A Cycling High on Old Walland Highway
Like a fisherman who closely guards his honey hole’s whereabouts, East Tennessee bicycling enthusiasts would just as soon you didn’t know about Old Walland Highway.
Despite their best efforts, the secret of the area’s most glorious bike adventure has leaked out.
The road is nine miles long and I wouldn’t recommend it for a brand new cyclist or for children, but those with just a little experience will find it a heavenly ride.
The real beauty of Old Walland Highway is, well, everything. The landscape is amazing. The car traffic is usually light. The temperature always seems mild. And – here’s the best part – for a road that winds into the Smoky Mountains, it is reasonably flat, at least by East Tennessee standards.
The two lane starts with a stretch through a small farm, complete with a pretty white barn all set against a backdrop of the Smoky Mountains, so enjoy the view. Keep pedaling and soon you’re into a valley with the Little River flowing along on your right. It will be your constant companion the rest of the trip, and you’ll ride close enough to feel the cooling mist. Wildflowers and mountain dogwoods are everywhere this time of year. The fall brings the overpowering golds, reds and oranges of seasonal foliage.
The road winds past riverside vacation homes, rock outcroppings and the quaint community of Walland. Keep pedaling. You’ll go by a horse farm, a summer camp and a country church or two. Eventually you land in Townsend and you can connect with the Townsend bike trail that will take you through town and into the national park. More experienced cyclists will head out to Cades Cove or maybe even try their luck at the huge climbs on Foothills Parkway. But, you might just want to stop at a sandwich shop, put your feet up and have a cup of coffee. After all, there is always the ride back.
OK, so here’s the secret entrance to Old Walland Road. Take Lamar Alexander Parkway (Highway 321) out of Maryville. You’ll pass a drive-in movie theater on your left and soon you’ll see a huge American flag above a car wash. That’s Tuckaleechee Road. Make a left, you’ll pass a high school on the right. A little ways longer and you’ll find a small parking lot on the left side just after you cross a bridge. You’re there. Enjoy!
If you think you have a bike trail better than this one, let me know.
And, if your outdoor adventure ideas are of the motorized kind, I’d suggest heading to nearby Bluff Mountain where more than 6,000 acres are available to explore on ATVs. There is a rental place, Bluff Mountain Adventures, that can put you in the driver’s seat.