This route is brought to you by Ali Whittier, one of our 2022 Route Ambassadors and competitive gravel cyclist from Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Photo Credits: Ali Whittier
Throughout the whole route, car traffic is minimal.
You'll be biking in rural areas but its not remote area like some National Forests, so you should have cell reception in case you have an emergency or need mechanical support.
The scenery is beautiful and peaceful. A favorite moment on the route was the small lake at the bottom of the long Newsome Gap descent. Oh- and the cute little pony we passed too!
The gravel sections have smoother gravel vs. chunkier forest service roads.
While the Newsome Gap and Sandblaster climbs will get your heartrate pumping, they are non-technical with relatively smooth gravel and gradual switchbacks.
This route has nearly 50% pavement, so it’s not full gravel, but it’s become a popular route for Chattanooga area gravel riders because it’s only about a 30 min drive from the city.
There's only one place to fill up water- a gas station 10 miles in. (If you ride the route in reverse, that same gas station is around mile 32.)
You might encounter some dogs here and there along the route, but most are contained in their yards.
Do this ride if you want a little challenge but you're not quite ready for really rough forest service roads in the more remote National Forests or Wilderness areas around Georgia and Alabama.
I recommend parking at the New Salem Community Center near the Canyon Grille restaurant in Rising Fawn, AL. There are no bathrooms so consider using Dollar General or the nearby gas station.
The route starts across the highway on Fawn Dawn Road.
The start of this ride is quite close to Cloudland Canyon State Park, so if you are looking for camping prior to or after the ride, consider staying there. They have about 100 tent camping sites as well as Yurts and cottages for rent.
In addition, if you are looking for a longer ride, you can add on some smooth singletrack near Cloudland Canyon at the end of your ride.
If you are looking for a good lunch or dinner recommendation, stop at Lookout Mountain Pizza Co. (But make sure to check their hours before you put this in your plan. They are only open for lunch on Sundays right now and they stop serving when "the dough runs out"!).
This route is a rural area so expect roads to not be in the best condition. The terrain is generally "smooth" compared to some gravel, but keep in mind that the Newsome Gap descent is long so I would consider 38-45mm tires depending on your preferred comfort level.
Ali was born and raised in Iowa before moving to the Southeast after college. Now a competitive cyclist in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Ali uses her weekends free from her corporate job to explore surrounding National Forests and Wilderness Areas by bike to train with other Chattanooga female cyclists for upcoming endurance adventures across the U.S.
In 2020, Ali completed the infamous Trans North Georgia Adventure, a bike packing race across the state of Georgia, with two of her closest female friends, which is unheard for a mostly solo event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMFdO-1z8No:
You can also hear more about Ali's journey, and how she transformed from a dancer and team sport athlete to runner and endurance cyclist on the Day Fire Podcast.
For more info, check out her website: https://withthewhittiers.com/