East Tennessee’s Forgotten Mountain Biking Destination

Up and up, and the trail turns onto a long-gated forest road, then turns again onto a stretch of glorious, hand-cut singletrack which has been here since long before anyone in this corner of the world thought to ride bikes in the middle of the woods. It’s rockier now, though hardly what you’d call technical terrain, and both sides of the trail are lined with deep green rhododendron. I can smell the freshly-fallen leaves, that early-autumn smell, and there are no sounds except for the wind and my own labored breathing, and…

…wait. Why is no one else here?

I’m riding at the Chilhowee Recreation Area , at the western edge of the Cherokee National Forest, and this is the story of Chilhowee mountain biking these days. Ten or twelve years ago, this was the closest place to ride for Chattanooga mountain bikers. Now, it’s overshadowed by its well-known neighbor at the Ocoee Whitewater Center, and Chattanooga’s riders no longer need to drive an hour for real dirt to sink their tires into.

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