Every fall for the past 10 years, we have traveled to Clemson, South Carolina for fall break. Football game on Saturday (sometimes), long ride for me on either Sunday or Monday (or both), and drive back home on Tuesday usually after visiting local apple orchards in the mountains. My bike rides over fall break have all been epics with a mix of sentimental old routes from college with a few new roads and climbs thrown in each year. This year we had so much going on here in Alabama that we weren’t able to make it up to South Carolina, so I planned out an epic with the idea of exploring someplace new to me … and I found it – Cherokee Rock Village on Shinbone Ridge on Lookout Mountain.
I set off on a 250+ mile adventure riding from my house northeast past Gadsden to Weiss Lake at the foot of what I would hope would be a new Cat 2 climb from lake level up to the top of Cherokee Rock Village. Even though the climb meets the minimum requirements for a Strava Cat 2 climb of more than 320 meters vertical difference from bottom to top, at only 2.98% average gradient it just barely misses the 3% cut-off.
One of the reasons I wanted to do this particular ride was to head over to Lookout and Sand Mountains in honor of the Stinger Metric century invitation I had received but was unable to attend due to an Alabama Academy of Science meeting. These mountains are probably the two largest mountains (by land area) in the state. Sand Mountain is interesting from a geographical standpoint because it’s hard to define where it ends. In the map below, I’ve labeled some mountains that could just be considered extensions of Sand Mountain. Lookout Mountain, on the other hand, is very well defined and spans three states reaching its highest point in Georgia at just under 2400 feet. That point, interestingly, is a tiny ridge that shoots off the main ridge and has a USGS name of “High Point on Lookout Mountain”.
I had selected Cherokee Rock Village as the turnaround point for my ride because I had noticed its potential as a new cat 2 climb. I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I thought it might be a state or county park. I was surprised to see how beautiful it was up there and definitely want to take the family back sometime to climb on the rocks and enjoy the views. Here are some photos I took at the top of the mountain, over 1000′ above Weiss Lake.