Last week the Southern Highlands Traverse bikepacking route was officially unveiled, and it looks to be an instant classic! Brett Davidson and Logan Watts, along with more than a dozen contributors, created the route, which begins near Front Royal, VA and ends at Flagg Mountain in Alabama, making it the first 1,000+ mile bikepacking route on the East Coast.
The 1,270 mile route is broken up into four distinct stages. The first stage is known as the Virginia Mountain Bike Trail (VMBT) and runs 473 miles from Front Royal south to Damascus. Half of the climbing for the entire route is accomplished on this stage: 52,428 feet of climbing, to be exact.
Stage 2 is known as Trans Western North Carolina, running 314 miles from Damascus, VA to the Georgia / South Carolina border near Mountain Rest, SC. Pisgah trail highlights along this section include Black Mountain, Pilot Rock, and Spencer Gap.
The third stage is known as the Trans North Georgia, or TNGA. This 357-mile route is well known for the annual unofficial bikepacking race of the same name. Riders still aren’t out of the hills yet–the TNGA features 38,690 feet of climbing and covers much of the Georgia Pinhoti singletrack trail.
The final stage–the Alabama Skyway–mellows to 123 miles with (just) 11,000 feet of climbing. This section is mostly gravel roads and hits many scenic high points within the Talladega National Forest.
All told, the Southern Highlands Traverse climbs about 141,000 feet and should take riders between 20 and 30 days to complete. The route is also slated to serve as an alternate branch off the planned Eastern Divide Route, which when completed, will run nearly 5,000 miles from Newfoundland, Canada to Key West, Florida.