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
I've been riding in this area of the Cherokee National Forest for many years, and as far as forest service roads go, these roads are pretty smooth!
This area offers plenty of route variations but this combination of roads allows for relatively steady climbing grades that aren't too steep and descents that aren't too long or treacherous.
This area is great in the winter because you're shielded from the wind and the roads hold up okay if it's a little wet or snowy. It's also great in the summer with creeks to cool off in or filter water. These roads are at the heart of the Ocoee gravel area and I've used them to do rides as short as 2.5hrs to as long as 8hrs at different times of the year.
There are several entry points into this National Forest / Wilderness Area from Georgia and Tennessee, so it's a relatively popular area for cyclists in the Dalton, GA and Chattanooga, TN areas. Despite being close enough to drive in from big cities, it still has that remote feeling and you may never see another cyclist even if they are on a different road nearby at the same time.
There are no potable water sources on this route. There is water at the side of the Cisco Ranger Station at mile 20/21 but it tastes and smells awful, so I would not recommend it! There are spots to filter water, but most riders shouldn't need if as long as you bring a couple large bottles or a CamelBak.
Do this ride if you want a great "lumpy" intermediate forest service gravel ride thats about an hour's drive from of Chattanooga, TN.
In general, car traffic is low but it's always important to be cautious of motorized vehicles or dirt bikes who are also coming to the National Forest / Wilderness Area to enjoy it as well.
I parked at the Kings Slough Boat Ramp which is on the western side of Parksville Lake. FYI- It says it's $3 to park, but they haven't had envelopes to pay and there's little to no phone service at the parking area to try to purchase any sort of parking pass.
People ride both gravel and mtn bikes in the Ocoee area. Before there were gravel bikes, we used cyclocross bikes with skinny tires and tubes so it's doable, but you'll definitely be more comfortable with wider tires or suspension. I prefer my gravel bike for this route because it's faster than my mtn bike. I've ridden it several times on a mtn bike too though. The wider the tire, the more comfortable you'll be on the descents, but the descents on this route aren't very long.
If you are looking for a rustic place to stay near the start of this route, the YMCA Camp Ocoee has cabins for rent.
This is a remote area but it's not far from restaurants that cater to people visiting the Ocoee River to kayak or boat. The Ocoee Whitewater Center was part of the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics (even though it's hours from Atlanta, GA).
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/