31 Miles / 3000 Feet of Climbing
Get the best of both worlds on this super scenic (and hilly!) ride that offers gorgeous gravel riding followed by a gentle downhill on pavement.
This route features very long sustained gravel climbs with the reward of peaceful, slightly downhill tarmac for miles along the the banks of the Tellico river.
The best place to start this ride is at the Oosterneck Overlook. It's a nice parking area right on the Tellico River that is right next to where the Cherohala Skyway intersects with River Road. After turning onto River Road, follow it three quarters of a mile until you see the Tellico ranger station.
Directly across from the ranger station is a bridge across the river. After crossing the bridge, the road turns to gravel and launches you onto your first long climb of the day. While not 100% uphill, the climb will last around 9 miles. So pace yourself and enjoy the views!
One of the best views in this area is from the fire tower at Waucheesi Bald. It requires more climbing to get there, but the side trip is worth it in order to see the incredible 360-degree view! (Rather than immediately dropping down the hill after making it to the top of the climb at mile 9.5, take a right and climb another mile and a half to the tower.)
Whether you go to the fire tower, you'll enjoy a lengthy downhill after the never-ending first climb! The downhill bottoms out around the Holy Flats Campground, which, as the name indicates is in a relatively flat section of trail.
Of course, "flat" is a relative term in this part of the world, and it won't be long before you're climbing again. The second long climb on this route is over 3 miles, but it's more gradual than the first one and won't feel quite as intense.
Once you crest that climb at around mile 15.5, you're pretty much done with climbing for the day. After another mile and a half, you'll also be done with gravel as you return to the pavement of the River Road. Take a left when you hit the pavement and you'll be heading downhill all the way back to the start!
Before you make the turn, you might consider a quick side trip to the Tellico Trout Hatchery. Instead of turning left on the River Road, turn right and head uphill for about a mile. It's a lot of fun to see the trout (including albino rainbow trout) and they have a nice deck overlooking the river that makes for a nice photo op.
Once you start heading down, be sure to stop at the Green Cove Angler Store for drinks and snacks. From the store, it's 13 miles back to the start, with a memorable photo stop at the 90-foot Bald River Falls along the way!