|12-13-2014, 01:19 PM||#1|
Joined: Jan 2008
Location: North Carolina Sandhills
Dandridge, TN to Mountain Trails & Twisties
Dandridge to Mountain Trails & Twisties Planning Notes
(printable version here)
**I keep having issues with my pictures loading from Google, so many of the great pictures may not show up :(
I haven't found a good post that details a lot of the roads & sights where I-40 meets the TN/NC border, so I thought I'd create this for everyone.
This is my first thread, so bear with me as I figure this out. I have a lot more pics and videos to add in time. These photos are from a ride I made last year and a ride that Dad and I took this Thanksgiving.
I created this route as a go-to for when I go home to visit my family. If you enjoy twisty asphalt, gravel roads, and a few trails, you’ll find this is a good mix of all. In general, this route favors riders on bigger adventure bikes that can cover longer distances on roads. Folks on lighter, lower-geared bikes may not have fun on the long twisty asphalt sections. With that said, don’t underestimate the difficulty of some of the trails. A few quick pointers before heading out:
1. I created “legs” of the trip so you can choose the difficulty you want. The ratings are based on someone riding a fully loaded big bike at an intermediate skill level. Little bikes will not have an issue anywhere on this route.
-Easy, All street (one section of gravel).All easy parts have been ridden on a Harley Road King. You could link all the easy legs on a street bike and have a fun day.
-Moderate- Mostly gravel roads and light trails.
-Hard- These are mainly wide trails/forest service roads that may have a steep section, rocky part, or deep water crossing. Bigger bikes will be challenged. (I’ve ridden all of these on my GS in the snow and ice, so they’re definitely doable.)
2. GPS & Navigation
-Some of the tracks were created from actually riding the route and some I just created online using Google maps. When out on the ride, trust your common sense- not the GPS. I ALWAYS print & bring a paper map as well.
-If you don’t have a stand-alone GPS, the route works decent on the iPhone with the MotionX GPS app. If choosing this, pre-download your map tile sets at home (I’d use size 11-15 of the MotionX terrain maps; they have the FS roads).
-Remember that some GPS units will auto-trim down the size of the files to save disk space. In doing so, the fidelity of the tracks may be lost. Again, use common sense when traveling and don’t trust the GPS.
3. Cell phone reception is spotty in the mountains. As you get near I-40 or any of the towns, reception will improve.
4. Please tread lightly and obey Forest Service rules. There are many off-shoot trails, improvised routes, and “sort-of” public land places all along this route. (Pay attention to Leg 5 Moderate.)
5. Depending on how you choose your path, this will definitely take all day in the summer to ride if you start in Dandridge, ride the hard routes, go to Hot Springs, and return. (And that’s starting around 0700 and finishing near 2100). If your group likes to stop and take pictures or just maybe has a few novices, I’d cut out Hot Springs. If riding in the winter or just wanting to eliminate most of the road sections, I’d start in Hartford, TN and join the route at Leg 2. Otherwise, split the route in half and camp overnight midway.
Start- Dandridge, TN
Begin at the second oldest town in Tennessee near the old courthouse. I recommend meeting up at the parking lot waypoint, “The Dike that Saved Dandridge”.
You will have stunning views of Douglas Lake, the green bridge, and English Mountain. If you need a place to leave a truck & trailer, the Pilot at exit 417 is a pretty good place (it’s a marked waypoint in the file).
Leg 1 (easy, 99% street/twisties) 41.2 miles
This route will take you south on the curvy asphalt HWY 92 to the community of Chestnut Hill (home of Bush’s Beans but you’ll be detoured around this). You will pass a few lake access points along HWY 92 where you can ride your bike down to the lakeshore. Also along the way is the Blowing Cave Mill just before the Forbidden Caverns.
Alpine drive, recently repaved, will snake its way atop of English Mountain. Stop for photos/scenic views at the top. At the bottom, you will pick up Jones Cove road, another fun twisty back road. After a short jaunt on HWY 321, you will take HWY 32 into the Smoky Mountains. This road is VERY curvy and will be dangerous if there are leaves covering it (it’s on the north side of the mountain and doesn’t dry out quickly). Here's a good thread by KYwoodsrider that has a lot of good pictures. The last mile or so of this road is graded gravel (keep in mind if you’re on street bike and that concerns you).
