We have documented the 10 hardest bike rides in North Carolina. On this page and the individual climb page you will find detailed summaries, epic photographs and statistics for these climbs.
Cycling the Top Bike Climbs in North Carolina
North Carolina is an exceptional state for bike climbs. First and foremost is the amazing Mount Mitchell, the state’s highest and hardest bike climb. We also have two extremely scenic national byways, the incomparable Blue Ridge Parkway and Cherohala Parkway from the North Carolina side.
HIGHEST AND HARDEST BIKE CLIMB IN NORTH CAROLINA
Cycling Mt. Mitchell -- a bike climb in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains.
Ride 24 miles to elevation 6,684’, gaining 6,409’ at 4% average grade.
Mt. Mitchell is both extremely scenic (it is a Top 10 US Scenic Bike Climb) and very difficult. While the average grade is 4%, this is misleading due to two brief and one significant (2.1 miles at 5%) descents along the 24 mile climb. The overall average for the climb, excluding descents, is 5.7%. While 5.7% is a good climb for 20+ miles, this climb is much harder than the 5.7% average implies -- there are several one-half to one mile segments that average over 8% -- the steepest quarter-mile is 11.2%, and steepest mile is 8.1%.
Park office at mile 22.8.
Mile 14.3 / 4,825’.
Observation platform and the Mount Mitchell highest point, a 300’ hike up from bike climb finish.
#2 MOST DIFFICULT CLIMB IN NC
Roan Mountain South
Ride 8.3 miles gaining 3,000’ at 6.9% average grade.
#3 MOST DIFFICULT CLIMB IN NC
Cycling Waterrock Knob via Route 19
Ride 12.4 miles gaining 3,607’ at 5.5% average grade.
The last five miles of this climb are on the amazing Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the most scenic roadways in the United States. By BRP standards, this is a moderately difficult climb with an average of 5.5% and several segments briefly reaching double digits. The steepest quarter-mile is 8.7%, and the steepest half-mile is 8.2%.
John Summerson writes of this climb:
“Route 19 is a narrow road that carries some traffic. At mile 7.6 turn right onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and continue along one of the most scenic sections of climbing on earth. At the top of the ridge make a left turn for the short finishing climb to Waterrock Knob. There is a visitors center with parking on top with restrooms.” (This quote provided with approval of John Summerson from his book, The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike) in the Southeast, pg. 98.)
Highest visitor center of 15 on the 469 mile Blue Ridge Parkway.
#4 MOST DIFFICULT CLIMB IN NC
Cycling Fie Top Road, North Carolina
Ride 2.9 miles gaining 1,730’ at 11.6% average grade.
This climb is a monster -- no doubt about it. The best way to get onto a state Top 10 list (here #4) when you’re under four miles is to be very STEEEEEEP!
#5 MOST DIFFICULT CLIMB IN NC
Cycling Blue Ridge Parkway - Cherokee Hill, North Carolina.
Ride 10.3 miles gaining 3,133’ at 5.5% average grade.
This climb starts at the beginning of the incomparable Blue Ridge Parkway. The BRP is America’s longest linear park and runs 469 miles through North Carolina and Virginia. A trademark of the BRP is its 200+ beautiful overlooks, more than any other roadway in the US.
This climb is also the southern start of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Cycling Cherohala Skyway National Scenic Byway from the North Carolina side.
Ride 17.9 miles gaining 3,411’ at 2% average grade (many rollers and descents).
Warnings on the way to and at the start of the climb.
Although not one of the most difficult North Carolina bike climbs, this is one ot the best and most scenic. This is a magnificent ride, particularly from the North Carolina side. On this ride, like the Blue Ridge Parkway, we have many great viewpoints offering excellent sights of the surrounding Unicoi Mountains which are a subrange of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
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