Author Topic: Cycling the Parkways from Washington DC to New Orleans  (Read 4638 times)

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Offline Stefan_E

Cycling the Parkways from Washington DC to New Orleans
« on: May 05, 2023, 11:29:03 am »
I got already great input for my south to north route next year. This late summer and fall, I want to tour from DC to New Orleans together with a friend. We will start right after Labor Day. 
The route felt pretty natural to me:
  • From Washington to Harpers Ferry alongside the Chesapeake and Ohio Channel
  • Roughly following Shenandoah River to Fort Royal
  • Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Going to Nashville via Cherohala Skyway, maybe taking the commuter train from Lebanon into Nashville to avoid city traffic
  • Natchez Trace Parkway
  • Mississippi River Trail into New Orleans

I feel well informed about the parkways and also bought the Blue Ridge book. But any recommendations concerning season, nice places and towns and especially the connecting piece between Smoky Mountains and Nashville would be very appreciated.  :)
Here is the route:,-77.005863,38.890143,-77.052907,38.907665,-77.090539,38.922057,-77.104132,38.927132,-77.110462,38.937122,-77.118144,38.942238,-77.123272,38.952217,-77.128465,38.962746,-77.137198,38.970362,-77.149917,38.971838,-77.164975,38.972289,-77.167454,38.971154,-77.19492,38.977093,-77.222772,38.983231,-77.235775,38.996374,-77.247963,39.008347,-77.244315,39.014982,-77.239895,39.035186,-77.247276,39.045119,-77.274742,39.059183,-77.305727,39.068447,-77.335167,39.067514,-77.379799,39.071579,-77.409239,39.081307,-77.449751,39.121671,-77.506485,39.179445,-77.49258,39.20765,-77.46769,39.233051,-77.463055,39.256848,-77.504339,39.271733,-77.531633,39.286549,-77.552919,39.307339,-77.583904,39.315972,-77.648621,39.334297,-77.758141,38.989036,-77.961731,38.881145,-78.209953,38.760308,-78.297844,38.543869,-78.387451,37.918337,-79.013844,37.637072,-79.330902,37.25602,-79.869232,36.749063,-80.406189,35.966475,-81.933031,35.441302,-83.396358,35.323669,-83.962927,35.58887,-84.472353,36.189222,-86.651402,36.184719,-86.697063,36.1569,-86.780512,36.129972,-86.84834,36.033275,-86.976185,31.545479,-91.369858,31.322407,-91.60778,30.053345,-90.594635,30.002814,-90.441856,29.928587,-90.199986,29.946085,-90.078503&b=1c&c=0&k1=en-US&k2=mi
« Last Edit: May 05, 2023, 11:33:53 am by Stefan_E »

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Cycling the Parkways from Washington DC to New Orleans
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2023, 04:20:43 pm »
I put together a route a few years ago borrowing liberally from the RUSA regional brevets from near the Trace over to Robbinsville, NC.  Leipers Fork school is about a half mile from the Natchez Trace, and the route skirts metropolitan Nashville.  Robbinsville is some 40 miles from Cherokee, the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  If you ride the tail of the dragon, you can stay on NC 28 and skip Robbinsville, but you might like some services about then.  You'll still have a few miles on the 19/74 racetrack, but the shoulders are pretty wide through there.  Either way into Robbinsville, from Tallassee or Tellico Plains, take lots of water -- there's one bar on the northern route, a campground near the bottom of the southern, and plenty of climbing.

Disclaimer: I've cycled maybe 40-50% of that route, and driven perhaps 25% more.  I have no qualms recommending what I've biked.  The Pikeville-Daytona stretch was still being widened when I last crossed Walden's Ridge there, so I don't know what it's like now.

Offline Stefan_E

Re: Cycling the Parkways from Washington DC to New Orleans
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2023, 12:53:09 pm »
Thank you very much, Pat Lamb, that seems like a well thought out route. Would you recommend to avoid Nashville because of traffic and other reasons? I must say though, I am interested in music, so it might be worth passing through?

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Cycling the Parkways from Washington DC to New Orleans
« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2023, 08:55:27 am »
I don't have any experience cycling in downtown Nashville, so I won't make any recommendations either way.  Getting into and out of a metro downtown is usually the biggest problem IME, because at some point the subdivision developers get ahead of the road planners and you end up with roads appropriate for rural drivers, but with suburban traffic loads, that are not much fun to ride on.

