the mountain. This turn comes up quickly as you crest a small hill, so be on the lookout for it. (There's a yellow school bus stop sign right before you get to the turn.)
Tatum is a fun tree-covered road that gives you a nice change of pace from the wide-open farmland that is the hallmark of this ride. The road starts with a straight shot to the base of the mountain and then bends left and runs parallel to it. There are a few openings in the trees that let you know how close you are to Lookout Mountain and give you some great views of the escarpment at the top of the ridge. The other great thing about this road is that once you come over the top of the initial climb (it's not too long), the rest of it is pretty much a gentle downhill, which makes the smooth pavement and easy curves a blast to ride!
Two and a half miles after turning onto Tatum Road, it will bend to the left again and turn away from the mountain. The road actually changes names to Crow Gap Road, but you probably won't even notice. What you will notice is that it goes uphill! After coming over the top of the short climb, the road will drop down and bring you back to Cove Road, where you'll turn right and continue heading south.
From this point, it's pretty much a straight shot to the heart of the cove, with stunning scenery on both sides of the road, with Lookout Mountain on your right and Pigeon Mountain on your left. You may notice that the farther you ride south, the closer the two mountains get to each other. Where they come together is where the cove ends and where you'll head back north. But before you get to that point, you've got to get over the big challenge of the day - a half-mile climb that doesn't look like much but will have you feeling your legs by the time you crest it!
After coming over the top of the climb, you'll be rewarded with a fun downhill that takes you all the way down to the pit stop in the heart of the cove. Stay to the right as you start this descent and you'll pass through a tree-lined section that will have you thinking you're riding in Europe! After passing under the trees you'll drop down into Mountain Cove Farms Resort, which is owned by Walker County and offers camping, cabins and event space. It's a beautiful location for any occasion, and it's also where you'll enjoy a pit stop at the Mountain Cove General store, which will be on your right at Mile 18.8. There's a picnic table and some bike stands in a grassy yard in front of the store where you can relax and stretch after grabbing some snacks and drinks inside. Restrooms are available in the pavilion next door to the general store.
For those who need an extra challenge, continuing south past the general store will take you up a very challenging climb where Lookout Mountain and Pigeon Mountain come together. Climbing to the top and coming back down to the general store adds roughly 5.5 miles and 800 feet of climbing to the route. Please see "McLemore Cove Loop (Long)" for more info on expanding this route.
After your pit stop, head back out the way you came in, which will involve a very short but very steep climb back up to the tree-lined section, guaranteed to wake the legs back up after your break! After passing under the tree-lined section, veer to the right onto Hog Jowl Road. In addition to having one of the best road names out there, this road also offers some incredible scenery riding along the base of Pigeon Mountain, as well as some really fun rollers that trend downhill. It's a truly spectacular section of roadway that sets this ride apart!
Eventually the fun rollers will give way to a few short steep pitches and the scenery will open back up into wide-open farmland with views of Lookout Mountain on your left and Pigeon Mountain on your right. Five and a half miles after leaving the general store, you'll come to a stop sign. Turn right to stay on Hog Jowl and continue north towards the Pigeon Mountain Grill. That's the last turn of the ride, and from that stop sign it's only 4.5 miles to the finish, which always seems to arrive right as you're getting hungry for lunch! Before you get to the four-way stop where the Pigeon Mountain Grill sits, be sure to look for "Saul to Paul" farm on your left. The Grill actually offers burgers using beef from that farm!
When you reach the four-way stop at the end of Hog Jowl Road, use caution entering the parking lot of the Pigeon Mountain Grill. It's all unpaved and the gravel can be thick in some places. So take your time and enjoy your well-earned post-ride lunch!