As riders wind through the countryside of Alleghany County that surrounds Sparta, NC, you are treated to the beautiful views that the Blue Ridge Mountains are famous for. Remember, this is a mountain ride. Regardless of the distance, riders will experience challenging climbs. Being in good physical condition is the key to an enjoyable ride. If there is any doubt regarding your fitness level, consult your physician before beginning your ride.
All routes are along paved roads and are suitable for road bikes. Wide-tire off-road bikes are not required. However, most roads lack a paved shoulder, and they may be narrow and include blind curves. Lights, reflective clothing and/or flags to call attention to you and your bicycle are advised. You may encounter untethered dogs. Halt of other protective measures are also advised. Watch for deer. Some backroads may be paved or patched with tar and gravel and invariably leave some loose gravel.
Routes (links open in a new window. Close that window to return here) for the 2016 Tour de Mountains ride: A short 20 mile loop is offered for riders wanting a taste of the challenge of mountain cycling. Our popular 35 mile loop remains unchanged. Tweaks to the metric century should make it attractive to more riders.
Saving the best for last, the BEAST, our 100-mile loop has been tweaked and includes over 9,600 feet of climb. You'll have to look long and hard for a more challenging century ride.
The Tour de Mountains event offers full SAG support and rest stops are at 10-15 mile intervals.
Anytime Pleasure Rides: Almost anytime spring, summer and fall is a good time to ride the backroads of Allghany County. The following routes are suggested. Remember you are riding without support. A cell phone is advised and if you are a visitor make sure you have coverage. Even with good coverage, you may encounter some dead spots. Call 911 in an emergency.
LAZY 8: This 15.5 mile lazy ride winds through Laurel Springs south of Sparta. You climb 1,084 feet. Parking is available on the roadside at the start at the intersection of NC 18/113/Elk Knob Road. There are seveal points of interest along the ride. You encounter Thistle Meadow Winery a half mile into your ride. The route includes 2 miles along the Blue Ridge Parkway. At Laurel Springs, about 5 1/2 miles into the ride, there is a convenience store, Freeborne's Restaurant and Motel (a popular motercycle destination), and Wild Woodie's collectibles and campgrouds. Seven miles into the ride on your left is Doughton-Hall Bed and Breakfast in the restored home of Congressman Bob Doughton. Nine miles into the ride, and about a mile after you cross the starting point, is Mabe's Grocery on the left.
LITTLE RIVER VALLEY: This 23.3 mile route winds through the Little River Valley northeast of Sparta. The pastoral countryside spreads out before you as you ride. You climb 2,332 feet. The ride begins at Crouse Park, two blocks behind the Courthouse in the center of Sparta. It's a great place to picnic. Please note, pack what you eat and drink. There are no stores to purchase water or nabs on the first 20 miles of this route.
MODIFIED WESTERN LOOP: This route is 32.5 miles long and climbs 2,897 feet. This western loop is a recognized by NC Department of Transportation as a recreational cycling loop. It is essentially the same ride as the 2014 Tour de Mountains 35 mile route, except the beginning points are slightly different. The DOT route has been modified to include the spectacular views along Mt. Carmel Road. Some 22.7 miles into the ride, you leave NC 93 for a short steep climb up Spry Road to its intersection with Mt. Carmel Road. The view at the intersection is hard to beat and views off both sides of the short stretch of Mt. Carmel Road are as spectacular. It rejoins NC 93 at 25.9 miles. There are seveal points along the way were you can find food: Twin Oaks Grocery and Cafe at 3 and 29.5 miles; Motley's Barbecue 11.6; Pine Valley Grocery 14.2; Piney Creek General Store 16.8; Buckaroo's Grille 18; and Kennedy's Store and Farm Supply 23.9. This ride begins at Crouse Park, two blocks behind the Courthouse in Sparta. It's a great place to picnic.
This loop leaves Sparta going north on US 21 and the first 3.7 miles feature the long downhill on the back side of Twin Oaks Mountain. You rejoin this stretch for the last 3.7 miles and longish climb up Twin Oaks Mountain to reach Sparta. You can start your loop at one of the stores along the way, looping back onto US 221 at the NC 93 intersection. This will shorten the ride to 25.1 miles and 2,529 feet of climb. Be sure to ask the store's propritor if you can park your vehicle and as a courtesy buy a nab or bottle of water.
COMBINED WESTERN, LITTLE RIVER LOOPS: Since both the Modified Western Loop and Little River Valley Loop start in Sparta, you can combine the two for a 56.2 mile ride. Complete one loop in the morning and you can be in Sparta for lunch! After lunch, complete the second loop.
BLUE RIDGE COUNTRY LOOP: This 21.5 mile loop includes almost 5 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway and a total 1,773 feet of climb. This is another figure 8 ride. You wind back and cross the Parkway at 11.7 miles. For a more leisurely ride, you have the option to turn right onto the Parkway and return 5 miles to the Little Glade Mill Pond.
Begin at the Little Glade Mill Pond, Parkway Mile Post 230.1. It offers parking, fishing (it's noted for its brim), picnic tables and a gentle .3 mile trail. It's a great place to picnic before or after your ride. Go north and follow the Parkway for 3.9 miles as it winds beneath the forest canopy. At Scenic Valley Road, climb out of the forest into a wide valley rimmed with blue peaks for stunning 360-degree views. It is truly a remarkable way to begin a ride. Please note, pack what you eat and drink. There are no stores to purchase water or nabs on the route.
THE MOST LEISURELY RIDE: Alleghany County is blessed to have one of the flattest stretches of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Begin at the Little Glade Mill Pond (Mile Post 230.1) and ride north. It's easy to tell how far you've ridden by the mile posts. After nine miles you've only climbed 500 feet! Turn around and return for an 18 mile ride. The road may be the same, but the view is different. Pedal just 12.5 miles north (climbing just 825 feet total) and you come to the Cumberland Knob Recreation Area, a 1,000 acres were you can hike an easy .7 mile trail, picnic and enjoy the views. Restrooms and water are available. However the facility is unmanned.
Pedal just five more miles (an additional 300 feet climb), you cross into Virginia and arrive at the Blue Ridge Music Center that offers a museum, an afternoon live jam in the breezeway, and a summer concert series. Open mid-May to late October. Check the website for details. The round trip to the music center and back to Little Glade Mill Pond is 34.6 miles.