Cyclists enjoy a rural backroad through Sequatchie County. Photos contributed.
May 13, 2019 – Cyclists in Southeast Tennessee now have a new and growing network of bike routes to explore: Bikeways of the Scenic South.
A project of the Southeast Tennessee Tourism Association (SETTA), Bikeways is a network of carefully designed bicycling routes throughout the region, including the first-ever “Cycle Sequatchie Outdoor Expo,” scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019.
This local event will be centered in Dunlap, but will fan out from here along four scenic routes, of 16, 37, 63, and 78 miles. Event organizers are following up with a Farm-to-Table Feast at the Sequatchie Valley Institute.
The event “will celebrate cycling in the Sequatchie Valley, and proceeds will benefit conservation efforts in the Sequatchie Valley and the South Cumberland Plateau” through the Land Trust for Tennessee, according to organizers. (Learn more at CycleSequatchie.com.)
Information about Bikeways of the Scenic South is available online at ScenicBikeways.com, including downloadable maps, turn-by-turn cue sheets, notable points of interest, conveniences, and descriptive narratives of what to expect along the routes.
“The narratives don’t just describe the roads, scenery and landmarks, but also talk about where to stop for a drink and a snack and where to eat after the ride,” according to Shannon Burke of Velo View Bike Tours, who developed the routes and the website.
Routes currently cover the geographic areas of the Sequatchie Valley (Marion, Sequatchie, and Bledsoe counties) and Three Rivers Way (Bradley, Polk, McMinn, and Monroe counties), a region that includes the Ocoee, Hiwassee and Tellico Rivers, as well as the Cherokee National Forest and Cherohala Skyway.
The goal of the project is to eventually map bike routes throughout the entire region, including northwest Georgia and northeast Alabama.
“While our region has some of the most scenic cycling roads anywhere in the country, finding those low-traffic backroads has not always been easy,” said Jim Johnson, founder of BikeTours.com and an early proponent of the regional scenic bikeways concept. “Bikeways of the Scenic South will help both visitors and residents discover these beautiful backroads. Additionally, bicycle tourism is sustainable: It doesn’t cause the damage that many kinds of mass tourism bring.”
Cycling is big business, and county leaders were drawn to the potential economic benefit that cycling can bring to the region. Studies show that regions that invest in cycling infrastructure yield positive economic impacts.
“There are so many examples across the country of cycling programs that have created positive economic and health impacts for communities in rural areas, so we are excited to partner with our counties and regional cycling advocates to develop and promote this new initiative,” said Southeast Tennessee Tourism Coordinator Jenni Veal.
“We look forward to hosting cyclists in the Sequatchie Valley to enjoy this historic and scenic landscape and our local restaurants, hotels and businesses,” said Marion County Mayor David Jackson. “Cycling is just one of the many ways that visitors and residents can explore and enjoy the outdoors in Southeast Tennessee.”Stopping for a closer look at a waterfall in the Three Rivers region of east Tennessee.