Unaka High School to Damascus, 63.7 miles, 4,382’ elevation gain
● start/end at Unaka H.S., 119 Robinson Lane, Elizabethton, TN 37643
This challenging out-and-back features two climbs over Cross Mountain (elev. 3,500’). The first is a 13-mile CAT 2 climb up Stoney Creek Highway, TN-91. The Appalachian Trail crosses Highway 91 at the Carter/Johnson County line, where Iron Mountain and Holston Mountain intersect. Shady Valley, surrounded on three sides by mountains, is one of the Volunteer State’s most scenic places – be careful on the twisting descent into the valley. “The Shady Valley Country Store – 421 The Snake” is a popular place to stop for rest, shade, and food. It’s a fast downhill on TN-133 following Beaver Dam Creek through Cherokee National Forest into Virginia. On the way you’ll pass through the oddest tunnel you’re ever likely to see at Backbone Rock. Damascus, “Trail Town USA,” welcomes touring cyclists, hordes of tourists riding the Virginia Creeper Trail, and Appalachian Trail hikers. Good food to be had, and there are several bike shops in town. Save plenty of energy for two challenging climbs on the return leg (CAT 2 and CAT 3). The Carter County line marks the beginning of an exhilarating 13-mile descent down Stoney Creek to Unaka High School – careful, though, the first 4 miles are technically challenging and demand all your skill and attention.
Cue Sheet: Unaka H.S. to Damascus
Miles Action and Landmark/Road
0.0 start at Unaka H.S. (left entrance)
0.1 left onto Stoney Creek Highway (TN-91)
2.4 straight as 5-lane becomes 3-lane
6.2 continue straight as 3-lane becomes 2-lane
11.5 straight, begin climbing (about 5% avg. grade)
14.3 enter Johnson County, Cross Mtn. Rd. Appalachian Trail
17.9 Shady Valley (421/91 intersection), begin TN-133 N.
27.8 straight, through Backbone Rock
30.4 Virginia state line, enter Damascus on S. Shady Ave.
31.1 right onto E. Laurel (US-58)
31.4 right onto Virginia Creeper Trail
32.0 left onto S. Shady Ave.
—- Return via same route
33.8 cross Tennessee state line, begin TN-133
45.3 Shady Valley (421/91 intersection), begin TN-91
47.3 straight, begin climbing (5-7% grade)
48.9 enter Carter County, Cross Mtn. Rd., Appalachian Trail
64.0 right and end at Unaka H.S.