Before I do a long distance ride I plan pretty extensively. For the Trace I went to the extent of developing a narrative elevation profile for each day. Here’s the one for the first day out.
Starting from the Northern Terminus (mile 444/445) the NTP climbs sharply to the top of Backbone Ridge, where an initial crest of 886 ft is reached at mile 440.9/443.6. The NTP runs along the ridgeline, climbing slightly, and reaches a crest of 930 ft at mile 439.6/442.3, the start of the descent to Birdsong Hollow and the Double Arch Bridge over Little East Fork and TN SR 96. The bridge, reached at mile 438.1/440.8, has a height of 145 feet above the 650 foot valley floor. At the southern end of the Double Arch Bridge the NTP climbs back up onto Backbone Ridge and reaches a crest of 927 ft at mile 436.8/439.5. The NTP runs along the ridgeline for five miles rolling up and down, often sharply, before reaching a final crest on Backbone Ridge of 929 ft at mile 431.8/434.5. The NTP makes a steep descent to cross Dobbins Branch running in Pewitt Hollow at mile 430.7/433.4 then climbs sharply to a 809 ft saddle between two hills at mile 430.1/432.8 above the village of Leipers Fork, Tennessee to the east. Th NTP drops in a steep descent from the saddle and crosses Wilkie Branch (mile 429.6/432.3) and Pinewood Branch (mile 429.2/431.9), then climbs to an 849 ft crest at mile 428.3/431. From the crest the NTP descends steeply to cross Garrison Creek at mile 427.5/430.2 then climbs onto a ridge, reaching a crest of 904 ft at mile 426.1/428.8. The NTP makes a quick descent to the headwaters of Burns Branch (mile 425.4/427.9) then climbs above the 1,000 ft contour interval to a crest of 1,017 ft and the ridgeline of the Duck River Ridge at mile 423.1/425.8, which marks the northern Tennessee Valley Divide in this area. From this crest the NTP makes a brief steep descent then rolls along the ridgeline for seven and a half miles skirting the north side of Vestal Hill at mile 420/422.7. The NTP reaches an 895 ft crest at the eastern end of Lick Ridge at mile 414.8/417.5 then descends gently along Akin Ridge, leaving the ridge at mile 410.3/413 to descend into the valley of the Duck River. The exit to Tennessee State Route 50 is reached at mile 407.8/410.5 just before the Duck River Bridge.
Estimated difficulty score: 1130.1 – Per mile: 25.4
The NTP mileposts are shown in bold, and actual mileage after the slash. I’ve found this narrative to be almost uncannily accurate as I’ve been riding along, and it has been great to know the names of creeks and streams and other physical points of interest that I’ve passed. The “Estimated Difficulty Score” is my own personal formula that takes into account the grade and length of hills, the total distance covered and some other variables that allow me to grade and compare days by how high they score. The range for the Trace is about 60 down to around 5, with 10 or so being an average day and anything above 20 being really challenging.
I journal all this on crazyguyonabike. The first day is here:
NTP Day 01 – NT to TN SR 50 Bicycle Campground
You can link to other days from there if you are interested. Thanks for following along while I ride the Natchez Trace.