Pack up your bike and head to Bristol, Va./Tenn., for days filled with epic trails, delicious eats, and refreshing brews. The mountains and waters of the area make for scenic riding on a variety of terrain with each trail system providing a different user experience.
As the director of local programs with the International Mountain Bicycling Association, Anthony Duncan helps support grassroots mountain biking and trail advocacy efforts around the country. In his spare time, you can find him riding the trails around Bristol and volunteering with SORBA Tri-Cities.
For the novice/beginner looking to get a lay of the land, Duncan recommends the flowy, multi-use trails at the South Holston Dam. “There are currently around five miles of professionally built trails that provide a great starting point for riders who are just getting into the sport and want to progress their skills,” he said.
The 12 miles of bike-optimized, singletrack trails at Sugar Hollow Park include more technically challenging options and features as you ride past waterfalls, wildlife, limestone cliffs, and wetlands with views of Mount Rodgers, White Top, and Roan Mountain in the distance. One of Duncan’s favorite places to ride is the Cascades Trail. “Just as you make the slight turn to climb away from Beaver Creek, there is a small rapid that makes for a nice spot to rest and get a little lost in the sights and sounds,” he said. “During the springtime, there are blooming redbud trees and other flowers that make it look and feel very magical. I stop at that spot every time I ride there.” You can stay close to the action at one of the 75 campsites in the park, plus a disc golf course and picnic areas for when you’re done on your bike.
Steele Creek Park, one of the largest in Tennessee, offers 24 miles of extremely challenging trail experiences. You’ll encounter technical rock areas, exposed roots, steep climbs, and steep descents on narrow trails. “The sections of trail that lead to the higher elevations in the park can be steep, but provide access to the most remote sections of the park,” Duncan said. “Here you can get a backcountry-feeling experience without ever leaving city limits.”
The whole family will love biking the Mendota Trail, a gravel and natural surface rail trail. The gentle grade with little elevation change makes for a casual ride that will get the legs moving. Currently, 6.2 miles of the trail are open for recreation. When completed, the full trail will run 12.5 miles from Bristol to Mendoata, Va., connecting the two towns and taking visitors past rolling hills and scenic waterways.
Make Mountain Sports Ltd. one of your first stops in town for the lowdown on the best trails in the areaand all the gear you’ll need for a day on the trails. During the warmer months, they also host a Thursday night ride to showcase the best of Sugar Hollow Park. Stop by Boyd’s Bicycle Shop in Downtown Bristol for a tune up or repairs with an expert bike mechanic in the shop Monday through Saturday.
Bites, Brews, and Beds
When you’re done in the saddle, take advantage of all the amenities the area has to offer in order to make the most out of your trip.
With the Virginia and Tennessee border running right down State Street, Downtown Bristol is a gathering spot for locals and visitors alike. Get your morning started with a donut and caffeine boost from Trailblazer Coffee or Blackbird On The Fly. Make sure to try Cootie Brown’s for a wide variety of dishes from tamales to sandwiches that will hit the spot. And who could forget Southern Craft BBQ’s smoked wings and mouth-watering barbecue.
End the night with a celebratory drink at one of downtown’s breweries. For beer you can’t find anywhere else, Elderbrew is a small batch brewery serving quality beer brewed one barrel at a time. You’ll find a cozy atmosphere with a beer for just about everyone at Bristol Station Brews & Taproom, plus live music, trivia nights, and friendly faces. Visit State Street Brewing Company for their signature brews and seasonal classics that hit the spot after a long day outside.
For a short walk back to your accommodations, The Bristol Hotel features cozy rooms and sweeping views of the Appalachian Mountain while The Sessions Hotel has quickly become a top destination for the country music lover with onsite music venues and a day spa. Both hotels feature a rooftop bar with delicious cocktails, local brews, and epic views of the city.
Hit up the Pinnacle Shopping Center for more food and shopping options like Drake’s, a go to in town for big burgers and fresh sushi, and Aubrey’s where the fried chicken, crab cakes, and sandwiches will hit the spot. Across the street, settle in for a night at the Hampton Inn or Fairfield Inn & Suites before you hit the trails again.
Conveniently located next to Sugar Hollow Park, grab a slice of stone-baked pizza from Mellow Mushroom for a quick lunch before you’re out on the trails again. Stay close to the action at the Hilton Garden Inn, Courtyard by Marriott, or Holiday Inn Bristol Conference Center, all less than ten minutes from the park.
Discover the trails, restaurants, and taprooms of Bristol, Va./Tenn., on your next biking adventure.
All photos courtesy of Discover Bristol