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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Ok, I narrowed down the area I am going to be cycling next week; blue ridge parkway and likely shenandoah parkway. I am going to be based out of norther Georgia for the week, but I plan on taking some day trips to go ride and / or overnight trips (hotel).

I have motorcycled the parkway in the past and gone up to Deals Gap, etc... but what I need help on is I'd like to find some areas of the Parkway that might be easy to loop around another road to head back to my starting point or possibly somewhere I can park the car at, ie Ashville, and be able to ride up the parkway for a day, stay overnight at a hotel, and bike back to the car the next day.. I'd like to keep my rides between 20-40, maybe 50 miles per day max. I have to keep in mind the inclines.

Any ideas or suggestions? I see a lot of rides online but they are multi day rides from one end to the other of the parkway.

Any suggestions?
 

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On many parts of the Parkway, the side roads are much steeper than the Parkway itself. I like one day out and back rides on the Parkway. I get to see the outbound downhill's scenery when I'm climbing them on the way back.

I'm guessing that most motels that are near the BRP are often booked up in the summer.

Climbs on the BRP are "mostly" 6% or less. There's a few 8% and 9% sections occasionally. I have a heart rate monitor, so I use it to keep from pushing too hard on the climbs. I can climb for hours at 140 bpm, but if I get up to 150, I'll need to slow down and recover.

I find big BRP climbs are easier compared to the 300 foot, 1 mile long climbs at home. I'm not pushing hard to reach the top, I'm just maintaining a steady pace and enjoying the ride. A 1500 foot climb just isn't 5 times as hard as a 300 footer at home.

I need at least a water refill if I'm on a long ride. Water and food stops are rare on the BRP, so I often try to ride to one of the few visitor centers on the BRP.

On all my hilly BRP solo rides, I usually average about 12 mph, not including stops at overlooks. That's 5-6 mph on steeper climbs, 30-40 mph downhill!
Here's a ridewithgps chart from my Richland-Pisgah Inn ride. On the top chart,see 44 minutes at 6 mph, and the bottom shows average grade of 5.6% for that speed.

There's very little time spent on flat parts of the ride.




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Some tunnels are curved, and very dark. It's spooky and very hard to ride when you can't see the road surface at all. Maybe walk those tunnels or bring a light.

Summer brings popup thunderstorms. A rain jacket is a good idea. The forecast was for 20% chance of rain the day I rode from Asheville to Mt Mitchell. I got rained on twice.
 

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Routes (on these maps, pull down the Maps list and checkmark Terrain, then zoom in)

Doubletop to Pisgah Inn
Here's my favorite ride on the BRP. 53 miles from Doubletop Overlook up to Richland Balsam at 6050 feet, then up and down to a lunch stop at the Pisgah Inn. This is 53 miles and 7000 feet of climbing, but the ride has downhills mixed in with the climbs. The hardest climb is about 1200 feet at 7% grade on the way back.
Or start up at Richland to skip the first 4 mile, 800 foot climb. The reverse route, Pisgah Inn to Richland Balsam, has the biggest climbs on the first half, so the return is easier. But there's no water available except at the Pisgah Inn.

This ride is along the ridge, with alternating views off each side.

See my slide show of this route


(The Pisgah Inn has good, affordable breakfast, and the dining room has amazing views across the valley.

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Mt Mitchell is the highest peak in the eastern US, about 6500 feet. Route 128, from the BRP to the overlook at the top of the mountain, is 4 miles and 1300 feet, with 8% grades on the bottom half. Low gears are good here! There's a restaurant a mile from the top of Mt Mitchell.

Craggy Gardens to Mt Mitchell, then to Black Mountains overook. 40 miles and 6000 feet of climbing. It's worth it.

or just Craggy Gardens to Black Mountains overlook, 30 miles and 4000 feet.

Craggy Gardens visitor center has great views. The route goes up to Mt Mitchell, down hill on the BRP, then climbs to the top of the next uphill to an overlook up to Mt Mitchell. The last leg is up and down.

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I also did this Asheville to Mt Mitchell and back ride. It's 60 miles and 8000 feet of climbing. But the 10 mile 2700 foot climb (starting at mile 7) has very few overlook stops, and there can be a fair amount of traffic. Still, it's interesting to attempt. I'd rather drive up to Craggy Gardens and ride from there.

(I actually got tired of coasting downhill on that 10 mile section!)
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Farther north, Moses Cone to Linn Cove Viaduct

This is an "easier" 22 mile round trip from Moses Cone Visitor Center to the famous Linn Cove Viaduct bridge. The main climb is about 1000 feet.

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Much farther north, at the NC-Virginia border,
Cumberland Gap picnic area to Doughton Park cafe and back. 47 miles and 4000 feet of climbing. The return leg has a lot of downhill. (The cafe was closed the last time I was there, but the restrooms should be open, and there's a small store there too)

This ride starts in rolling forest, then crosses farm fields before climbing up to the cafe. It's very scenic.

See the slide show
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the time to respond, lots of good info. I guess it isn't so bad doing the trips out and back each day at different spots. I'll have to look more into this
 

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Great route suggestions from rm-rf. A few suggestions, which have already been hinted at.
- Bring a headlight and taillight for your bike. Not only are the tunnels long and dark, but the National Park Service requires it.
- Carry plenty of water and fill up at any opportunities. There are not many services along the parkway and places to get water can be few and far between.
- The roads leading up to and crossing the parkway are steeper and in many cases longer climbs than you will encounter on the actual parkway.
- The pavement on the parkway is not the smoothest and the road doesn't have much (if any) paved shoulder. Don't be afraid to take some of the lane. Tires that are 25 mm or larger will be much more comfortable even if marginally heavier.
- Traffic generally is much heavier on weekends. Time your trip for the weekdays if possible.
 

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I don't know how far north you plan to get. Remember the parkway goes well into Virginia :)

One nice loop you can do out of Buena Vista VA is:

South: 60 to BRP, south the 130 (or 501), and back into BV. Or go a little farther down past Peaks of Otter and take 43 into Buchannan. It's trickier to get back to BV from there, but we actually just did that on Monday during Bike Virginia. You should be able to find the route on ridewithgps.

North: 60 to BRP, south to where 56 crosses, head down the STEEP road to Vesuvius, and then back into BV via South River road.
 
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