Bandy Creek Area Bike Trails
Several of the most popular trails are accessible from the Bandy Creek Visitor Center where parking, restrooms, and park information are available.
Collier Ridge Trail – 5.5 miles of singletrack of beginner to intermediate difficulty. From the Bandy Creek parking lot, ride west on the gravel West Bandy Creek Road for 1.1 miles, where the trail begins on the left. Watch for the trail sign post at the intersection. After a few hundred yards, the trail splits; most riders go to the left to ride the loop in the clockwise direction. The first mile of trail fords a couple creeks and has a few sections that are muddy after recent rains. After about 2 miles, the trails turns sharply to the right and then crosses a rock drop. Less experienced riders may wish to dismount and walk their bike through this section. The remainder of the trail flows well with several short climbs and descents and a longer descent near the end of the loop. See the Park's description of the trail here. The MTB Project has additional information on this trail, including a scalable map and elevation profile.
West Bandy Trail - 3.1 miles of singletrack of intermediate difficulty. The trail starts near the West Bandy Trailhead parking area at the junction of West Bandy Creek Road and TN 297 (Leatherwood Road). This trailhead is 3.2 road miles from the Bandy Creek Visitor Center. Many riders make a loop of the Collier Ridge and West Bandy trails. After about 3 miles, the West Entrance connector trail branches off to the left from the Collier Ridge Trail. This short connector trail ends at the West Bandy Trailhead parking area. The start of the West Bandy Trail is marked by a signpost on the north side of West Bandy Road near the parking area. Much of the West Bandy Trail is relatively level. There are a couple small creek crossings and a few short, steep descents and climbs, including a challenging climb with a 20% grade. The trail ends on West Bandy Creek Road about 1.5 miles west of the Bandy Creek Visitors Center. See the Park's description of the trail here and has a map of the Collier Ridge - West Bandy loop here. The MTB Project has additional information on this trail, including a scalable map and elevation profile.
Duncan Hollow Trail - 2.3 miles of singletrack of intermediate difficulty. This trail is the first mountain bike trail in the Big South Fork, constructed by volunteers in coopearation with Park staff in the 1980s. From Bandy Creek Visitor Center, ride north on Duncan Hollow Road (past the swimming pool) for 1.5 miles and turn left onto Duncan Hollow Bypass. Most riders ride the trail in a clockwise direction. To do so, continue north on Duncan Hollow Bypass for 0.6 mile to the Duncan Hollow trailhead. The trail has a couple creek crossings and several descents and ascents, a few of which are quite steep. See the Park's description of the trail here. The MTB Project has additional information on this trail, including a scalable map and elevation profile.
Grand Gap Loop - a 6.4-mile loop trail of mostly flat and smooth singletrack with a few technical sections and ideal for beginner to intermediate riders. It is one of the most scenic trails in the park, with spectacular views of the Big South Fork gorge and side gorges from overlooks. The trail follows much of the rim of the gorge and side gorges, winding back and forth with relatively little change in elevation and This trail was originally constructed as a hiking-only trail and opened to mountain bikers in the 1990s. For several years, bikers could only use it on weekdays to reduce potential conflicts with hikers. AIn 2012 Park staff removed the restriction on mountain bikers. The trail is receives fairly heavy use by hikers, especially on the first couple miles.
View from Angels Falls Overlook on Grand Gap Loop Trail
There are a couple options to access the trail. Park at the Bandy Creek Visitor Center and ride north on Duncan Hollow Road (past the swimming pool and campground entrance) for about 2.3 miles to Alfred Smith Road. Turn right onto Alfred Smith Road and follow it 1.9 miles to the Grand Gap Loop trailhead. This options adds about 8.4 miles of riding on gravel roads. The second option is to drive Duncan Hollow Road and Alfred Smith Road and park at the small trailhead parking area.
Most riders ride the trail in the counterclockwise direction, going to the right (south) onto the marked trail at the end of Alfred Smith Road. Much of the first half mile of the trail is a fairly steady climb. At mile 0.7, pass the grave of a 5-month old boy who died in 1932, a reminder of the numerous former settlements throughout the area. The first overlook is at 1.2 miles; below this overlook is the gorge of Fall Creek and to the left is the main channel of the Big South Fork River. The trail soon passes the intersection with the John Muir/Angel Fall Overlook Trail from Leatherwood Ford a popular hiking trail. Continue straight through the intersection and the Angel Falls Overlook is at mile 1.5. The next 2 miles of the trail have a few technical sections that include tight downhill switchbacks, rocky sections, a narrow bridge stream crossing, rock steps at another stream crossing, and a couple rockhouses. Some of these require dismounts. Several stretches of the trail in this stretch are also very close to the cliffline - ride carefully as the drop from the cliffline is precipitous.
