An immensely challenging ride that is 75%-ish gravel and is best approached as a 2-3 day endeavor. Doing this in a day would be elite.
The track is compromised of everything from paved to singletrack, including an awesome techy gravel section coming down to Courthouse Falls from Farlow Gap. Goes through Pisgah National Forest, Nantahala National Forest, and Panthertown Valley.
Note: Original GPS track listed this as 23,000 feet of climbing. Imported GPX track lists it as around 15K. To me, the former seems more accurate.
There is water at Balsam Lake picnic area during daylight hours. There is a small store on 215 just south of the track.
Notes: This epic endeavor is probably best done as a two- or a three-day ride and is still epic. A road-style gravel steed is the ideal mount, but a MTB would also be fine, albeit a little slow on the paved sections.
Start at Rice Pinnacle parking lot in Bent Creek. Enjoy a brief paved warm up until you hit the gravel. Continue up over Bent Creek Gap, then down Wash Creek Road. Right on Yellow Gap Road until you hit 276. The area around Wolf Ford Horse Camp and Pink Beds has plentiful camping and is a recommended stop if you're on a Friday afternoon to Sunday schedule.
Continue down 276 for about a mile then right on FR 5041 which turns into FR 475. Follow 475B to 475, then 475 to Glouchestire Gap. Take a minute. Suffer up FR 229 until you hit the top of Farlow Gap Trail. This section is mostly gravel but some sections are washed out and oxygen may be limited. Continue on through a section that when wet is a creek.
When you hit the top of Farlow Gap Trail, take a left down FR 5031
. This is an awesome stretch of backcountry gravel. Look sharp for a sharp right marked with a wood tripod near the top. Descend to FR 140 Courthouse Falls Road, then right on 215. It's a paved climb, and it sucks, but it's kind of pretty. Climb until you hit FR 4663 and take a left. Follow 4663 until you hit 4663C, then down to SR1760 (paved). Take a left (you can take a right here and in less than 5 minutes hit Balsam Lake picnic area with water and bathrooms) and climb up to Wolf Branch Road
Wolf Branch Road
is initially really rough dirt, but then goes paved. Continue past Tanassee Gap Road which you'll take on the way back until you hit 281. Left on 281 to Rock Bridge Road. Climb gravel, look for Rattlesnake
Knob Trail. Climb until you T into Panthertown Loop
. Here you have lots of choices. If you're doing an overnight, the bottom of Panthertown Valley has plentiful campsites.
Either the next day or after a good break, climb out of Panthertown Valley and connect with Black Rock Trail. This is some sweet singletrack with reasonable hike-a-bike if you're on a loaded gravel steed. Connect to Panthertown Loop
and then descend back down Rattlesnake
Knob. Then down Rock Bridge Road, then 281 back to Wolf Branch Road
. Ride Wolf Branch Road
until you hit Tanassee Gap Road on the right, and follow that to 215. 215 to Indian Creek, Indian Creek to Davidson River Road, to 475B, to 5041, 276, Yellow Gap Road, Wash Creek Rd. (FR 5000)
, Bent Creek Road
, to the car.
An outstanding trophy ride. If anyone does this in a day let me know and I'll send you a panther patch.