Distance: 40+ miles
Rating:moderate to strenuous
Elevation: 815' to 3100'
Surface: dirt/gravel
Maps: USGS Quadrangles: Citico: Rafter and White Oak Flats; upper Tellico: Bald River Falls, Big Junction, and Santeelah plus various maps are available from the Cherokee National Forest Also see Cherokee National Forest and GORP info on Cherokee National Forest and Monroe County.
Access: The Cherokee National Forest lies along the western slopes of the Appalachians in East Tennessee. The Forest Service roads are gravel and dirt and are open to bicycles -- even the gated gravel roads. Most roads are graded, but there are some designated "off-road vehicle/4WD" roads that are rougher and steeper. There are a few single-track trails open to bicycles, but bicycles are not permitted on hiking trails. Check with the Forest Service office (423-476-9700) for current access restrictions.

The trails described here are along Citico Creek and the upper Tellico River. It's not easy to get there from here, so look at the locator map.

Description: Citico Creek and the Tellico are clear mountain streams running through hemlocks and rhododendron. The gravel Citico Creek Road (Forest Service Road FR 35) climbs gently from Citico Beach (815') as it follows the creek 12 miles toward Indian Boundary Camp Ground (1800'). See Citico map or 3-D map (230K). There is also a flat 3.3 mile gravel path around Indian Boundary Lake.

For the more vertically inclined, the Cowcamp Ridge loop is a beautiful 18-mile ride up Double Camp Creek (cumulative climb 2250'). Start from Double Camp camping area (1400') on FR 35, about 4 miles (NE) from Indian Boundary, and turn right up FR 59 (packed gravel) and climb 6.5 miles to Farr Gap (2910') and nice views. Continue west up to 3155' (mile 8.4, old lookout tower base) where you descend FR 26 back to FR 35 (mile 15.8). Complete the loop by riding up Citico Cr. road (FR 35) 2.2 miles back to Double Camp.

From Jake Best camping area (1140') you can ride dirt roads along Miller Ridge west of the Citico Road about 10 miles to Indian Boundary. There is also a 4.9 mile more technical section that you can add in that climbs to 2100'. In 2001, sections may be obstructed by fallen pines (pine beetle).

The upper Tellico (see Tellico map ) has several gravel Forest Service roads. From its junction with TN 165 (Cherohala Skyway), the Tellico River road runs 18 miles along the river and is paved all the way to NC state line (2582'), see GPS track. Or climb pavement and visit Green Cove Lake, GPS track 33 miles.

The Bald River loop (31 miles, 2920' cumulative climb) starts at FR 384 (across from the Ranger Station road, 1040'), see Google map and elevation profile. Ride up the paved Tellico River road along the river 13 miles, passing Bald River Falls and Baby Falls. Just past Green Cove, take a right on gravel FR 126 (2000') toward Holly Flats. FR 126 climbs 2 miles to a gap at mile 15 (2650') and then descends into the Bald River watershed/wilderness to Holly Flats campground (mile 19, 1950'). From the campground, FR 126 climbs steeply for 2.4 miles to Basin Gap (mile 22, 2750'). If that's not enough climbing for you, you can ride the gravel from the gap 1.7 miles up to Waucheesi Mtn. (3692') for good views of the area (former location of fire tower). FR 126 descends to its junction with FR 384 (mile 25, 1690'). Go right on FR 384 as it rolls its way 6 miles back down to the Tellico. The 6 miles of FR126 in the Bald River gorge wilderness are the highlight of the loop. This section of the road runs along Bald River for several miles, and the area is shaded by hemlocks, mountain laurel, and rhododendron.

The Cherohala-North River Loop is a 43 mile loop (4800' cumulative climb) that combines 21 miles of the Cherohala Skyway (TN 165/NC 143) up to Stratton Gap (4290'), then descends North River Rd 12 miles (gravel) and then 10 miles down the Tellico River Rd. See Google map/profile. Also from Stratton Gap one can take the Cherohala-Santeelah Creek loop of gravel and pavement (28 miles, cumulative climb 3600') by descending FR 81 (11.1 miles) to the base of the Cherohala Skyway at Santeelah Gap and then climbing the pavement. See Google map/profile.

From Mud Gap on 165 there is a gated jeep road that joins you up with North River Rd. in 6 miles via FS 61 and 61B and takes you by Whigg Meadow. GPS track of route from N River Rd to Whigg Meadow via FS 61. (The jeep road down Sycamore Creek is no longer open, and the 8 miles descent down 61B and 61A via FS 2417 is also gated.)

As of 2009, the Tellico OHV area is CLOSED.

The Forest service road that crosses Conasauga Creek is a nice 8 mile (one-way) ride with several fords a side trip to Conasauga Falls.

There are additional Forest Service roads north of the Hiwassee ( Starr Mountain) and near the Ocoee see Ocoee trails.

Return to East Tennessee mountain bike rides.
© Revised 5/6/96 by Tom Dunigan