This route is brought to you by Hannah Teffeteller of Knoxville, TN. She is a geologist with a master's degree in Geology and Environmental Studies who has the gravel biking bug!
This route has beautiful and unique scenery. Not only will you see plenty of views of valleys and rivers, but you will get nearly 360 degree views of Looking Glass Rock, a dome of granitic rock roughly 390 million years old.* (The top of every ridge-line has great views, especially the Headwaters Road section, where Looking Glass rock is visible.)
On the other end of the climbing, you'll get to experience fun descents with flowing switchbacks.
The route takes you through Rhododendron forests in the Pisgah National Forest which is a land of mile-high peaks, cascading waterfalls, and heavily forested slopes.
US 278 is a busy road and cars were not so friendly (Approximately 3 mile, occurring from mile 21.5-24.5). 🚘👎🏻
You do have to stay alert because the gravel is washed out and/or chunky in small areas throughout the route.
Do this ride if you want a route that is mostly gravel with some moderate elevation gain and scenic views of unique Piedmont geology!
There's a parking lot by the river before you get to the campground that was safe to park in and bathrooms are just around the corner up the road in the North Mills River campground at the start/finish.
There are plenty of additional campsites along the trail.
Water is available mid-route at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education (AKA the fish hatchery).
* If you want some more specific Geology info about the Looking Glass Rock, Hannah says: "The Looking Glass rock dome is classified by geologists as a pluton, which is an intrusive rock that is formed when magma crystallizes beneath the surface and is later uplifted to the surface. The rock has been mapped as the Whiteside (granite) formation and the Ashe metamorphic suite and is estimated to be Devonian in age (355 - 420 million years old). The formation of plutons in southeastern Appalachia is likely related to the Taconic orogeny, one of several mountain building events that shaped the current landscape of the southern Appalachians. For those who like to stop and smell the flowers (...ehm, rocks?) minerals within these rocks include hornblende, muscovite, quartz, and feldspar with minor amounts of garnet, biotite, epidote-zoisite, and magnetite." Can we bring her on all our rides??
My name is Hannah and I'm from Knoxville, TN. I started biking about a year and a half ago (predominantly mountain biking) before starting to ride lots of gravel around the Smoky Mountains. I'm a geologist with a master's degree in Geology and Environmental Studies and am really interested in the intersection of outdoor recreation, conservation, and geologic studies. In short, you can see awesome rock outcrops on remote gravel roads!