Pedal on Tennessee’s Beautiful Bike Trails
Spring is officially here and what better way to celebrate the blooming, beautiful nature than strapping on a helmet and pedaling to your heart’s content along some of Tennessee’s beautiful biking trails. Many are in some of the 30 state parks and others are local favorites while still others could take a couple of days to complete. Whatever your biking skill and time span, Tennessee has you covered for great cycling this spring.
If you want beautiful scenery and a beautiful cycling escape, make your way to Watauga Lake in Elizabethton. Watagua is Native American for “beautiful water” and the lake lives up to its name. Secluded by rolling hills and forest, Watauga is the perfect place to hit the trails and pedal for hours. The lake is about 16 miles long and has a shoreline of 106 miles. It was started in 1942 and dammed in 1948. It’s the highest-elevated reservoir in Tennessee and is almost 2,000 feet above sea level during its full summertime elevation. You can hike, horseback ride and go boating as well.
Not far from Chattanooga is Booker T. Washington State Park on the shores of Chickamauga Lake. This 353-acre park is named in honor of the famous Booker Taliaferro Washington, a former slave who secured an education and became one of the most famous Americans. The park offers a 6-mile bike trail loop. The single track trail has long uphill climbs, very fast down hills and off-camber turns. It’s described as a challenging trail but is still rated for people with all biking abilities. After biking, enjoy a picnic at three large picnic pavilions, which can accommodate 60 people on site or one of the more than 30 individual picnic sites.
Cades Cove is arguably my favorite place on earth. It could be the family memories connected to the lush surroundings, the beautiful 360-degree landscapes Cades Cove offers or maybe it’s a mixture of both. Either way, Cades Cove should be on your list of places to visit because you’ll want to come back again and again. While I’ve only driven the trail, you can hit the trails on your bicycle or rent one at the Cades Cove Campground Store during the summer and fall. The 11-mile, one-way road is very popular because it provides great opportunities to view wildlife like deer, bears and coyotes and tour 19th century home sites.
Percy and Edwin Warner Parks are connected by a trail that crosses Old Hickory Boulevard in Nashville. Spanning more than 2,800 acres, the parks are one of the largest in Tennessee and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Percy is larger and contains a one-way paved loop for bicyclists, which is a small part of the 12 miles of hiking and biking trails it offers. It also has an extensive supply of hiking trails and 10 miles of equestrian bridle paths. Edwin has a multipurpose trail that is perfect for cycling and has two trailheads that start at the Harpeth River Greenway System. Edwin also provides a dog park, the Old Roadway and the Warner Parks Nature Center.
The Land Between the Lakes in Golden Pond, nestled between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, is about 90 miles from Nashville and home to winding trails extending for miles, perfect for cycling or mountain biking. You can start at The Trace and explore, winding your way through meadows, hillsides and a lot of the trails even lead to lakefront bays. Make your first stop at the welcome station for a map of all the trails LBL has to offer. The Canal Loop Trail is a 14.2 mile trail and is rated easy to moderate with four connector trails offering a variety of bike rides. The North South Trail is a 31-mile trail with single-track, logging roads and gravel roads rated easy to advance. Bottomlands, shores and ridge tops make this ride one for the books.
Surround yourself in American history at David Crockett State Park in Lawrenceburg. You’ll find a paved bike trail which leads you to some opportunities to see deer, rabbits, turkey and squirrels. You can stop at the environmental classroom overlook and shelter and see where Crockett’s industrial operations took place on Shoal Creek below Crockett Falls. David Crockett was one of the most famous pioneers in American history. He was also a soldier, politician and industrialist who served and died at the Alamo Mission in 1836, aiding the Texans for their independence from Mexico. The state park offers cabins, boating, fishing, hiking and picnic facilities.
Coursing along America’s backbone, The Mississippi River Trail, about 3,000 miles of bikeways and pathways, starts at Itasca, Minn. and finishes at the Gulf of Mexico. This isn’t your typical afternoon-in-the-park kind of ride since it could take you a day or two if you wanted to ride the whole thing. Hop on Tennessee’s section at Reelfoot Lake in Tiptonville on roads with little to moderate traffic. You’ll then ride for nine miles along quaint farm roads to Ridgely until you arrive in Dyersburg and make your way to Ripley. For 12 miles you’ll travel on one of four of the Chickasaw bluffs, composed of a very fine soil called loess. The soil was made from the constant dust blown across the prairies for many years that settled on the banks of the lower Mississippi. Native American history will greet you as you’ll be traveling through the same land that belonged to Chickasaw Indians. You’ll make your way from Ripley to Covington. Make your way to the Mississippi Delta which some say begins in the Peabody Hotel in Memphis.
Snap on your helmet for a scenic 5-mile bike ride through heavy forest at the Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park in Memphis. The 13,467-acre park is home to oak, tupelo and cypress trees with two lakes and one of the largest disc-golf courses in the Southeast. Turkey, bobcat, fox and otters are abundant in the park. It’s even home to the American Bald Eagle which sometimes can be spotted along with over 200 species of waterfowl, songbirds and birds of prey like hawks and falcons. Horseback riding, hiking and 49 campsites round up the Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park as a fun way to get away from the city and into the quiet comfort of nature.
The Greenbelt System in Collierville is a group of trails, sidewalks and connectors to local schools, businesses and neighborhoods. With these easy, accessible trails they’re a great way to get outdoors and walk or, in this case, bike to your destination. Besides the practical use of the Greenbelt System, there are regional trails you can bike which connect to other regional greenbelts like the ones in Shelby County and Germantown. Also included is the Peterson Lake Nature Complex, a 70-acre nature multifaceted compound that includes boardwalks, wildlife observation decks and wetland study areas. It’s an effort to preserve over 2,800 acres of the Wolf River Corridor.
What are some of your favorite Tennessee bike trails? Let me know in the comments below!