Motorcycle Touring – Towns Near Great Smoky Mountains Park

Motorcycles at overlook in Smoky Park

Enjoying  an overlook on Newfound Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Choose the right place to stay on your Smoky Mountain motorcycle trip

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the #1 visited park in the nation. Needless to say there are plenty of places to stay in the surrounding area when you come. Those who make the trek by motorcycle not only enjoy the wonders of the park, but are rewarded with some of the most challenging and scenic motorcycle rides in the country at it’s borders.

Bullseye on the test place to stay

Bullseye on the best place to stay

I previously looked for the epicenter of great motorcycle riding, the central point in the middle of all the best motorcycle rides in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The prime location was Maggie Valley, NC on the southeast edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with Waynesville and Cherokee close runners up. I listed the pros and cons of using each as a base camp for your motorcycle trip. (read about it here)

Truth is, there are so many great motorcycle rides to choose from in this mountainous region you’ll never get to them all. While being at the strategic center of all the riding offers more riding choices and opportunities, it’s worth looking at some of these other places which lay on the borders of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Map towns around smoky park

Towns which ring Great Smoky Mountains National Park and classic motorcycle rides nearby.

♦♦♦♦ Maggie Valley / Waynesville – located right in the heart of the best motorcycle rides. Waynesville has great food, but few rooms. Maggie Valley has lots of rooms, places to eat, and the Wheels Through Time Motorcycle Museum.  (previously covered, read about it here).

♦♦♦ Cherokee – It’s where the Blue Ridge Parkway meets great Smoky Mountains National Park. Culture, casino, and crowds.  (previously covered, read about it here)

Photo - Great Smoky Mountains Railway Train

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad train in Bryson City

♦♦ Bryson City – Places to stay, camping, good food and drink, the railroad, at first glance Bryson City has a lot to offer. It’s downfall is it’s isolation. It’s located adjacent to 4 lane US 74. It has a nice little downtown where US 19 comes in from Cherokee. Your choices to quickly hop on a good ride without hitting the 4 lane are limited.

– If you’re looking for a nice quiet place to camp on a swimming creek and do a little riding, Bryson City will do you well.

♦♦ StecoahStecoah is a small spot located off NC 28 not far from Fontana Lake. There are cabins available here, though it’s a really popular spot for campers. There are a couple motorcycle campgrounds. NC 28  leads to The Dragon at Deals Gap or you can cut through to Robbinsville and the Cherohala Skyway. There’s a roadside diner. It’s a pretty remote spot so you’ll have to be self-sufficient, the campgrounds have some supplies. The nearest grocery is in Robbinsville, it’s dry county. The Nantahala Gorge is close, the good section of NC 28 starts just a few miles up the road.

– Stay in Stecoah if you’re looking for motorcycle campgrounds near the Dragon.  

Fontana Village Pitstop

Cabins, rooms, camping, meals, Fontana is remote but has all you need.

♦♦♦ Fontana –  Fontana is a good option near The Dragon on NC 28. You ‘ll find camping, cabins, there’s are a decent number of rooms, good meals, a bar, all the comforts. The stretch of NC 28 that it sits on is one of my favorite rides curvy motorcycle rides. You’re only minutes from The Dragon.

– Fontana will serve you well if you want a remote location with all the amenities. Close to the Dragon.

♦♦♦ Robbinsville – There’s nothing but mountains and trees west of Robbinsville and well into Tennessee. The small town sits at the hub of several important roads. US 129 leads north to The Dragon, south to the Nanathala Gorge. The Cherohala Skyway meets it here just north of downtown, NC 143 takes you over the mountain to connect with NC 28. All the good biker roads lead here.

While the town of Robbinsville is small, it’s the biggest small town for miles. There’s a grocery store, a few restaurants, gas station / fast food, one big central chain motel, and lots of biker friendly options and businesses in the town. There are a couple good places to eat.  It’s not a convenient town for walking. There’s no booze here, it’s dry.  Motorcycle rentals in town.

– Robbinsville is the largest town in the area so it has the most to offer. It’s a good base when you want to travel light. Great rides in every direction.

deals-gap-resort-

Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort

♦♦ Deals Gap – Resorts, lodges, cabins, campgrounds are all available but limited. If you want to be as close to The Dragon as possible you’ll be pretty isolated from civilization. This is where you want to stay if you’ve come to focus on riding The Dragon. Do a couple runs through in the morning then head down to the Cherohala Skyway or cruise the lake on NC 28. Get in another run or two through The Dragon in the evening.

– If you want to get the full Dragon experience, stay at Deals Gap. There may be entertainment, night races in the parking lot. 

♦ Punkin Center – Located at the Tennessee end of The Dragon where TN 72 intersects, it’s an ideal spot for riding The Dragon / Cherohala Skyway loop ride. There is a popular motorcycle campground here, a restaurant, and a repair shop.

