Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a national park located in the southeastern United States, ranging between the states of Tennessee and North Carolina. The park includes the ridgeline of the Great Smoky Mountains, which are part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a division of the Appalachian Mountain chain. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States and encompasses 816 square miles (2114 square kilometers) of land.
If you’re interested in taking an e-bike trip in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this article will provide all the information you need to prepare!
Are e-bikes allowed in Great Smoky Mountains National Park?
Yes, e-bikes are allowed in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. However, riders should be aware that since the park spans between the states of Tennessee and North Carolina, e-bike specifications must abide by the laws of these states.
On a federal level, the U.S.A. defines a “low-speed electric bicycle” (e.g. e-bike) as a two or three-wheeled vehicle that has fully operable pedals. On a state level, requirements for both North Carolina and Tennessee require an e-bike to have:
- A maximum motor output that must not exceed 750W
- A maximum speed that must not exceed 20 mph (32 km/h) for Class I and Class II, or 28 mph (45 km/h) for Class III e-bikes
Rules for e-bikes on public roads, sidewalks, and pathways are under state jurisdiction, which means visitors should be sure to abide by each state’s road rules. In Tennessee, electric bicycles are permitted on all roadways and bicycle recreational paths. However, e-bikes are prohibited from riding on sidewalks. In North Carolina, e-bikes are permitted to ride on all public highways and roadways with a posted speed limit of less than 25 mph (40 km/h), and are allowed on sidewalks, bike lanes, and bike paths.
Learn more about the United States’ electric bicycle laws here.
How is Great Smoky Mountains National Park organized, is it bicycle-friendly?
In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, bicycles are permitted to travel on most roads within the park. However, the park notes that because of steep terrain, narrow road surfaces, and heavy car traffic, many of the roads within the park are not suitable for safe bicycle riding. Riders who are visiting the park should ride these roads at their own risk.
Additionally, Cades Cove Loop Road is an 11-mile (18 km) one-way road, and is very popular for bicyclists. Other suitable bicycling areas include the roads in Greenbrier and Tremont in Tennessee, and Cataloochee Valley and Lakeview Drive in North Carolina. Cyclists are also prohibited from riding on park trails except for Gatlinburg Trail, Oconaluftee River Trail, and lower Deep Creek Trail, where bicycles are permitted.
Riders should also note that there are no mountain biking trails in the park.
Where to stay during the trip?
There are many hotels situated in and around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Some top-rated options include Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg, Greystone Lodge on the River, Mountain House Motor Inn Downtown, Crossroads Inn and Suites, Country Inn & Suites by Radisson – Gatlinburg, Gatlinburg Inn, Sleep Inn & Suites, River Terrace Resort and Convention Center, Brookside Resort By Fairbridge, Courtyard Gatlinburg, Quality Inn & Suites, and Edgewater Hotel & Conference Center. Visit Booking.com, Trip Advisor, and Expedia for more recommendations!
If you’re interested in camping while visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park, front country campsites include Abrams Creek, Balsam Mountain, Big Creek, Cades Cove, Cataloochee, Cosby, Deep Creek, Elkmont, Look Rock, and Smokemont. Visit this webpage for more campground information, which details which campsites are suitable for RVs as well.
For backcountry camping, the park requires visitors to have a permit and advance reservations. If you’re interested in doing backcountry camping while visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visit the park’s “Smokies Backcountry Camping: Things You Need To Know” webpage, which offers further information about reservations, permits, and regulations.
Where can I eat? Or should I take my food with me?
Though you certainly can bring your food with you while on your e-bike trip, there are a number of restaurants and food spots situated in and around the park!
For affordable eats, quick bites, cafes, and pubs, popular options include Tennessee Jed’s, Parton’s Deli, The High Test Deli & Sweet Shop, Delauder’s BBQ, Donut Friar, Lit’l Donut Shop, Coffee and Company, Red Oak Bistro, New Orleans Sandwich Company, Ole Red, LandShark Bar & Grill, No Way Jose’s, Daiquiri Shack and Grill by Margaritaville, Atrium Pancakes, License to Chill Bar, and Giovanni’s.
For sit-down restaurants and finer dining options, top-rated options include Chesapeake’s Seafood and Raw Bar, Buckhorn Inn, The Melting Pot, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, El Sonador Mexican Restaurant and Grill, and Smoky Mountain Trout House.
What gear should I take on the trip?