The routes I spliced together were developed for randonneuring with the aim of scenic, low traffic riding.  I'd suggest contacting the Harpeth Bike Club if you want recommendations for riding into, and out of, Nashville proper.

Offline HobbesOnTour

Re: Cycling the Parkways from Washington DC to New Orleans
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2023, 08:22:29 pm »
If you like music, I wouldn't miss Nashville! I approached Madison (north of Nashville) from Murfreesboro, then from Madison through the city to join the NTP.
I made the mistake of using Komoot to plot a route and it nearly killed me. CycleTravel saved my ass that evening.
Here is my route from Madison and onto the NTP and a bit of the MRT before I turned west.

You may be interested in my travelogue
That link should point to my arrival in Nashville and give you an idea of what to expect.
I travelled from Charleston so some of the earlier posts may be interesting to you too.

It was late November when I did the Trace and it was dark early, very early but traffic was light. My understanding is that it can be very different earlier in the year with lots of RV traffic.

Good luck, that's a great trip you have ahead of you!

Offline Stefan_E

Re: Cycling the Parkways from Washington DC to New Orleans
« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2023, 05:19:44 am »
Nice, that reassures me that we will go to Nashville and that we will take the commuter train from Lebanon into Downtown to avoid that nasty traffic. Well and going to NTP seems at elast doable. Thank you! I will check other parts of your journey as well.

Offline HobbesOnTour

Re: Cycling the Parkways from Washington DC to New Orleans
« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2023, 06:18:42 am »
CycleTravel suggests a very doable looking ride from Lebanon to downtown.

Offline Stefan_E

Re: Cycling the Parkways from Washington DC to New Orleans
« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2023, 05:23:09 am »
Thank you. The ride from Lebanon into Downtown doesn't seem to bad.

It's of no more importance to you, HobbesOnTour, but I might have found good advice to other cyclists that want to go from Downtown Nashville to Natchez Trace Parkway:
The local buses from WeGo Public Transit transport up to two bikes. One can take Line 3 from Nashville Central (right in front of the Municipal auditorium), direction West End. Or even visit the Centennial Park with the Parthenon before and boarding the same bus on West End Ave & 27th Ave S WB.
Getting off at Todd Preist Dr & Sawyer Brown Rd WB, the rest is an easy ride on neighborhood streets and cycle lanes to the start of the NTP.

From the bus stop it's a 40mi/64km ride to Tennessee Highway 50 Bike Campground:,-86.946863,36.064364,-86.949406,36.058467,-86.949041,36.049498,-86.961594,35.721932,-87.262162&b=1a&c=0&k1=en-US&k2=mi
Stronger riders can do 62mi/100km to Meriwether Lewis Campground.

Offline Stefan_E

Re: Cycling the Parkways from Washington DC to New Orleans
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2024, 10:28:34 pm »
Maybe it’s of interest to some here: We did the tour in September, but ending in Savannah instead of New Orleans.
Leaving DC on the C&O Canal until Harpers Ferry and then connecting to Skyline Drive was great. In between is Sky Meadows State Park, beautiful and only (!) walk-to campsites.
Traffic on the Parkway in September was low, temperatures perfect, drivers almost every time respectful.
Many small groceries that were mentioned in the last edition before Covid of “Cycling the Blue Ridge” don’t exist anymore. Some nice camp hosts helped as out with food at one point.
We went until Great Smoky Mountains National Park and then turned southeast to Savannah.
Georgia State Parks are nicely spread out from 60 to 80 miles, well maintained, beautifully located and have nice staff.
We chose very remote routes through Georgia, but itself it was rather boring.
Savannah again is a great place to end. US Bike Route 1 leads into the city, but was neither signed nor adequate. The DOT and the city clearly don’t care at all.
Taking Amtrak back was nice, although it hurt to see how the old station in the city center is no more used by trains.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2024, 10:32:08 pm by Stefan_E »

Offline mattdwyerva

Re: Cycling the Parkways from Washington DC to New Orleans
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2024, 08:23:09 pm »
Sounds like a wonderful trip.  I love camping next to the creek at Sky Meadows, and SNP and BRP in September are incredibly nice places to ride, especially if you can time it to avoid the weekend in the northern section.

Glad you had a nice trip