With its eastern half in the Smoky Mountains, Tennessee is the perfect setting for some excellent mountain biking trails. And while it often gets overlooked for the mountain biking mecca next door, North Carolina’s Pisgah Forest, there is much to offer here.
Much of the state’s best trails are located in that mountainous eastern half. Just to the west of the North Carolina Border are the challenging Buffalo Mountain trails.
From there, head north to find Tennessee’s sole IMBA Epic trail; Big South Fork.
Head south to Chattanooga and you’ll find a popular network of trails around the city’s Racoon Mountain. The city is also home to the excellent and versatile Bauxite trail, which is one of the most comprehensive beginner/intermediate trails you’ll find anywhere.
Here are 10 of the best mountain bike trails in Tennessee.
1. Devil’s Racetrack, Knoxville
If you name a trail something like Devil’s Racetrack, then you’d better deliver. And that’s exactly what this aptly named trail in Knoxville does. This is an impressive downhill/pump track built back in 2015 with the help of an IMBA grant.
With wide groomed trails that feature jump after jump, there are so many opportunities to catch air that you may find yourself spending more time with your wheels off the trail than on it.
This trail offers something a little more than regular downhills with an optional rock garden line that includes a massive rock ramp.
The Devil’s Racetrack also includes a signature giant wallride. Just make sure you fully commit if you decide to ride it.
2. Tesla’s Revenge, Chattanooga
If the word Revenge is in the title of a trail, then expect to suffer. And that’s exactly what you’ll do on this experts-only trail in Tennessee’s highly-regarded Raccoon Mountain trail system.
The vengeance comes quickly as this 19-mile journey begins with a long and technical five-mile ascent. The suffering is worth it. Once at the top you get to enjoy amazing views of the Tennessee River.
Next, you’ll ramble along the ridgeline on technical singletrack until you hit a 1,500-foot descent that features a mix of flow and rocky technical terrain. This exhilarating final five miles will almost make you forget the punishment of the first five.
3. Tanasi Trails, Ducktown
This trail may no longer be an IMBA Epic (IMBA retired it to its Hall of Fame after changing its Epic criteria in 2013), but it’s certainly some of the best singletracks you can ride in Tennessee, if not the entire South.
This 30-mile loop is a climbers dream as you go up and down the terrain around the Ocoee River.
The downhill sections are mainly smooth, with some parts connected by fire roads and greenways. The trail gets its advanced rating not by being technically difficult, but by being more than 36 miles long with more than 4,000 feet of climbing.
4. Big South Fork, Oneida
Trails that are given IMBA Epic status are challenging in a setting of natural beauty.
You’ll get plenty of both in Big South Fork, which features difficult climbs and rugged singletrack that winds in and around massive sandstone cliffs and breathtaking views of amazing gorges.
As singletrack goes, this trail, located just south of the Kentucky border, is relatively wide and flowing, with fast technical downhills and accents that are difficult, but not overwhelmingly steep.
Most of the trail is a single track with sections of fire road mixed in. Pay attention atop the ridges as some of the trails are exposed with steep drop-offs.
5. The Full Buffalo, Johnson City
This epic loop in eastern Tennessee will challenge your endurance abilities as it covers more than 37 miles of mountainous eastern Tennessee mountains.
The loop starts out from the middle of town and immediately heads toward the mountains. Once out of town you’ll encounter a steep and rocky climb that starts out gradually before reaching gradients of up to 20 degrees.
After nearly 8 miles of going up, you’ll be treated to stunning views as you navigate a ridgeline. A steep descent follows characterized by berms and large rock faces.
The second section is flatter with trails that wind through the Cherokee National Forest.
6. Wolf River Trails, Germantown
Mountain biking trails are notably sparse around the western part of Tennessee. While there may not be much here to attract experts, the family-friendly Wolf River Trails in the midst of the Memphis metro area offers a lot of singletrack for beginner to intermediate riders.
Well marked and managed, these trails, which connect to the city’s extensive greenway system, offer some flat MTB riding through the city’s scenic natural areas.
The terrain is soft and sandy with a few bridges and minor technical areas to navigate. This is a popular multi-use trail, so be prepared to encounter hikers and dog walkers.
7. Hamilton Creek, Lavergne
Nashville’s mountain bike scene can be described as sparse.
The city is more about country music and stock cars than it is about bikes, but there is still some impressive singletrack to be found here. And one of those is Hamilton Creek, a tightly packed set of loops and switchbacks set against the banks of Percy Priest Lake.
Hamilton packs 11 miles into less than a square mile of the wooded area. The singletrack is very windy (as you might have guessed) with surprisingly rocky terrain and some challenging drops off boulders.
The expert features are optional, making this a good option for intermediate riders as well.
8. Bauxite, Collegedale
This is a lesser-known trail in the Chattanooga area, which may make you think it’s not very good. It’s quite the opposite.
This trail, named for the mineral used in the production of aluminum, is impressive and well maintained. It features challenging climbs, flowy singletrack, well-conceived rock, and well-placed bridges.
What’s great about this trail is that it has just the right amount of everything to cater to riders of all skill levels. Climbs and obstacles aren’t so difficult that beginners can’t attempt the trail, but features enough challenge for experts to find much to love about it.
Bauxite is a hidden gem truly worth seeking out.
9. Chickasaw Trace Mountain Bike Trail, Columbia
The mark of a good mountain biking trail system is one that will draw both beginners and experts alike. And that’s what the trail builders at Chickasaw Trace have constructed.
It’s not uncommon to find experts ripping through one part of the trail and families with youngsters just learning to ride on two wheels on another
That’s because this system of concentric loops features a nice mix of beginner intermediate and expert trails.
For those advanced riders, the two attractions are the Trail of Tears and Black Hills Trace. The former is very technical with some well-placed wood features for testing your skills and catching air.
10. Lock 4 Trail, Gallatin
This well-planned trail system, maintained by the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA) just outside Nashville offers close to six miles of intermediate trails with another three miles of trails to challenge experts.
Begin on the system’s orange trail, which runs for 5.7 miles, and features moderate climbs, semi-technical rocky and rooty terrain with plenty of flow.
Along the way, there are options to take expert side trails that will test your skill. Rolling Table offers a series of jumps while the aptly named Rock Garden offers rocky terrain with a single big ledge drop.
Smackdown features a technical descent with a large drop-off. Newbies can hone their skills on the East Side beginner trail.