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Top 10 Bike Trails in Tennessee

Tennessee is one of the most scenic states to go cycling. With countless trails weaving through rolling hills, mountain ranges, rivers, and beyond, there’s certainly no lack of gorgeous and fun routes to tour on your bicycle. These trails are the ones that are most highly rated and recommended.

1. Big South Fork – Oneida, TN

Aerial view of Big South Fork in TN.

Big South Fork is an IMBA epic connecting five different trails in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Offering about 34 miles of rugged trails overlooking the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River, this intermediate mountain biking trail is an exciting way to experience Tennessee’s scenic gorges and sandstone bluffs.

This ride is mostly singletrack bike trails with an elevation gain of 2,249 feet. Overall, Big South Fork has a great mix of rocky trails, ridges packed with hardwood trees, and heart-pumping clifftop sections that butt up against 200-foot drops.

To start your Big South Fork adventure, park at the Bandy Creek Visitors Center and head out from there.

Tips: You’ll bike through some gravel sections, which connect the five trails that makeup Big South Fork. Although these connecting segments are open to equestrians, the main biking trails are not.

2. Percy and Edwin Warner Park – Brentwood, TN

Crane in Edwin Warner Park in TN.

Within the Warner Park Nature Center, you’ll find Percy Warner Park and Edwin Warner Park, featuring beautiful nature trails, protected and tucked away in a primarily urban setting outside Nashville. The nature center is home to 12 miles of primitive hiking trails, 3 miles of paved trails that connect to the Harpeth River Greenway system, about nine miles of paved multi-use trails, and the Birch Reserve.

The 11.2-mile Percy Warner Park Loop is a favorite among cyclists. Still, you can choose from various paved and unpaved trails to bike here, all of which wind through 3,000 acres of the Nashville Basin, featuring rolling hills, scenic ridges, and beautiful valleys. As you bike through Percy and Edwin Warner Park, you’ll experience the beautiful landscape and native wildlife of the area, including moss-covered limestone outcroppings, thick oak-hickory, and beech-maple forests, gorgeous wildflowers, nearly 200 species of birds, and much more.

Visit Nashville.gov for trail descriptions, maps, and directions to Percy and Edwin Warner Park.

Tips: This is a protected wildlife area, so collecting plants, wildlife, fossils, or other specimens is prohibited.

3. Shelby Bottoms Greenway Trail – Nashville, TN

Shelby Park in Nashville, Tennessee,

The Shelby Bottoms Greenway Trail is a six-mile, beginner-friendly trail in East Nashville, Tennessee. Offering great views of the city skyline and opportunities for incredible wildlife sightings, this trail is perfect for cyclists who want a little bit of everything.

A part of the 960-acre Shelby Bottoms Greenway and Natural Area, this bike trail is mostly paved and flat and boasts about three miles of trail along the Cumberland River. Not surprisingly, the greenway is completely immersed in the beautiful local landscape, featuring forested areas, open fields, wetlands, and streams. In addition to exploring nature on two wheels, you can also bike through the surrounding East Nashville neighborhood and enjoy excellent views of the skyline from the Shelby Street Bridge.

The main trailhead is at 1900 Davidson Street, Nashville, TN 37206, and the Forrest Green Trailhead is at 2032 Forrest Green Drive, Nashville, TN 37216. Both have parking.

Tips: If you don’t have a bike or didn’t bring it with you, you can rent one at the Shelby Bottoms Nature Center.

4. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Cades Cove Loop Road) – Townsend, TN

View east from the Cades Cove Loop Road between Sparks Lane and Marthas Branch of Abrams Creek in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America’s most visited national park, according to Travel + Leisure magazine, and it’s also one of Tennessee’s best places to bike! Known for its incredible diversity of plant and animal life and its gorgeous ancient mountains, biking is one of the best ways to experience the park.

Although many of the roads in this national park are not ideal for cycling because they’re too steep, narrow, or heavily trafficked by cars, Cades Cove Loop Road is perfect for biking, and it’s a very popular ride among cyclists. This 11-mile loop circles a broad valley surrounded by mountains and is one of the park’s best areas for wildlife viewing. People frequently see white-tailed deer, black bears, coyotes, groundhogs, turkeys, raccoons, skunks, and more biking this route. There’s also a visitor’s center halfway around the loop in the historic Cable Mill area.

