3 - 4
FATMAP difficulty grade
Hot Springs, North Carolina is an outdoorsman's paradise, offering plenty of world-class kayaking, rugged mountain biking, part of the Appalachian Trail, and of course - endless miles of gravel road! This loop is one of the best around, showcasing the beauty of the French Broad River before rewarding mountaintop views from Rich Mountain Fire Tower at nearly 3,700'! Even better, there are only a few miles of pavement—the rest is well-maintained gravel. [According to Wikipedia](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_Springs,_North_Carolina), the natural hot spring the town is named for is the only one of its kind in North Carolina, and in most of the southeastern United States.
The Native Americans who originally occupied the area knew the spring to have natural healing properties, a belief that draws in countless tourists every year. As mapped, this ride begins along the river where the Appalachian Trail climbs up to Lover's Leap, a popular short hike to an overlook.
You could also park anywhere in town, or drive a few minutes up River Road to a parking area on the left.
Just be mindful of any *Private Property* or *No Parking* signs around town. For a steep climb early and a long, steady descent to finish, ride this loop counter-clockwise.
For an easier but longer climb and steep descent at the end, start up River Road and ride the loop clockwise.
Either way, take note that there is **a lot** of climbing on this ride, so lower gearing is a **must**. This route can be ridden year-round but is best left alone during rain and snow.
The French Broad River has breached its banks multiple times through the years, and the road will close while they make repairs.
Hot Springs is also along the northernmost reaches of the mountains, so the nearby peaks see the worst of the winter weather, even though they are not that high.