Choose a Leg 2:
Leg 2 Shortcut. If you take the shortcut back to Hartford, you can swing by the Waterville exit power house. In the summer, this is where the white-water rafting crews drop off into the river.
Leg 2 (moderate, gravel roads) 8.6 miles
This track is all gravel that snakes up into the mountains and back down. While the riding is pretty bland on the gravel, there are a few neat campsites and streams along the way. The track was near solid ice when we made our way down, so it was anything but boring for us.
Leg 2 (hard, gravel & trail) 5.7 miles (This way is a lot more fun and scenic; take it if you can make it!)
This track takes you down a gravel forest service road where you’ll cross a shallow & wide water crossing. You’ll wind your way back to few neat campsites. I’ve routed the trail up a dead end path, where you’ll find a neat hidden waterfall running over dam/aquaduct. This concrete structure is part of an overall 6.2 mile long tunnel that connects Walters Dam to the hydroelectric plant several miles downstream.
(See the commentary a few posts down by dwheil or click here or here).
Once back down the path, you’ll cross a stream and have a steep & very rocky climb out.
The water level here varies a lot so be careful. Once across the stream, the forest service road becomes more of a wide trail. It has a few steep climb sections, ruts, and rocks. Novice big bike riders will be challenged on this section. If it’s muddy, street tires will struggle to climb this trail.
(Here's a pic of Dad once we reached the top. It was a challenge in the snow and ice.)
Leg 2a shortcut (cuts out 2-5) 5.8 miles
If you have to cut your day short or if you want lunch now, this will take you straight back to Hartford, TN via the interstate. There’s food, gas, and cell reception in Hartford.
Leg 3 (gravel & interstate) 12.0
This track starts as a gravel road. After a few miles, stop at Buzzard’s Roost Overlook on the left (it’s a marked waypoint).
This track then winds down the mountain and across the Pigeon River at a small dam.
You’ll pick up I-40 East for about 5 miles. If your bike can only do 45-50 mph comfortably, don’t worry, you’ll be fine on the interstate for a few miles. There’s a rest stop on the interstate if you need snacks, drinks, or a clean toilet.
This track ends on the side of the interstate. There is no sign or off-ramp for your exit. Be extremely careful!
Choose a Leg 4:
Leg 4 (easy, all street, very twisty) 31.4 miles
This route continues along the interstate and gets off at the Fines Creek exit and takes you to HWY 209 (aka “The Rattler”). This is a very fun road if you’re into twisty roads. I’d argue it’s as good, if not much better than the Tail of the Dragon, as it’s devoid of most of the idiots and anyone else. This track ends in Hot Springs, NC.
Leg 4 (moderate; gravel & trail to twisty asphalt) 31.5 miles
This route starts on a gravel forest service road/path and makes its way to HWY 209 as above. It’s not very difficult, but it’s fairly scenic.
Leg 4 (some difficulty, Interstate to Hurricane Creek then gravel) 33.5 miles
In short, this is the best part of the whole route. It would be a huge miss if you didn’t take this track at least up to Max Patch. This route will put you westbound on I-40 for about 5 miles until you reach Hurricane Creek. This track ends on the side of the interstate. There is no sign or off-ramp for your exit. Be extremely careful!
The exit is right behind the white speed limit sign.
Hurricane Creek is a fun, scenic forest service road that winds its way up to the top of the mountain. There are a few deep stream crossings along the way. Check the depth before each crossing. It can be a few inches or a few feet, and you’re a long way from home.
Here's the first water crossing
(Here's Dad making the 1st crossing on his KTM on Thanksgiving. The water level was pretty low compared to my past times riding it. This crossing is usually the deepest and longest, and it's about a mile up the trail. If you can make this, you should be good the rest of the way up.)
(I believe this was the 3rd water crossing. I took the pic right after a lot of rain. The front wheel was completely covered when I crossed on the far side of this picture.)
(Easy on the throttle when you go up. It's a long way down if you mess up!)
(We were both having a hard time getting traction near the top of the mountain on the gravel road. Below the snow was a layer of ice. I had to let my air pressure down to 4 psi just to get any bite!)
