Out of Town Rides - Road Cycling in Western NC
I often ride out Lakeshore and go down to the river in Woodfin, and then, instead of going north towards Marshall along the river as many riders do, I ride south along the river to the first bridge. I turn right across the river and ride the Old Leicester Highway to the east. This is not flat riding, but, by Asheville standards, it is an easy way to get out of town.
There are several rides I enjoy that start this way. The easiest one is to ride out through the Newfound valley and back. To get to Newfound Rd from Old Leicester, turn left, roughly half a mile past Juno, on Ramsey Rd. About two miles later you cross 63 - the new Leicester Highway which has high speed traffic so be careful! -- and ride on Brookshire Rd for less than a mile to reach Newfound Rd. Turn right on Newfound Rd. It starts out pretty hilly but, a few miles later, it settles down into a nice gentle ride up the beautiful Newfound Valley.
You can do this ride as an out and back or, with more climbing continue on over Newfound Gap and down into Canton - it is about twenty miles to Canton by this route. For a longer ride, you can turn right off of Newfound Rd onto Old Newfound Rd or Morgan Branch Road (more climbing) and ride to Leicester. From Leicester, you can ride back to Old Leicester on 63 or ride Alexander Rd back to 251 and come back into Asheville along the river. At Owltown, the only place on Newfound Rd where you can turn left, take Hooker Gap Rd and climb - a hard climb - over the ridge that separates Newfound Valley from the valley that contains I-40 and US 19. You can ride back into west Asheville by following Hooker Gap, after it becomes Dogwood, under I-40 to US 19, then taking 19 left to Sand Hill Rd - not far - and riding Sand Hill Rd to the Malvern Hills area.
Dogget Gap, Hot Springs and Lake Junaluska
For another really challenging ride, go out Old Leicester to 63, then turn right and ride through Liechester on 63 and continue on into Madison County and climb Dogget Gap. It is 25 miles from my house to Dogget Gap. It makes a nice 50 mile out and back ride. This side of Dogget has two miles of steep (8 - 10% grade) climbing. The other side is a longer, much gentler, hill down to 209. If you turn right on 209, you can ride to Hot Springs. If you turn left, you can ride to Lake Junaluska. The riding is spectacular both ways. The ride to Lake Junaluska goes over two more gaps on 209 and you can come back from Lake Junaluska on Lee Rd to Clyde. Old Clyde Rd to Canton and Newfound Rd to Asheville. it is an 85 mile loop with over 8000 feet of climbing through some of the prettiest country in the USA.
Ride Around the Black Mountains
Another challenging ride is to go east through Black Mountain and Old Fort to near Marion and then to ride NC 80 up to and over the Parkway to Micaville, before riding back through Burnsville on 19 E and Barnardsville on NC 197. See my Ride Around The Black Mountains for more info on this ride. you could also ride N 80 up to the Parkway and ride the Parkway back to Asheville which is a shorter trip with more climbing. If you need to add some additional challenge to that ride, just ride up to the top of Mt Mitchell on the way back to Asheville!
Forks of Ivy
The direct route out of town going north on Bus 19 - aka Merrimon Ave - is not very popular with local bicyclists, but it is a easy way to get to a lot of nice riding in the area north and east of Weaverville. My favorite easy riding starts at Forks of Ivy - about an hours ride or 15 minute drive - north of Asheville and goes to along the Paint Fork valley in Madison County. You can read about how to get there by bike in my Asheville to the Bicycle Inn web page. By car, just head north on 19/23 and exit at the Forks of Ivy Exit. You can leave your car at the Forks of Ivy shopping center and ride north and east towards Paint Gap. See the web page for the details. That route also goes along Jacks Creek, which is another beautiful, and relatively easy to ride, valley near Burnsville.
The first 30 miles of the route given in this web page is also my starting route for riding to Tennessee. I think the best riding in NC is in the counties along the TN-NC border and, from Asheville, most of my rides start by going north on Bus 19, and all but one of those follow the first 30 miles of my route to the Bicycle Inn. The ones that don't start that way, go out through Leicester, over Dogget Gap, and north or south on NC 209 which parallels the TN/NC border.
Here are five good ways to bicycle over the TN border from Asheville:
- Go via Hotsprings - use the Dogget gap route above, or ride on US 25. US 25 is not bad riding, but truck traffic can be a problem on some of its, very curvy, sections.
- Go over Spivey Gap (US 19 w - the easiest way) Follow the Bike Inn route to US 19, cross it and turn left on old US 19, turn right on 19 W or follow the Bike Inn route to the Toe river, turn left and follow the roads along the rivers to US 19 W north of Ramsey Town.
- Go over Indian Grave Gap (NC 197) This is very steep on NC side. Follow the Bike Inn route to the Toe river, turn left and follow the road along the river to 197 N.
- Go over Iron Mountain Gap (NC 226) from Red Hill. this is very pretty on NC side. Follow the Bike Inn route to Red Hill, then go west on 226.
- Go over Roan Mountain (NC 261) The has the most climbing and the most interesting riding on the TN side. Follow the Bike Inn route to Bakersville, then turn west on 261. For a really long - ~150 miles - and challenging day ride, ride over one gap, I recommend going over Spivey Gap, and coming back over another gap. I've done Spivey and Iron Mountain which is the shortest ride. See my A January ride over two passes between NC and TN web page.
If you want to ride over Roan Mountain, and you should ;-}, I suggest you stay at the Bicycle Inn and do their Roan Moan ride which goes over Iron Mountain Gap and comes back over the Roan. The Bike Inn is also a good base for lots of other rides - from gentle to quite challenging - in this, most beautiful, part of North Carolina.