The horse trail is a highlight of this route. The trail is flat or gently rolling, so it is a nice break from the previous climbing, the surface is in fantastic shape (basically a double track road), and the views are exceptional.
The scenery in and around Hiwassee Ocoee State Park is very pretty even in the winter months as it goes through forest, along rivers, creeks and streams.
Overall, the forest service roads' gravel is in good condition- generally smooth and packed.
Car traffic is very low, even on the few paved sections.
Even though it's still mild compared to other areas of the Hiawassee, there are steep climbs on this side Starr Mountain (at approximately miles 10-14).
In order to connect all this amazing gravel, there are a few paved roads which make up about 15% of the total route.
Do this ride if you want to take one of the most beginner friendly routes in the Hiawassee to the next level of gravel fun!
Park at Historic Fort Morrow (Fort Marr), which is off of Spring Creek Road in the Hiwassee Ocoee State Park. There is plenty of free parking here and there are also bathrooms that are usually (but not always) unlocked at this location.
A gravel bike with wider tires is more than adequate for this ride, but a mountain bike would be fine too.
While the road conditions make this gravel route "mild", this route climbs up Starr Mountain which is about 4 miles long and it gets steep in some places.
The route starts just north of Benton, TN, which is about 8 miles from the start and near the Hiwassee River, so there is lots of tubing and other outdoor activities all around.
If you are looking for food/drinks for before/after your ride, you'll want to go into the town of Benton. (Local tip: Do NOT speed at all when driving through Benton, TN!!)
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/