FATMAP difficulty grade
Asheville-based bike shop [Motion Makers](https://www.motionmakers.com/about/local-routes-asheville-pg214.htm) considers this loop a local favorite and perfect for any "strong rider who wants a serious 70+ mile loop starting in Asheville." Much of this route is paved, including the entire stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway, but Curtis Creek offers a screaming fast descent down a quiet gravel road closed to traffic during the winter and early spring. Though this route is accessible year-round, consider planning this as a summer or fall ride since weather at the higher elevations can be brutally cold.
Compared to Asheville, Charlotte, or Raleigh, temperatures can often be 20+ degrees cooler atop Mount Mitchell, and that's before the wind chill.
The Blue Ridge Parkway also closes frequently due to winter conditions and ice or snow can make travel both difficult and dangerous.
As mapped, this route starts and ends at the Folk Art Center in East Asheville.
You could also head up the Blue Ridge Parkway and park at any overlook or pull-off between there and Craven Gap.
Any higher, and you'll be finishing your ride with an even longer road climb.
Black Mountain, Old Fort Picnic Area, or Andrews Geyser would also make great options to start. While this loop could be enjoyed in either direction, **clockwise** is preferred.
It's a long, steady climb to start - but completely paved.
There are plenty of overlooks to stop and catch your breath, plus the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center is open seasonally and offers both restrooms and drinking water.
There are no set dates, but its safe to assume it will be open between mid-April and mid-October.
More information on the facility can be found [here](https://www.nps.gov/blri/planyourvisit/hours.htm). Though you could skip the spur to the highest peak east of the Mississippi River - Mount Mitchell -there's no good reason to, even on tired legs! The State Park does *not* require an entry fee and they offer a seasonal concession stand and restaurant so that you can refuel during the warmer months.
Again, availability and hours are significantly limited during the winter.
For current hours, weather, and other information about Mount Mitchell State Park, please refer to one of the two following phone numbers: Office: 828-675-4611 Restaurant: 828-675-1888 From Mount Mitchell, its *mostly* downhill for a while, including a screaming fast and winding gravel descent down Curtis Creek Road and into Old Fort.
The remainder of the route parallels Interstate 40 to its north, passing through Black Mountain, then Swannanoa en route for the Folk Art Center. Compared to the route listed by Motion Makers, we've made one adjustment to the route to incorporate a little more gravel.
While you could follow the Point Lookout Greenway up a paved pathway to Ridgecrest, we've instead mapped the route around to Mill Creek - a gravel road alternative that leads to the top of the greenway.
Either way is a great option, but since this is listed as a gravel loop, it seemed fitting to map it this way instead.
Whichever you choose, remember to save some energy since the climb is nearly 1,110' to the top and comes very late into the ride. For a shorter mixed surface loop incorporating both options, check out [this route](https://fatmap.com/routeid/798727/Point_Lookout/Mill_Creek). Source: https://www.motionmakers.com/about/local-routes-asheville-pg214.htm https://www.ncparks.gov/mount-mitchell-state-park/home https://www.nps.gov/blri/planyourvisit/hours.htm