While the Gilded Age mansion George Vanderbilt II built for the Biltmore Estate gets the lion’s share of the attention, the grounds around the main house were meticulously designed as well. Haute Route Asheville began Stage 2 with an exclusive ride through the grounds – before the park opened to the public for the day.
“That was fantastic!” commented Donald May. “It was really neat to enjoy that with the whole group of people. That was a lot of fun.”
Vanderbilt envisioned the area around the house to be a park, and hired Frederick Law Olmstead to design the plans for the grounds. Olmstead was the renowned landscape architect behind New York’s Central Park and Prospect Park, as well as the grounds around the US Capitol in Washington D.C.
Much of the original land was in pretty poor shape, leading Olmstead to reconfigure farmland along the river and replant a timber forest on much of the rest of the property. Closer to the house, he designed an Italian Garden and a formal English Walled Garden that is home to 250 varieties of roses. After riding around the walled garden, riders passed the Azalea Garden, which connects the walled garden to the Bass Pond, and is home to one of the nation’s most outstanding collections of native azaleas.
The red brick bridge over the Bass Pond, which Haute Route riders rode across during Stage 2, was featured in the film adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper’s “The Last of the Mohicans”. Much of the film was shot on location in and around Asheville, including the Biltmore Estate and Dupont State Forest (also a filming location for “The Hunger Games”).
Further along the route Haute Route riders traveled through the Biltmore Estate, riders passed the Lagoon. This water element was created as a mirror for the west side of the main house and was engineered to remain higher than the level of the French Broad River from which it was created.
To exit the Biltmore Estate, Haute Route climbed away from the French Broad River, up by the stables in the Deer Park area of the property. They then rode through the shady and densely forested portion of the Approach Road to reach the gate and return to public roads. Riding from the start in Pack Square Park through the Biltmore Estate provided a 13-kilometer neutral rollout for Stage 2, a welcome warmup for riders still feeling the sting from Stage 1.