The Bell's Cove Loop is a 25-mile road bike loop that starts in downtown Sewanee and goes through the campus of the University of the South (a university that often appears on lists of most-beautiful college campuses). You’ll then descend Roarks Cove Road (known locally as Alto Road) down into the valley of Franklin County. Rolling through the tiny town of Alto, your route will then take you through beautiful farm fields, including dramatic Bell’s Cove. After climbing the Cumberland Plateau to Monteagle, you’ll pick up the newly-opened Mountain Goat Trail, a paved, separated biking and walking path, back to Sewanee.
What Makes It Great
Whether cruising past the Gothic architecture of the University of the South, swooping down the hairpin turns on Alto Road, or taking in the view at Bell’s Cove, this ride is a perfect introduction to cycling on and around the Cumberland Plateau. There are several variations that can add mileage to your ride; stop in at Woody’s Bicycles in downtown Sewanee for beta, as well as gels, air, or a tuneup.
Traffic is light, except through the interstate exit area in Monteagle. The climb up Highway 41 to Monteagle is considered one of the mellower options for getting up onto the Plateau; when you see the VFW building on your left, you’ve pretty much made it. For those wanting a more challenging ride, taking the route counterclockwise offers the much steeper, though shorter, Alto Road climb into Sewanee.
In the valley, keep an eye out for wildlife. Riders have been known to spot foxes, coyotes, beavers, and great blue herons.
From its terminus next to the Dollar General store in Monteagle, the Mountain Goat Trail offers a paved, smooth 5 miles over wooden bridges and through hardwood forests to Sewanee. Please be considerate of the many walkers and slower cyclists on the Trail.
Who is Going to Love It
This ride is perfect for any cyclist who can handle a steep, winding descent and a climb of 900 feet in about three miles. In return, you'll be treated to picturesque farmland and views of one of America’s most beautiful college campuses. Once you’re comfortable with the area, you can explore other rides, including three other routes onto and off the Plateau and multiple ways to cruise the rural roads near Cowan and Winchester. As a bonus, you can stop in at one of Sewanee’s downtown eateries for anything from burgers and local microbrews to Asian noodles. Monteagle also offers several dining and drinking options, as well as Mountain Outfitters, a great stop for outdoor clothing and gear.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Chattanooga, take Interstate 24 West to exit 134, then follow the signs to Sewanee/University of the South. There is parking in downtown Sewanee at the intersection of Highway 41A and University Avenue. Another option is to park in Monteagle at Mountain Outfitters, then begin on the Mountain Goat Trail into Sewanee. See route map at https://www.strava.com/routes/3239667. Monteagle and Sewanee have the only stores on the route, so stock up before you ride.