North Carolina’s Best Road Bike Routes

| Greg Hodges
Road Bikes, Travel

Try out some routes along the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains.

North Carolina is an odd state when it comes to cycling statistics. While the state as a whole ranks near the bottom for cycling commute rates in nationwide state rankings, university communities throughout the state that have been working to create a connected network of paths and trails—rank among the best in the country for commute rates and bike-friendliness. So, while the state can get a bad rap with cyclists from afar, true Tar Heels know the North Carolina’s cycling value and a few ideal spots.

276 to Blue Ridge Parkway

If you’re close to Brevard, we recommend this great little climb up 276 to Blue Ridge Parkway. You can even extend the ride and head up the parkway before heading back down. The climb is intermediate to advanced and the decent is moderate. In the route we’ve shown below, we’ve opted to park at Walmart, but anywhere around the 276 and 280 intersection is fine.

Recommended Bike for this route: 2018 BMC Roadmachine 02 FB 105

The Blue Ridge Parkway

Speaking of Blue Ridge Parkway—this 470-mile ribbon stretches from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, through western North Carolina, and into Great Smoky Mt. National Park. Since this series focuses more on daily routes rather than overnight trips, we’ll break down a section we prefer, but we can’t proceed without mentioning the opportunity for an amazing 2-day cycling trip along the parkway, either roughing it overnight or along with a guided tour. The route we chose for this day-trip starts north of  Asheville heads up the parkway for about 20 miles.

Recommended BMC Bike for this route: 2018 BMC Crossmachine CX01 ONE FORCE 1

Highway 215 Shimmy

Highway 215 stretching up through Pisgah National Forest is a hidden gem of Western North Carolina. Road bikers gravitate towards the flowing lush mountains as they give us the opportunity to test our climbing legs and see some beautiful views of the surrounding area. If you’re looking to extend your route, take a left on Blue Ridge Parkway and take it down to Skinny Dip Falls.

Recommended Bike for this route: 2018 BMC RM01 THREE ULT Di2

Beech Mountain

Join the droves of cyclists climbing the south side of the Beech Mountain from Banner Elk to the site of the former Tour Du Pont finish line. You’ll be challenged here as you retrace routes used Lance Armstrong while he trained here on the mountain. Here’s one that’s particularly grueling—spoiler, it’s a 1,400ft ascend.

Recommended Bike for this route: 2018 BMC Roadmachine 01 TWO eTAP

Hatteras Island

If you have time, take the ferry across Pamlico Sound to Ocracoke and ride to Hatteras Island. It takes about two hours to get to the historic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, built more than 130 years ago to warn ships away from the treacherous Diamond Shoals. Turn around there or continue up 12 for more oceanside, easy riding.

Recommended Bike for this route: 2018 BMC SLR01 ONE eTAP


One last tip. . .

Like we mentioned, these guides stick to rides you can accomplish in a day, or even a morning. But we can’t ignore a good resource when we find one, so if you’re looking for longer routes throughout the Tar Heel state, check here.

Want to find routes in other locations throughout the country?
Check our our Best Places to Ride route guide.