30 Miles / 1900 Feet of Climbing
Warm up the legs with a beautiful loop through the lower Sequatchie Valley before taking on a two-mile climb up Sequatchie Mountain followed by an exhilarating descent into Jasper!
Potential Route Modifications: Make this ride 34 miles by visiting Sequatchie Cove Farm on Coppinger Cove Road.
This ride combines a rolling tour of the lower Sequatchie Valley with a challenging climb up the ridge on the west side of the valley, providing a little bit of everything (including an incredible descent!) in just a few hours.
The ride starts in Jasper on the southern end of Sequatchie Valley. Jasper is named for William Jasper, a South Carolina war hero from the American Revolution, and was founded in 1820 as the Marion County seat on land granted by Betsy Pack, the daughter of a Cherokee chief. (You’ll ride a short portion of Betsy Pack Drive on this route.) The County Courthouse in the main square off of Main Street was built in 1925, and the building that now serves as the Jasper City Hall (just southeast of the courthouse) is the old train depot dating back to the 1920’s.
We recommend parking at Las Margaritas, a Mexican restaurant off of Main Street, which gives you easy access to the quiet neighborhood streets of Jasper to start the ride, and also gives you easy access to great food and drinks after the ride! You might also consider a post-ride meal at McElroy’s Riverside BBQ, Cafe 41, and the Snack Shack.
If you start your ride before Las Margaritas is open, there is an Exxon station across the street that has a restroom. (As is always the case, making a small purchase in exchange for use of the restroom is good cycling etiquette.)
After leaving Las Margaritas, you’ll roll through neighborhood streets eventually working your way over to Betsy Pack Drive, which becomes Valley View Highway after you pass through the big four-way stop at Highway 41. After a couple of miles on Valley View Highway, you’ll turn right onto Mel Dixon Lane at the Pine Grove Cemetery.
Mel Dixon Lane will take you to Highway 28, which is the primary north-south roadway that runs down the middle of the Sequatchie Valley. Anyone wanting to get anywhere in a hurry will use this roadway, which thankfully takes a lot of traffic off of the other north-south roads in the Valley. After crossing Highway 28, you’ll take a left onto Francis Spring Road. This is a fun road with a mix of shaded tree-covered sections and open farm scenery. Francis Spring Road will also give your legs a good warm-up with a series of punchy rollers!
At roughly Mile 8.5, you’ll take a right onto Caroline Chapel Road. Pay attention to your odometer, because this road does not have a street sign. Half a mile later, you’ll turn right onto Inman Road which runs straight over to Griffith Highway where you’ll take a left. Griffith Highway is the primary north-south roadway on the east side of the valley. It’s not as heavily traveled as Highway 28 which runs down the center of the valley, but you’ll still want to watch for vehicles along this stretch of road.
A few miles later, just past Mile 11, you’ll take a left onto Ketner Mill Lane. Again, this road is unmarked, so you’ll need to keep an eye on your odometer. Ketner Mill Lane is a beautiful little tree-lined road, but it does have some rough pavement. The peaceful setting of this country lane is well worth the bumpy ride, but do keep an eye out for potholes.
As the name suggests, Ketner Mill Lane will take you to Ketner’s Mill, which dates back to the 1880’s and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The mill was originally used for grinding grain and sawing lumber. While the sawmill ceased operations in 1955, the gristmill continued until 1992. Now the mill only operates once a year in October at the annual Ketner’s Mill Country Arts Fair, which started in 1977. The old building and dam give a glimpse into the history of Sequatchie Valley and are definitely worth a photo stop!
Continuing along Ketner Mill Lane will take you to Ketner Mill Road, where you’ll take a left. This roadway cuts east-west across the Valley and will bring you back to Hwy 28. After crossing Hwy 28, Ketner Mill Road eventually intersects with Valley View Highway, which runs parallel to Hwy 28 on the west side of the valley. (Look for the goats on your left just before you reach Valley View Highway!)
