Editor’s Note: Photos, videos, maps and other info to come. I wanted to get the basic information out there since it’s now Fall and we’re getting into prime adventure time. - JC
Raw weekend notes from a mountain bike and camping trip on Holston Mountain outside of Bristol, TN:
Don't waste your time going up Little Stony Creek. Must be an old route, all branches end in driveways
Griffith Branch is gated for truck access but has a little area to park. Pay attention, trailhead is up behind some houses and the trail sign is hard to spot when driving up the holler
Didn't try Hinkle Branch Trailhead but is between Griffith and Panhandle Road
Google has the Low Gap Campground in Maps, pick the one in Tennessee, obviously. The campground is off a road listed in Google as National Forest 202 / Panhandle Road. Panhandle Road is just off of TN-91 just outside of Elizabethton, TN. Blue Hole Falls is also off this same road, has its own point in Google.
Panhandle Road is a mix of gravel and asphalt all the way to the top. You can go all the way to the end in a small SUV with no modifications. I even saw a Honda Accord on the ridge, although there is a rough wash before you get all the way back to Low Gap Campground.
The trails all branch off of the road which runs along the spine of Holston Mountain. Highway 91 runs right at 2000' elevation, the ridge along the mountain hovers just above 4000'. I'm sure you can do the math.
The Fire Tower is closed to the public. Just don’t do it… but I imagine the views are incredible.
Flint Rock Overlook Loop from MTB Project:
Ascend to the Holston Mountain Fire Tower via FS-56A. From the fire tower, take Holston Mtn Trail #44
Holston Mountain Trail #44 was under maintenance when I was there. The weeds had been cut back on the first bit but the rest of the trail was very overgrown. It was difficult to make out where the actual trail was at times.
If it wasn't for being overgrown, this could have been a really fun trail. Once leaving the fire tower, you're descending the whole way to the next trail intersection. The trail zig-zags the whole way and seemed like it would have flowed really well if I wasn't constantly fighting brush.
Trail #44 turns into a hiking only trail at the intersection of Flint Trail and FS-4204. Take Flint Trail to Flint Rock and enjoy the incredible view.
Flint Rock is found off of Flint Mill Trail #49. Rhododendron tunnels, a small stream crossing and an incredible overlook of South Holston Lake make this short side trip very worthwhile.
If you're a NASCAR fan like I am, you'll love the fact that you can see Bristol Motor Speedway just off in the distance. It's Bristol Baby!
Forest Rd 4202 is a long, mostly uphill gravel grind.
Morrell Trail #47
Descends over 1600' in just over 2 miles.
Is apparently not open for mountain bikes. Found this out after hiking back up following a mechanical about half way down the trail. There was a trail sign a few hundred yards down from the start of Trail #47 that I had missed. Whoops.
Overall a really cool place to spend a night camping and riding.
The Blue Hole and Falls was crowded the entire time but was really neat. I'm sure it's on one of those cheesy "Only In Your State" lists but rightfully so.
I only saw three cars while I was on the mountain, none of the crowd from Blue Hole migrated up the mountain.
Zero folks on the trails and none of the campers looked like that had any intention of leaving their campsites.
Completely open trails on Labor Day Weekend was something that I hoped for when deciding on a zone for the weekend but did not expect to find. Incredible views, good trails, and easy access. Holston Mountain is definitely deserves a thumbs up.