Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mt. Airy to the top of Orchard Gap and Back, an old favorite of many local cyclists

Click on the images to enlarge them
My ride started on the Emily B. Taylor Greenway in Mt. Airy, NC. I always enjoy riding on this greenway and there is public parking available. If you drive into Mt. Airy on Highway 52 from the south you will be able to see the greenway to your right.
A section of the greenway

There are markers every 1/4th mile so walkers and cyclists will know just exactly how far they have been.

This is the last bridge of my greenway ride. Here the greenway runs into W. Lebanon St. Turn right here to begin working your way out of Mt. Airy.

This is your turn onto Lebanon Street. After you turn right onto the road take the first left. (I am not sure but I think that is Glade St.) The road you turn left on will intersect with North Main St. Turn left onto North Main Street and that is your last turn. Once out of town North Main Street becomes Ward's Gap Road. That takes you right into Orchard Gap.

Just under six miles into the ride you will cross from North Carolina into Virginia on Ward's Gap Road.

A view off to the right of Ward's Gap Road

Looking to the left on Ward's Gap Road you will see this orchard of apple trees.
A section of the road on the climb up Orchard Gap
Another section of the climb
The store at the top of Orchard Gap. Unfortunately it was closed today.
Also at the top of the Orchard Gap is the Blue Ridge Parkway. At this point I had only ridden around 15 miles and wanted more. Six years ago I was up here and stumbled on a dirt road that I enjoyed riding on. I turned right onto the parkway and tried to remember where I found that dirt road.
After riding a couple of miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway I turned left onto Willis Gap Road and then took the first right onto Brady Pike Road. This is the hill I faced on that road. This much of my ride from years ago seemed familiar.

Success! After another turn, and thinking I was completely lost in the Virginia country side, I stumbled on the same dirt road. This time I took note of the name of the road, Ground Hog Mountain Road. 
Here I am on Ground Hog Mountain Road. I took this photo using the timer on my camera. It turned out blurry, but I included it anyway.
This is another section of Ground Hog Mountain Road. After riding a few more miles on this road I turned right on Spencer Mill Road and found my way back to the Blue Ridge Parkway. After climbing back up Ground Hog Mountain on the Parkway, it was mostly down hill back to Orchard Gap. Most of the ride back to Mt. Airy from Orchard Gap is down hill. I was running out of time and hustled back to my car without taking any more photos. If you do this ride to the top of Orchard Gap and then return to Mt Airy the ride is only about thirty miles. With my hunt for dirt roads my total ride was almost exactly forty five miles. Orchard Gap is one of my favorite rides. Be aware there is some climbing on this ride. 

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