A left turn on Valley View Highway will have you heading south back towards Jasper. Like its counterpart on the east side of the valley (Griffith Highway), Valley View Highway is the main north-south roadway on the west side of the valley, so keep an eye out for passing vehicles on this stretch of road.
If you want a little more mileage and diversion before taking on the big climb of the day, take a right on Coppinger Cove Road around Mile 18.5 for an out-and-back side trip totalling four miles. (Look for the Coppinger Cove Baptist Church sign on the right side of Valley View Highway.) Head up this road a couple of miles and it will take you right to Sequatchie Cove Farm. In addition to beautiful scenery and fun farm animal viewing, Sequatchie Cove Farm also has a little store (the “Trading Post”) where you can purchase farm-fresh vegetables as well as grass-fed beef and other meat products. You can also purchase cheese made next door at Sequatchie Cove Creamery, which is without a doubt some of the best cheese you will ever taste! Consider a visit to Sequatchie Cove Farm on your bike a scouting mission and plan a return trip with your car to load up on all the goods!
You might also check out the Trials Training Center after leaving Sequatchie Cove Farm. (It’s on the right side of the road as you’re leaving Sequatchie Cove Farm and heading back to Valley View Highway.) The Center is primarily for motorcycles, but they also have an incredibly challenging (i.e. very steep and very technical) downhill mountain bike course. Cabins and campsites are also available at the Center if you’re considering an overnight visit to this part of Sequatchie Valley.
Back on Valley View Highway just past Coppinger Cove (around Mile 19 if you skip the Sequatchie Cove visit), you’ll take a right onto Park Street just as you enter the little town of Sequatchie. Park Street does not have a street sign, but there is a marker for the Sequatchie Cave State Natural Area at this turn. Less than a quarter mile up Park Street you’ll see the cave and spring. Both are charming, but the main attraction here is the natural air conditioning immenating from the cave! Be sure to step down from the parking area and walk over towards the mouth of the cave. The drop in temperature is impressive - and refreshing!
After the Sequatchie Cave rest stop, you’ll be ready to take on Sequatchie Mountain Road, which is literally a block away from the park. The climb is a full two miles of double-digit grades, typically hovering between 10% and 12%. The pavement is rough in parts, but at a slow climbing pace the bumpy pavement is hardly noticeable. It is also well-shaded with lots of tree cover. And in the wetter months there are usually a couple of small springs flowing out of the cut banks on the right side of the road, which offer a nice distraction to the unrelenting grade! The two-mile climb officially ends with a sharp bend to the left that takes you out of the tree tunnel. However, that doesn’t mean that the road will head downhill or even flatten out; it just means that the hard part is over!
Sequatchie Mountain Road continues for another three miles until it reaches Hwy 150. (Please note that the road bends to the left at Mile 24, about half a mile before reaching Hwy 150, so be sure to stay left rather than veering right onto Lower Firetower Road.) Sequatchie Mountain Road “T’s” into Hwy 150, and you’ll take a left onto the highway, which almost immediately launches you onto the descent down to Jasper. However, if you feel the need for a rest stop after conquering Sequatchie Mountain Road, pop into the Mountain Mart directly across Hwy 150 at the “T” intersection. The Mountain Mart is a great store with clean restrooms and plenty of refreshments.
The descent down Hwy 150 is a fitting reward for such a tough climb, with three and a half miles of pure downhill joy! The grade is steep enough to reach high speeds (well into the 30’s and 40’s), but the curves are not so sharp that you have to ride the breaks. There are also some nice views at the upper part of the descent, especially looking off to the right. Descend at whatever speed you are comfortable with and keep in mind that no matter how fast you may be going, the vehicles on the highway will be going faster. So definitely stay on the right side of the road rather than swinging wide on the curves.
As the grade levels out, look for Mayfair Avenue on the right side. You’ll see it shortly after Castle Rock Baptist Church. Once you’re on Mayfair Avenue, you can cool down with a slow roll through the neighborhoods of Jasper back to Las Margaritas where you can toast your climbing conquest with cervezas and margaritas and fine Mexican cuisine!