There are a couple of very remote, short stretches of Mountains to the Sea Trail, along the ridge at the top of the Big Balds, and leaving Bear Pen Gap to Wet Camp Gap. Following trail regs requires you walk your bike on these stretches.
Start at East Laporte Park in Jackson County. Cross Highway 107 and turn onto Caney Fork Road. Turn left off of Caney Fork onto Moses Creek Road. Several miles after Moses Creek turns to gravel, turn right onto only drivable gravel road and emerge up hight at about 5000' through a closed gate onto Big Bald Ridge. Cross the first bald and veer left on grassy forest service fire road. At second bald, turn 180 degrees left and climb several hundred feet to top of another bald, Turn right onto singletrack trail that reaches the top of another bald and then continues on ridge top all the way to Blue Ridge Parkway. Take BRP north to Bear Pen Gap. Turn right at Bear Pen on trail that travels around the nose of the ridge and then zags back to the left, paralleling BRP. Turn right on *second* ridge (not the first which descends Rough Butt Creek to the cross it and Sugar Creek Road and Caney Fork) and travel through Wet Camp Gap, another bald. Turn right down a grassy forest service road and descend to Rough Butt Creek and go through a closed gate. Road turns to gravel -- climb to Sugar Creek Gap. Turn right through a closed gate at Sugar Creek Gap and route find a traverse that ends at another closed gate and Sam Queen Gap. Turn left and descend on good gravel that quickly turns to pavement and Johns Creek Road. Descend Johns Creek to Caney Fork, Turn left to complete loop.
Moses Creek, Big Bald Road, and the other end of Sugar Creek Gap Road ("Loggers Road" on Charlie's Creek Road) are gated in the deep winter, as is the BRP. There are permanently closed gates at the top of Big Bald Road, where Sugar Creek Road reaches Rough Butt Creek and becomes the path from Wet Camp Gap, and at both ends of the path from Sugar Creek Gap to Sam Queen gap. Be prepared and self-sufficient, especially in the winter.
This route skirts private property in places but is 100% on public lands.
A cross bike would be possible, and even preferable on the climb all the way to Richland Balsam, but it would be unpleasant on the descent from Wet Camp Gap to Sugar Creek Road, and dicey on the traverse from Sugar Creek Gap to Sam Queen Gap. A hardtail is fine, and full squish would be a net disadvantage over much lighter bikes. Tubeless tires are recommended because of briars on a few places on closed roads.
There is relatively reliable, safe drinking water coming out of a spring pipe on the left side of the road maybe a quarter of a mile before summiting Richland Balsam on the parkway.
Local Trail Association
Difficulty ratingDouble Black Diamond
More Stats for Circumnavigation of Caney mountain bike route
Altitude min2,092 ft
Altitude start2,118 ft
Altitude end2,116 ft
Distance climb21 miles
Distance down20 miles
Distance flat4 miles
- Snow Packed
- Snow Covered
- Freeze/thaw Cycle
- Prevalent Mud
- Very Dry
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