Earlier this summer Jon and I started working on the section of USBR 21 that will connect Knoxville to Chattanooga, while other folks are working on the connection from Chattanooga to Atlanta. There are three phases to implementing a US Bike Route — planning, designation, and promotion — we are in the early planning phase. We have designed a preliminary route and now need valuable input from the cycling community! We invite you to print or download this map/cue sheet and ride the route and offer suggestions and comments. Please note that the criteria used in planning a USBR is that the route should attract touring cyclists to scenic destinations and cultural attractions and it should connect cities and/or transportation hubs. Read more about the US Bicycle Route System
The proposed route starts in downtown Knoxville, heads south winding along scenic backroads of Knox and Blount County. On Old Walland Highway, we propose a spur route for cyclists to continue south to visit Townsend and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cyclists will find plenty of lodging and food options in addition to tourist attractions. Cyclists will have another spur option to reconnect to the main route via the beautiful Foothills Parkway. Continuing southwest, the route travels along the southern tip of Maryville, riding by two farms that offer seasonal markets for local produce. After crossing US 129, the route fringes the scenic Kyker Bottoms Wildlife Refuge and connects with US 411. Although a busy road, US 411 offers wide shoulders and access across the Tennessee River (Lake Loudon) into the town of Vonore. Here, there are several options for refueling before the route connects with the less-travelled backroads of Monroe County. Off Niles Ferry Road, we propose another spur — connecting to the town of Tellico Plains, where cyclists can find lodging and restaurants, enjoy the Cherohala Skyway, Bald River Falls, and the Cherokee National Forest.
The main route continues through the small town of Madisonville where folks can refuel! The roads towards Athens, pass by many pastoral farms including the legendary Mayfield Dairy Farms (historically on the Century Farm roster), and Goldie Denton Mayfield’s old Farmstead. Next stop is the Mayfield Visitor’s Center where you can enjoy ice cream flavors that you don’t find at your local stores! You can also take a tour of the dairy plant. The route continues through Athens’ historic downtown and then winds along McMinn County backroads. The route rides by Spring Briar Farm, built by the Getty family in the 1820’s, and Getty’s Mill just across the road, built in 1859. The structure across from the mill was once a Post Office and general store.
There are very few busy roads on this route, but Bowater Road is sadly unavoidable as it is the best option for traveling to the small town of Calhoun where there is the much need bridge for crossing the Hiwassee River. This 3-mile section has no shoulder with fast traffic, but the three times I rode this route, drivers moved over to provide me with space. Bowater Road connects with US 11, also a busy road but there are shoulders. Just after crossing the river, the route jumps back onto quieter roads in the historic town of Charleston. History buffs will enjoy the homes and stories along this section of the Civil War Trail. The route travels along a short section of Historic US 11 and it’s predecessor, the concrete highway! And here’s a surprise — from Market Street, turn west on Cass Street, and glance to the left — you’ll think you’re in Charleston, South Caroline not Tennessee, as you gaze upon a bald cypress swamp!
Leaving Charleston, the route enters the northern border of Cleveland on quiet backroads with easterly mountain views. The route merges onto the busier US-11, for approximately one mile, before traversing through a neighborhood to connect with the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway. The paved 4-mile greenway travels to the heart of Cleveland’s historic downtown, bypassing busy streets, while providing access to parks, grocery stores, eateries, and lodging along the way. From downtown Cleveland the route will offer a spur route west to downtown Chattanooga. This section is still on the drawing board.
Please share this route with your cycling friends and clubs. We want your feedback and will consider any and all suggestions for improvement!
We invite you to join the US Bike Routes 21/121 Facebook Group page.