There are a few campsites along the way as well. At the top, this path will take you via gravel road to Max Patch bald.
If you have time, hike up. it only takes about 15-20 minutes to hike up, and it’s well worth it. The Appalachian Trail crosses the top of the bald.
Once done, the track winds its way down the mountains via gravel roads to HWY 209. You’ll have a few miles of this twisty stuff before you hit Hot Springs.
***If you don’t want to go to Hot Springs (or don't have time), continue on Leg 5 moderate or Leg 4a shortcut. Both routes will take you back to Hartford.
Leg 4a shortcut (Harmon Den to I-40 to Hartford) 17.5 miles
This routes you down to I-40 via Harmon Den road (a gravel road). You’ll then take I-40 westbound for a few miles to Hartford.
Leg 5 (moderate, gravel to Wolf Creek to Hartford) 30.0 miles
This will take you via gravel to Wolf Creek Falls then to Hartford. (I generated this with Google Maps, not from riding). Near the intersection of Wolf Creek Road, there should be a sign saying “No motor vehicles” where the road turns into single-track. Hike down to Wolf Creek Falls if you have time.
(This is a photo from the internet; it's not mine).
(***I haven’t hiked or rode Wolf Creek Road in many years, but others have. (Click here for a recent ride report). I personally know riders who’ve ridden the entire road/trail. There isn’t a sign at the bottom saying you can’t ride the trail, but at the top there is. It’s a lot like Hurricane Creek with numerous water crossings and obstacles. It is my understanding that most of the trail/road is legal to ride, but not the single-track/hiking portion. I didn't see anything on the Cherokee National Forest website about it either. Maybe someone else who knows more can comment.)
Hot Springs, NC
There are a few good diners, gas, etc. here in town. This is great place to stop.
Leg 5 (easy, all street) 29.8 miles.
This is a leisurely ride back to Hartford via asphalt back roads.
The best place, hands down, is the Bean Trees Café.
Eat good food and drink beer on the patio over the river. There is also gas and good cell reception as well. (I seem to recall they had wi-fi as well, but I could be mistaken. It’s been a while).
Leg 6, (easy, all street) 45.8
This is a fun way back to Dandridge. You’ll start on I-40 west and take the FootHills Parkway (a scenic mountain road). After that, wind your way behind English Mountain along Jones Cove road. Towards the end, you’ll come near Douglas Dam. If you have the time, stop and see the both the floodwaters and the overlook.
It's pretty rare for the TVA to open the flood gates, but when they do it's impressive.
View from the overlook
Finally, you’ll hit HWY 139 back to Dandridge for the last 9 miles. This road is a blast of long sweepers. I ended the route on Graveyard Alley. Tourists always seem to find this to be a neat road. Once in Dandridge, I plotted The Point restaurant if you’re looking for food & drinks (it’s back across the green bridge). You can eat out on the patio there.
I'll have some videos up soon enough of the snow ride up Hurricane Creek. There’s a whole lot more riding out in this neck of the woods, but this is my first file I’ve released to the public, so I’ve kept it short. Please send any suggestions or comments you have and enjoy.
Rave screwed with this post 01-26-2015 at 08:14 PM
|12-13-2014, 03:25 PM||#2|
Joined: Jan 2006
Location: Baneberry, TN
Looks like an interesting thread. I lived in Dandridge for a couple of years and moved out to White Pine. I found a few ways to head to NC but mostly by roads.
Riding season is finally getting in gear!<br><br>Pat<br>aka Geeeze
|12-19-2014, 07:17 PM||#3|
Joined: Sep 2012
Hey Rave. That "splash dam" as you called it is actually the aqueduct tube that carries the water from the lake above the welcome center on Interstate 40 down to the Waterville Dam. That is the only place it is above ground. Quite amazing.
|12-19-2014, 08:24 PM||#4|
Joined: Jan 2008
Location: North Carolina Sandhills
That makes a lot more sense. I was researching hard trying to figure it out, and I could only find splash dams from the early 1900s. They were all over up in that area, but mostly made from wood. Lit looked like a few might have been made from concrete.
Anyhow, thanks for the info I'll update the thread accordingly.
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