Before embarking on your e-bike trip, it’s very important to bring proper bike and safety gear with you. Essentials include: a helmet, backpack, water, e-bike charger, rearview mirror, waterproof jacket, bike-appropriate clothing and layers, sunscreen, sunglasses, a bike repair kit and pump, a first aid kit, and front and rear lights.
If you are also planning on camping while visiting the park, you should additionally bring your tent (if applicable), sleeping bag, extra clothes, food, booking information, dishware, cutlery, and a valid ID.
Where can I charge my e-bike?
While there are currently no official lists of electric bike-specific charging stations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, riders may be able to charge their e-bike at certain campgrounds, hotels, restaurants, and cafes. Additionally, there are a number of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations available in the park, which riders may be able to use for their e-bikes.
EV charging stations within the park include Sugarlands Visitor Center, Bennett’s Bar-B Que, Rafting in the Smokies, Pigeon Forge, Dancing Bear Lodge & Appalachian Bistro, Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Cherokee Welcome Center, Maggie Valley Town Hall, Waynesville, and Wolf Creek Café. Visit My Smoky Mountain Park’s webpage about EV charging stations for further information.
What kind of e-bike do I need to ride in Great Smoky Mountains National Park?
Since there are no mountain biking routes available in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, riders do not need to use an electric mountain bike (eMTB). As such, we recommend utilizing a commuter or cruiser electric bike. A hybrid e-bike may also be ideal for navigating the more uneven and steep terrain within the park.
Where can I rent an e-bike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or should I take one with me?
Yes, there are a couple of companies that offer e-bike rentals while visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which we will feature later in the article!
You may also bring your e-bike with you, but should first check that your vehicle adheres to the state’s electric bicycle laws and requirements (in this case, this would be Tennessee and North Carolina).
What else can I do while on an e-bike trip in Great Smoky Mountains National Park?
Don’t miss out on the plethora of sightseeing opportunities and activities the park has to offer!
Some top natural sites to see in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park include Cades Cove, Mount Le Conte, Mount Guyot, Laurel Falls, Alum Cave Trail, Newfound Gap, Sugarlands Visitor Center, Gatlinburg Trail, Clingmans Dome, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Abrams Falls Trail, Grotto Falls Trail, Chimney tops, Rainbow Falls Trail, and Ramsey Cascades.
For entertainment, museums, and tourist attractions, options include Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Ober Gatlinburg, Gatlinburg SkyLift Park, Gatlinburg Space Needle, Hollywood Star Cars Museum, Parrot Mountain and Gardens, Great Smoky Arts & Crafts, CLIMB Works Smoky Mountain, Ripley’s Moving Theater, Mysterious Mansion, and Gatlinburg SkyBridge.
Read also: Check out USA best travel destinations by electric bike in this overview article.
What is the best time of year to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park on an e-bike?
The best time of year to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park are summer (June to August) and fall (September to mid-November). We recommend avoiding visiting the park in the winter, as this season sees many road and attraction closures due to snow, and temperatures average below freezing.
To determine which time of year works best for you, bear in mind that summertime tends to see peak lodging rates and high tourist traffic. Additionally, daytime temperatures range from the high 80s to low 90s degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 25 – 35 degrees Celsius), where evening temperatures average between the 60s and 70s (15 – 21 degrees Celsius). Haze and thunderstorms are relatively common during this time of year.
In the fall, visitors flock to see the colorful autumn foliage. That said, this time of year sees lower lodging rates and fewer crowds than summer – however, October weekends tend to see higher rates and more traffic. Daytime temperatures range from the 70s to 80s degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 21 – 26 degrees Celsius), and evening temperatures average in the 50s (10 – 15 degrees Celsius).
Due to the park’s diverse geography and varying elevations, temperatures can vary up to 20 degrees between base and mountain top. As such, it is recommended to bring a rain jacket and multiple layers regardless of the time of year.
Resources to help plan your trip
To better plan your trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, find more information on the official National Park Service (NPS) webpage here.
For further information about trails and routes, visit NPS’ “Bicycling” webpage for Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
If you are looking to rent your e-bike, there are two options to choose from. First is Bike the Smokies, located in Gatlinburg, TN, which offers rentals in 1-hour, 3-hour, and 8-hour increments. The company strongly recommends riders reserve their e-bike in advance, though they do accept walk-ins.
Second is 1 E-bike Rental, located in Pigeon Forge, TN, which offers rentals in 2-hour, 4-hour, daily, and weekly increments. Riders can also choose rental add-ons such as delivery service, bike tours, helmets, bike bags, and more.
For further restaurant recommendations, visit Trip Advisor to view more options!
Discover more of Great Smoky Mountains National Park with this video: