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Hella Climbing aka Gotta Love Rocks

 5 votes

24.0 Miles 38.6 Kilometers



4,201' 1,280 m


-4,199' -1,280 m


5,134' 1,565 m


1,605' 489 m



Avg Grade (4°)


Max Grade (25°)

All Clear

5,134' 1,565 m


1,605' 489 m



Avg Grade (4°)


Max Grade (25°)

A great endurance ride with lots of climbing. An alternate climb to the top of Heartbreak Ridge.

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Featured Ride


Old Mitchell Toll Road is closed for bikes during bear hunting season per the signs posted at Sourwood Gap, typically October through mid December
This starts out with a paved, warmup ride of Old US 70 followed by a ton of doubletrack climbing. Then, you'll experience the Rattlesnake Ridge climb with steep doubletrack. Take a quick break at the top to enjoy the view, then continue your endurance ride by riding part of history, the Old Mitchell Toll Road. Lots of it is covered in river stone, so settle in and get used to riding rocks. Nothing super-technical, but just rocks for a ways.

You'll summit at the top of the famed Heartbreak Ridge which begins as a technical, steep downhill. You'll be grinning from ear to ear all the way down Heartbreak Ridge and then Star Gap. You'll finish your ride with an easy, cool-down paved ride of Mill Creek road back to your start.

Need To Know

Like many Pisgah area rides, it is recommended that you know the trails before venturing out. Since signage is a minimum, it is best to take a copy of the ride map and a GPS with you. Again: Rattlesnake and part of the toll road is private property, so 'mind yer manners'.


This ride starts at the Old Fort picnic area at the bottom of the Kitsuma trail. Directions for ride (keep in mind this is based off of my GPS. Actual mileage of directions may be a little off from your device):
1. Exit the park via the park entrance to the road and take a left.
2. Proceed up Old US 70.
3. You'll encounter a gate that is designed to keep cars off of this paved road, so continue around gate.
4. Continue the climb for approximately 3.3 miles. You'll encounter another gate near the top where it joins Mills Creek road. -Continue straight all the way to the interstate (another mile).
5. Just before the interstate, take a right and descend down the paved road to the Ridgecrest convention center. THIS PORTION OF THE RIDE CROSSES PRIVATE PROPERTY. Check in with the guard at the gate, tell them you are going up to Rattlesnake summit and that you typically have to sign a waiver. Be super polite! AT TIMES YOU MAY BE DENIED ACCESS TO THIS PORTION OF THE ROUTE, so plan accordingly.
6. At the gate, turn around and proceed up the steep, steep paved road (W Ridge Drive).
7. After topping the hill and descending, take a left at the T intersection (approx. .5 miles) and proceed to climb, following the signs to Rattlesnake TrailHead.
8. Once going past the tennis courts, proceed to the right, ignoring the sign saying "trails" and instead follow the sign for "Ballfield"
9. Proceed along the left edge of the ballfields until you get to the very back and find a sign pointing you left saying "Rattlesnake" This is a little more rideable than the previous entrance.
10. This is where some of the toughest climbing begins.
11. Continue climbing, following signs to the Rattlesnake Summit. Do not turn off of the trail. Signage is pretty decent up to the summit.
12. At the top, you'll come to a campground with a sign pointing left for rattlesnake and a sign pointing you back to the convention center the way you came. The ride continues to the RIGHT, but if you'd like, take a break and climb up the short climb to the summit and enjoy the view.
13. Continuing on the ride, you'll come to an intersection pointing right to the Royal Gorge Lookout and left to Montreat. Proceed right.
14. At mile 8, you'll encounter the Rodododendron trail on your right. Do NOT take the Rodododendron trail, instead, proceed LEFT for the ride.
15. Mile 8.25 - at the fork, keep LEFT
16. Mile 9.1 - you'll encounter the trailer hitch gate, go around the gate. Shortly after the gate, you'll come to the toll road, keep going to the RIGHT.
17. Mile 10.1 - You'll encounter another fork, keep RIGHT
18. Mile 11.2 - keep straight on the toll road. Do NOT take the downhill option to the far left.
19. Mile 12.3 - you'll come upon a sharp left bend in the road. Look carefully as straight ahead is the Royal Gorge lookout. Pause here and enjoy the view down the short access trail.
20. Mile 13 - at the fork, keep RIGHT
21. Mile 14.5 - at the fork, keep LEFT
22. Mile 15.8 - you'll come upon the camper trailer and van. This is where you'll descend down Heartbreak, RIGHT just before the camper. BE CAREFUL, the first .25 mile is pretty sketchy
23. Mile 16.7 at intersection, keep RIGHT
24. Mile 21.4 Keep RIGHT and it is suggested to walk the rocky section.
25. Shortly after the rocky section, keep LEFT and cross the creek.
26. Shortly after creek crossing, you'll cross the railroad tracks.
27. Keep to the LEFT on the gravel road until you hit pavement.
28. At paved road, take a LEFT. Stay on paved road, keeping LEFT, for 2.8 miles which will dead end into old US 70 near the Park where you should have parked. This adds a nice cooldown to the ride.

History & Background

The Mt. Mitchell Railroad and Logging Company was started in 1914 when a route for a narrow gauge switchback railroad started about one mile east of Black Mountain and ran to about 3/4 mile from the top of Mt. Mitchell, where Camp Alice was built for the loggers to live. The purpose of this railroad was to log balsam trees for building airplanes in support of World War I. The balsam logs were brought from Mt. Mitchell to a sawmill located just beyond what is now the entrance to the Old Toll Road. The railroad was at times used as a tourist attraction but its primary purpose was logging. The logging operation prospered until the end of the war and it was no longer profitable. The railroad was converted to a toll motor road. The motor road became one of the biggest tourist attractions in the area. It was not unusual for 150 cars a day to make the trip. It was a one way road, up by 11 AM and down by 4 PM.


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Sep 23, 2016
Andrew Metcalf

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Intermediate Intermediate



All Clear 31 days ago
Dry - Hunting season starts Oct 1, 2016
Update ConditionsHistory

just rode this ride today and the written directions are still confusing, indicating turns in the wrong direction, and not mentioning intersections. it's fine using the map, though annoying. thank you so much for posting the ride - maybe mtbproject can find a way to allow crowd editing to fix these inaccuracies? it was a fun ride but the added time looking at the map made me finish chasing the remaining daylight (4.5 hours of ride time, 5.5 total time). also holy smokes is the cilmbing taxing - steep, and rock garden-y when it isn't. your legs are fried before you even get to the descent, which is classic pisgah and so requires lots of getting your ass on your back tire! bring lots of snacks. and maybe a way to keep your phone out so you don't have to unstrap a pack every time you need to check the route. Jan 8, 2016

Rode the trial today for the first time. Great long ride. I agree that without the MTB project app on my phone, I would not have known where to go. It is a bit of a hassle to check the phone/map frequently, but is worth it. I look forward to going out again knowing the trail. The beginning from the the Ridgecrest center is very steep up to the toll road. The guard at the gate said that it was off limits to the public, but did not chase me. The toll road is very rocky in spots, but not overwhelming. The downhill section is very rocky at the beginning and was challenging, especially with clipless peddles. The ride is well worth the suffering and I look forward to the next time. Bring lots of water and snacks! May 22, 2016

Hey Eric. Thanks for the comments. I just re-read the directions and I did find two errors that I fixed. Every time I've ridden it, I've gotten a good response from the guards at Ridgecrest with one exception. I explained to him that others allowed me to go after signing a waiver. He then produced a waiver and allowed me to ride. May 30, 2016

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