Mountain Biking in Gatlinburg: The Ultimate Guide

Mountain Biking in Gatlinburg: The Ultimate Guide

With some of the highest elevations in the Southeast, it’s no surprise that mountain biking in Gatlinburg is a popular pastime for area outdoor enthusiasts. With a variety of options from beginner to advanced the Greater Gatlinburg area in both Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina feature a huge array of mountain biking trails that climb mountain-top ridge lines, hug winding curves, and offer a thrill like no other!

Bike Trails in the Smoky Mountains

Though the Great Smoky Mountains National Park does not “technically” have any mountain bike trails in the park, and biking on hiking trails is not permitted, there are several multi-use trails that offer fun and scenic rides for the beginner mountain bikers in your group.

1. Cades Cove Loop Road


A popular hiking trail near Gatlinburg, this 11-mile one-way trail offers riders a closer view of the enchanting mountain valley of Cades Cove. Bikers can view wildlife, visit historic buildings, and just enjoy the majesty of riding through this scenic bowl in the Great Smoky Mountains. For mountain bikers there are three options that spur off of Cades Cove Loop Road.

  • Sparks Lane and Hyatt Lane: shorten the loop and take you off the main 11-mile trail.
  • Rich Mountain Road: Just past Hyatt lane: For more adventurous and experienced mountain bikers. This path will take riders up a steep climb on a gravel road to the park boundary at Rich Mountain Gap. This route is 7-miles one way.
  • Forge Creek Road/Parsons Branch Road: Again for the seasoned mountain biker, there is the Forge Creek Road/Parsons Branch Road option. This gravel road, located just past the Cades Cove Visitors Center, leads bikers up a steep 5.4 climb to the crest of Hannah Mountain.

If you are visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from the second weekend in May and to the second to last weekend in September be sure to bike Cades Cove Loop on Wednesdays and Saturday mornings when the loop is closed to automobiles.

2. Gatlinburg Trail

An easy trail better suited for a beginner mountain biker, the Gatlinburg Trail runs for 1.9 miles each way from the Sugarlands Visitor Center in Gatlinburg along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. This trail offers riders the peaceful presence of a mountain river in addition to several old historic foundations and chimneys to view.

3. Oconaluftee River Trail

This trail travels for 1.5 miles each way from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center to the outskirts of the City of Cherokee, NC. The Oconaluftee River Trail rolls over some small hills and winds through forests and along parts of the Oconaluftee River. The trail is mostly flat, making it a perfect family-friendly attraction near Gatlinburg.

4. Deep Creek Trail

Considered one of the most beautiful rides in the area, and family-friendly, Deep Creek Trail follows along crystal clear Deep Creek. Out and back, the trail is 4.5 miles.

5. Indian Creek Trail


This trail located outside Bryson City, NC part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park rolls along the beautiful and tumbling falls of Deep Creek. Mountain Bikers are permitted to stay on Deep Creek and Indian Creek Trails until the roadbeds end and the trail treads begin. The trail is nearly all uphill but the return trip is all downhill.

6. Greenbriar

This scenic road/trail begins at Greenbriar, 6 miles East of Gatlinburg, near the Town of Pittman Center. Mountain Bikers can park at the Rangers Station just after turning onto Greenbriar Road and follow this road up 1 mile until it turns into gravel. From there the gravel road winds up the mountain along the scenic Porters Creek and through dense forest for an additional 5 miles to the Porters Creek and Ramsey Cascades trailhead, where you can access one of the best waterfalls in the Smokies. Mountain Biking is not permitted on these trails. Additionally, this picturesque area is a great place to have a picnic in Gatlinburg, making it an ideal destination for nature enthusiasts and families looking to enjoy the outdoors.

Bike Trails Outside The Smoky Mountains 

  • Tsali Recreation Area Trail System: Located about an hour from the Smoky Mountains, Tsali is a mountain biker’s dream. The park features a 42-mile network of multi-use trails with a  variety of landscapes and trail types to choose from.
  • DuPont Forest: Located about two hours away from Gatlinburg, DuPont State Recreational Forest offers over 100 miles of unique multi-use trails. 
  • Pisgah National Forest: With over 245 miles of trails, this national forest contains breathtaking waterfalls, hardwood forests, steep ridgelines, whitewater rivers, and numerous trails. 
  • Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness: Just up the road from Gatlinburg, Knoxville’s unique Urban Wilderness Trail is something not to miss. This wilderness area includes ten parks, features over forty miles of recreational trails, and diverse ecological features in addition to other recreational amenities. These trails are great for mountain bikers, from beginner to advanced levels.

Climb Works

CLIMB Works offers zipline canopy tours in addition to mountain biking instruction/tours on their own private trail. The state-of-the-art CLIMB Works Flow Trail features a two-mile green flow trail, practice loop and pump track, with an extensive, purpose built trail system in sight. The trail is packed with rollers, logs, bridges, and berms, and features the state-of-the-art section called “The Curliest”. All are rideable for beginners, and fun for experts.

Nestled in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, Elk Springs Resort provides an ideal base for outdoor enthusiasts looking to explore the area’s many biking trails. While the Great Smoky Mountains National Park does not technically have designated mountain biking trails, there are still several multi-use trails available for riders of all skill levels in the Greater Gatlinburg area and surrounding areas. From the family-friendly Gatlinburg Trail to the challenging Indian Creek Trail, these routes provide an opportunity to experience the stunning natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains on two wheels. Whether you’re a seasoned mountain biker or a beginner, the variety of options available makes Gatlinburg a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts seeking adventure and excitement.