This weekend mudhunny and I drove up to the IMBA-certified EPIC Tanasi trails just over the Georgia border in southeastern Tennessee. The trailhead is located at the Ocoee Whitewater Center, site of the 1996 Olympic canoe and kayak slalom competition and as we unpacked our gear we watched dozens of cheering rafters navigate the surf. The trailhead facilities are truly world-class with clean restrooms, free trail maps, and even a small shop with snacks and supplies for most any outdoor adventure.
The trail starts out on the opposite side of the river and there are a couple scenic bridges to get you across. Almost immediately the singletrack starts to climb but we were surprised to find every inch completely rideable, though one of us may have slipped into the granny gear a couple times 😉 Since the trails at Tanasi are essentially a network we knew we couldn’t cover every square inch of dirt without doing some backtracking so we decided to make the longest loop possible from the available loops. At Bear Paw we took the right side of the loop and climbed up Chestnut Mountain Loop to the River View Loop. On the River View Loop we even took the River View Loop Spur but didn’t even catch a glimpse of the river (perhaps in the fall?).
After the River View Loop we continued left on Chestnut but in hindsight we probably should have turned right to pick up the Bypass trail which appeared to be mostly singletrack (Chestnut was doubletrack / fireroad). Next we took the Quartz Loop at the top of the ride and this section was possibly my favorite with fast, swoopy singletrack carved into the side of the mountain.
After the Quartz Loop we joined back up with Chestnut Mountain Loop and started the descent to the fabled Thunder Rock Express trail. This section of Chestnut Mountain Loop was a wide gravel road with a light covering of straw that made it easy to fly down the mountain without fear of sliding out in the turns.
Thunder Rock Express lived up to its billing with fast descents, short technical stretches, and surprises around every corner – like a dirt roller coaster anchored into the mountain. This section sorta reminded me of the Bear Creek descent just across the GA border in Ellijay but without the grueling climb. Honestly the loop we did felt as if we got alot more downhill out of the climbing than should have been possible. Dontcha love trails like that 😉
At the bottom of Thunder Rock Express we headed back to the car on the Rhododendron Trail which is a wide gravel path that parallels the Ocoee River. We saw a number of families hiking and stopped to watch the rafters navigate a particularly rough looking patch of whitewater. I was kinda bummed to be done at Tanasi and felt like I could do the whole 12.5 mile loop again. Fortunately there are more trails at the lower section of Tanasi down Old Copper Road that we missed so we’ll definitely be back.
After a quick lunch beside the river we headed to a public swimming area on Lake Ocoee just across from another great Tennessee trail system – Chilhowee. The water was warm on the surface and cool underneath, perfect for cleaning up and cooling down after a gnarly ride.
We were surprised to see only 2 other riders out on the Tanasi trails on a summer weekend, especially given the proximity to Atlanta (2 hours) and the quality and size of the trail system. I know we’ll be back for Tanasi part II and Chilhowee part I before the summer is out. If you love fast, flowy trails Tanasi is the place to ride – check it out!