Need directions to get to Cades Cove Loop Road? Visit smokymountains.com for details.

Tips: This road is closed to cars every Wednesday and Saturday until 10 a.m. from May 4 through September 28, so it’s best to ride early on those days! 

5. Shelby Farms Greenline – Memphis to Cordova, TN

Cyclist on Shelby Farms Park bike trail in Shelby County, TN.

The Shelby Farms Greenline is an asphalt trail that stretches about 10 miles from Memphis to Cordova, running alongside the 4,500-acre Shelby Farms Park. Built on a former railway line, this trail is pleasantly shaded and features historic wooden trestles along the route.

While biking the Shelby Farms Greenline, you’ll enjoy views of scenic wetland and pass through quiet residential areas and community parks. The highlight of this biking route is Shelby Farms Park, which is home to a herd of buffalo and offers tons of great outdoor activities, including horseback riding, ziplining, disc golf, kayaking, canoeing, and more.

You can easily access this trail from several different street crossings along the route or from Shelby Farms Park at 6903 Great View Drive N, Memphis, TN 38134.

Tips: Although the trail is easy to follow, it lacks directional signage. You’ll also have to cross several highly trafficked areas, so be cautious and watch for cars at these crossings.

6. Will Skelton Greenway – Knoxville, TN

Mead's Quarry Lake in Ijams Nature Center, Knoxville, TN

The Will Skelton Greenway is just a few miles from downtown Knoxville and offers 3.57 miles of beautiful, scenic biking. This greenway is a haven for nature-loving cyclists, beginning at Island Home Park and ending at the Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area.

As you bike this popular trail, you’ll make your way through the gorgeous natural scenery along the banks of the Tennessee River, featuring panoramic views of the water from various perspectives. About a mile into your ride, you’ll arrive at the 300-acre Ijams Nature Center, which offers about 10 miles of biking trails to explore and outdoor mountain climbing. You can also rent paddleboards, canoes, and kayaks if you want to take a break from cycling to venture out onto Mead’s Quarry Lake at the nature center. From Ijams Nature Center, the greenway continues into the Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area and onto unpaved park trails.

To access the Will Skelton Greenway, you can park at: 

  • Island Home Park (2225 Estelle Circle, Knoxville, TN 37920)
  • Ijams Nature Center (3209 Island Home Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37920)
  • Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area (140 McClure Lane, Knoxville, TN 37920)

Tips: The Will Skelton Greenway connects to about 13 miles of unpaved trails at Ijams Nature Center, so you can extend your ride quite a bit if you want to!

7. Clarksville Greenway – Clarksville, TN

The greenway space in Clarksville offers sweeping views of Louisville and the Ohio River.

Once an abandoned railway, the Clarksville Greenway is now a popular biking trail for locals and visitors alike. It sits along the banks of the Red River and West Fork Creek in north Clarksville, with views of the river and the thickly forested areas surrounding the paved trail.

Featuring about 9 miles of trail for bikers, walkers, and runners, the Clarksville Greenway offers a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. In total, it encompasses six paved trails: the Red River Trail, the Pollard Road Trail, Mary’s Oak Trail, the West Boyscout Road Trail, the Riverwalk, and the Upland Trail. All strung together, they offer a scenic bike ride that’s beginner-friendly and full of native plant species and wildlife.

The most popular trailhead with the most parking is Heritage Park, at 1241 Peachers Mill Road, Clarksville, TN 37042.

Tips: The Raymond C. Hand Pass pedestrian bridge is one of the highlights of this trail. At 600 feet tall, it’s worth taking the time to check it out.

8. Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail – Caryville, TN

View from Eagle Bluff, just off the Cumberland Trail in Campbell County, TN.

Tennessee residents view the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail as an iconic trail system. As Tennessee’s first linear park, it’s one of the best biking routes to explore if you want to see a beautiful collection of all the best scenery the state has to offer.

The Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail spans over 330 miles through 11 different counties. This extensive trail system links state parks, national parks, natural areas, and wildlife management, stretching from the Tennessee River Gorge near Chattanooga and extending up to the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park on the Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky border area. While you bike, you’ll see impressive sights like the Cumberland Mountain Range and the Powell River Valley. Not to mention, breathtaking views of mountains, waterfalls, rock formations, and stunning wildlife!

For trail maps and directions to plan your ride, visit tnstateparks.com.

Tips: This is a very long route, so carefully plan your bike ride and break it up into sections or just tackle one segment at a time.

9. Enterprise South Nature Park – Chattanooga, TN

Two mountain bikers stopping for snacks on Enterprise South Nature Park in Chattanooga, TN.

Head to Enterprise South Nature Park in Chattanooga for some great off-road mountain biking. This park has about 16.3 miles of well-shaded singletrack trails for beginner, intermediate, and advanced bikers. With five different mountain biking trails, each offers unique features and challenges to keep you on your toes.

Most of the biking trails at Enterprise South Nature Park are heavily wooded, and many feature rock outcroppings, stream crossings, wooded hills, and bridges. If you’re up for the challenge, try the 2.8-mile Log Rhythm Mountain Bike Trail or the 5.5-mile Atlas Mountain 

Bike Trail, has manmade features throughout the route. On the other hand, if you’re new to mountain biking and want an easy yet exciting cycling experience, check out the 3.6-mile Black Forest Mountain Bike Trail. It winds through shady wooded areas, across streams, and through moderately challenging rocky sections.

To get to the park, head to 190 Still Hollow Loop, Chattanooga, TN 37416.

Tips: Bring the whole family along for this biking adventure. There’s even a 0.3-mile Hercules Loop here that’s perfect for kiddos! 

10. Bells Bend Park – Nashville, TN

View of Cumberland River at Bells Bend Park at Nashville, TN.

Bells Bend Park is an 808-acre park that offers an abundance of outdoor recreational activities to residents and visitors of the Nashville area. And with 5.5 miles of mountain biking trails, it’s a great place to enjoy the scenery and traverse the beautiful landscape shaped by the Cumberland River.

Bells Bend Park is a rural preserve with a rich agricultural history. Featuring rolling hills, distinct rock outcroppings, and beautiful forested terrain, it invites visitors to come and enjoy the natural landscape that Tennessee is known for. The park has two biking loops, and both are ideal for cyclists of all skill levels. One offers a more smooth and relaxed ride, but if you’re looking for something a bit more challenging, the other loop features a few more twists and turns. 

Bells Bend Park is at 4187 Old Hickory Boulevard, Nashville, TN 37218, and there is plenty of parking available.

Tips: Bike rentals are available at the Bells Bend Outdoor Center if you need a ride! The outdoor center is closed Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays, but the park itself is open seven days a week.

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References:

  1. https://www.mtbproject.com/trail/76708/big-south-fork-imba-epic 
  2. https://rootsrated.com/nashville-tn/cycling/percy-warner-park-loop 
  3. https://www.nashville.gov/departments/parks/nature-centers-and-natural-areas/shelby-bottoms-nature-center/shelby-bottoms-park 
  4. https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/tennessee/shelby-bottoms-greenway-trail 
  5. https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/cadescove.htm 
  6. https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/tennessee/cades-cove-loop-road 
  7. https://www.traillink.com/trail/shelby-farms-greenline/
  8. https://www.knoxvilletn.gov/government/city_departments_offices/parks_and_recreation/greenways_trails/will_skelton_greenway
  9. https://www.traillink.com/trail/will-skelton-greenway/
  10. https://www.cityofclarksville.com/463/Clarksville-Greenway
  11. https://www.tnvacation.com/local/caryville-cumberland-trail-state-park
  12. https://tnstateparks.com/parks/cumberland-trail 
  13. https://parks.hamiltontn.gov/325/Hiking-Biking-and-Horse-Trails 
  14. https://www.nashville.gov/departments/parks/nature-centers-and-natural-areas/bells-bend-outdoor-center 

Photo Sources:

ChristopherM (talk) (Uploads), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Corey Coyle, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Kaldari, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Famartin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Shelby Farms Park, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Kinseikun, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
SouthernOculus, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Brian Stansberry, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Chris Light, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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