Take the road less traveled!  With so many great gravel and dirt roads mixed into the mountains of East TN, these natural surface routes keep up with killer views while staying virtually car free.  Everything from mountain bikes to most dual sport focused hybrids can rack up the miles with a smile.  The best part, when dirt trails close due to weather, chances are these routes are still ready for action.

We highly recommend using MTB Project online and on your phone when riding in our area.  The free app is not only a great way get to know your new favorite trail, but also allows you to download your routes ahead of time, read reviews, get trail conditions, and of course map your route along the way.

Buffalo Mountain Fire Tower (Forest Road 188) - 12mi

Briar Creek Road (FSR 188) heads up Buffalo Mountain off of Dry Creek Road (which has a small area for parking at the bottom). It switches from gravel to dirt about 1/2 way up although both are fairly well maintained.  Once you reach the top, you'll intersect with the Pinnacle Mountain Tower Trail which is a hiking/biking trail as well as Trail #29 that caters to motorized users.  From that intersection you can hike (or bike if you have the legs!) up the concrete/dirt road that takes you to the fire tower.  Incredible views make the hike a bike totally worth it!

For an added challenge and reward, start in downtown Johnson City ride Southwest Rd through ETSU > Sinking Creek Rd > Dry Creek Rd (15mi).  You'll have some serious climbing alllllll the way but then get to cruise all the way back to JC just in time to reward yourself at all of the local breweries and restaurants.  Not sure if you are up to the challenge?  Rent an ebike for the day from the Trek Bicycle Store in downtown.

Big Creek Road (Forest Road 87) - 46mi

This monster is forest road riding at its best!  87 winds serves as the TN cut though for the Trans America Trail and roll a few miles on it and you'll know why.  Options galore in mileage and elevation make this a great route for first timers or run the full out and back for those looking for an all day of gravel/dirt bliss.  The "short" option would be to park on the North end (off 421) at the Little Oak campground.  From here you can vary the mileage to suit the rider and conditions.  87 see's a fair amount of traffic (well.....for a forest road) from horses, dual sport motorcycles, and jeeps so even though we'll bet you won't see a soul you should always ride like you will...this means stay in your "lane" on blind turns and run daytime visible head and taillights at all times.  87 also makes for a great straight shot with a friend pick up at the other end.  

Rocky Fork State Park Loop - 12mi

This ride loops through Rocky Fork, Tennessee's newest state park. The bike trails have been designated but not improved yet, and many of the trails are simply made up of old logging roads making it an awesome opportunity to see the park. 

There are several stream crossings and an initial strenuous climb (see all that red on the radar below?!), BUT the views and backcountry experience is totally worth it!  Be sure to check the pro tip notes on the MTBProject.com link 

Unaka Mountain (Forest Road 230) - 24mi

Gravel road starts on the left from Rock Creek Road/TN-395 at Indian Grave Gap.  If you cross into North Carolina, you've missed the turn.  The road pass two different overlooks, Beauty Gap and Unaka Mountain Overlook, that are worth the stop.  Killer views and modest vehicle traffic make this route one of our favorites.

Bumpus Cove (Forest Road 190) - 22mi

With a name like "Bumpus Cove" how could you go wrong?!  190 works its way South just outside of Erwin.  It gets a bit pitchy in spots and the gravel often gives way to dirt, however as long as you know ahead of time this is a killer route.  Think of this as a ultra wide mountain bike trail and you'll be hard pressed to remove the grin all day long.

Flint Rock Overlook (Trail #44) - 7mi

Loops and forest roads are hard to come by, but this epic ridgetop singletrack includes the Holston Mountain fire tower and a one of a kind view of South Holston Lake from Flint Rock on Trail #44

Panhandle Road (Forest Road 56) - 16mi

This Forest Service road that climbs from the south and is used for access to the top of the ridge and many trails in the area.  Be sure to check with the forest service ahead of time as this gate often closes due to weather. 

Forest Road 5081 - 12mi

This is a long steady climb that accesses a variety of trails on Holston Mountain. As of the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018, logging is being done in the area so the road can get sloppy at times (which is awesome if you are looking for that, horrible if you aren't!).  Be aware that the Branch trailhead can be easily passed so keep a careful lookout for the small brown sign in between two sections of private property. This area is used by equestrians and hikers, please be courteous and obey the rules of the trail.

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