The rest of the trail is mostly rolling with a few short descents and ascents and a couple tight switchbacks. The last stretch of the trail passes through a former pine stand decimated by pine beetles in the mid-1990s; it is now regenerating hemlock, white pine, red maple, and American beech trees. At the junction with the John Muir Trail and the large trail sign, go left to return to the parking area at the end of Alfred Smith Road, or go right to ride the John Muir Trail. See the Park's description of the trail here and a trail map here. The MTB Project has additional information on this trail, including a scalable map and elevation profile.
John Muir Trail - a 7.5-mile point-to-point singletrack trail. It is similar to the Grand Gap Loop Trail in that it was originally constructed as a hiking trail, has several sections that closely follow the cliffline, and has several overlooks with spectacular views. It has fewer technical sections than Grand Gap Loop Trail and is suitable for beginner to intermediate riders.
Most riders ride the John Muir Trail from south to north, although it is equally interesting when ridden from north to south. The southern trailhead is accessible from the end of Alfred Smith Road (see directions above in the Grand Gap Loop Trail section). From the end of Alfred Smith Road, ride north (counterclockwise) on the Grand Gap Loop Trail for a couple hundred yards to the well-marked junction with the John Muir Trail, which branches off to the northwest.
The beginning of the John Muir Trail passes through mixed forest. The first overlook is at mile 0.4 and is worth the stop to enjoy the view. Over the next 5.5 miles, several stretches of the trail are very close to the cliffline. It also passes several scenic overlooks in this stretch; a few of them require a dismount and short walk to the overlook. Dismounts are also necessary at a couple rockhouses on this stretch. At mile 2.3, the trail descends a rock ledge on a wooden ladder. Watch for this (a warning sign is usually present) and be prepared to dismount and carry your bike down the ladder. At mile 3.8 the trail goes through 2 tight downhill switchbacks and then passes a nice backpacking campsite on the right. A short distance later, walk your bike across a single-board bridge over a small creek. At mile 4.0, the trail crosses a more substantial bridge over a larger, all-weather creek. This bridge can usually be ridden. At about mile 6.0, the trail leaves the cliffline for good. Most of the remainder of the trail is fast and rolling and passes through hardwood forest with scattered hemlocks and white pines.
At mile 7.2, the trail passes very close to long rockhouse on the left. Shortly after that, the section of John Muir Trail open to mountain bikes ends. At this point, follow the signs and go left on the 0.3-mile connector to Duncan Hollow Road. This connector trail begins with a fairly steep climb and then a slight downhill. At Duncan Hollow Road, go left to return to Bandy Creek or the Alfred Smith Road trailhead. The junction of Duncan Hollow and Alfred Smith roads is 1.9 miles from the northern end of the trail and the Bandy Creek Visitors Center is another 2.4 miles. The MTB Project has additional information on this trail, including a scalable map and elevation profile.
Big South Fork All 5 Ride Epic - In 2012 the International Mountain Biking Association designated the above five Bandy Creek area rails as an Epic. Ridden back-to-back, the five trails combine to make a 33-mile (or longer, depending you the sequence of the trails) ride of back country singletrack, spectacular views, and connecting gravel roads.
For the 33-mile ride, start at the Bandy Creek Visitor Center. Ride West Bandy Road to the Collier Ridge Trail. Ride the Collier Ridge Trail to the junction with the West Bandy connector trail. Take the connector trail to the start of the West Bandy Trail. Ride the West Bandy Trail and at its end go left on West Bandy Creek Road. After about 1/4 mile, go left onto Duncan Hollow Bypass. Stay straight at the turnoffs to the left. About 0.4 miles after passing under the powerline (and the steep climb), watch for the start of the Duncan Hollow Trail on the left. Ride the Collier Ridge Trail and then go left on Duncan Hollow Bypass. Turn left onto Duncan Hollow Road and after 1 mile, go right onto Alfred Smith Road. Follow the directions above to ride the Grand Gap Loop and John Muir Trails (see descriptions above). At the end of the John Muir Trail, turn left and take the short connector trail to Duncan Hollow Road. Turn left onto Duncan Hollow Road and ride it 4.3 miles back to Bandy Creek Visitor Center.
The MTB Project has additional information on the All 5 Epic, including a scalable map and elevation profile.