– If you’re looking for a motorcycle campground on the north side of the park, this one puts you on some of the best roads.  

♦ Townsend – Townsend gets you away from the congestion of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, but you’re still on a pretty major road. It get’s you close to Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Townsend is a good choice if you want to ride The Dragon, The Cherohala Skyway, and poke around the park. It’s a popular base camp for dual-sport riders doing the unpaved roads in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Motorcycle rentals available in town.

– Townsend is a good base camp for dual sport riding. 

Gatlinburg-motorcycles

Tourist attractions in Gatlinburg.

♦♦ Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge

The primary attraction of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge is they are so easy to get to. The primary downfall of Galtinburg / Pigeon Forge is everybody goes there.

There’s about 40 miles between the north entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Knoxville, so this corridor has developed into a tourist vortex. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge host all kinds of attractions. There are lots of bargains on rooms and cabins. The downfall here is the tourist traffic and the scarcity of good motorcycle rides. The mountains quickly become valleys outside the park.

There may be some compelling reasons to stay in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, but you’ll likely spend time riding around the park to get to some of the best rides.

– Stay in Gatlinburg if you’re looking for a deal or want a tourist expereince. Accept the traffic, enjoy the attractions, and learn the backroads that will get you through it all.

 Cosby – Cosby is at the “forgotten” eastern end of the park. You’ll find lots of campgrounds along the edge of the park, a couple motels near I-40, little else of note. This area is popular for the unpaved riding both in the park and out into the national forests.

Cosby is a good base camp for dual sport riding. 

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100 Great Motorcycle Rides mapin the Smoky MountainsYou can get a map of more than 100 Great Motorcycle Rides near the Smoky Mountains that will show you where the roads are hiding and how they link together into endless wonderful wanderings through the mountains.

Click Here Now
to see more about the map

 

If you enjoy photos of motorcycle riding in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, like MY BLUE RIDGE MOTORCYCLING FACEBOOK PAGE.Facebook

____________________________________________________________________

wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

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Stay Near the Best Mountain Motorcycle Rides

Stay Near the Best Mountain Motorcycle Rides – 

Great Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina - NC 209, a.k.a. "The Rattler" This is some of the best motorcycle riding you'll find in the world. These riders are looping back to NC 209 on NC 63.This is some of the best motorcycle riding you'll find in the world. These riders are looping back to NC 209 on NC 63.

Great Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina – NC 209, a.k.a. “The Rattler” – This is some of the best motorcycle riding you’ll find in the world. These riders are looping back to NC 209 on NC 63.

So you’ve heard about the amazing motorcycle riding in the Blue Ridge Mountains and you want to come see the best of it it.

Where should you stay to have the best opportunity to ride the greatest number of classic motorcycle rides?

To figure out where the geographic center of the best motorcycle riding was,  I first looked at where all the classic roads were, roads that have been around long enough to have names like “The Dragon”, the “Moonshiner” and “The Gauntlet”. Some of these might be on your bucket list so it’s nice to have them close. I determined the center point between them.

Map of Classic Motorcycle Rides in the Smoky Mountains

Surround yourself with classic rides.

Next I moved a large circle around the center point of the classic rides to figure out when it contained the most good motorcycle rides overall. I made rings at 10 mile intervals, made a few adjustments, and came up with the answer;

Bullseye on the test place to stay

Bullseye on the best place to stay

The target falls on Maggie Valley, Waynesville, Cherokee.

Geographically, Maggie Valley sits at the hub of it all, but any of the towns along the south side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is going to put you near some outstanding riding.

Here are some pros and cons to help you sort out which of the three places works best for you;

Maggie Valley 

 

Photo - fall colors at Soco Gap

View heading down from the Blue Ridge Parkway at Soco Gap on US 19 towards Maggie Valley.

Maggie Valley Pros –

  • There are lots of motel rooms, cabins, and campgrounds in the one road town, it caters well to the motorcycle visitor.
  • The best section of the Blue Ridge Parkway is just 10 minutes up the road.
  • The are several good places to eat.
  • Wheels Through Time Motorcycle Museum is there.
  • The small town hosts several biker events each year, including spring and fall rallies.
  • The town is spread along a 4 lane stretch of US 19 with high mountains on looming on every horizon, you really feel like you’re in the mountains.
  • There are liquor stores in town.

Maggie Valley Cons

  • 15 min ride to Waynesville for groceries.
  • If you stay close to the middle of town you can walk to some of the restaurants and pubs, but the town is long and narrow so you’ll probably hop on the bike.

Waynesville

Main Street, downtown Waynesville

Main Street, downtown Waynesville

Waynesville Pros –

  • known for it’s good food and picturesque downtown and atmosphere.
  • There are mountains on every horizon.
  • US 276 leaves from the south end of town and leads to some great rides and the Blue Ridge Parkway

Waynesville Cons –

  • There’s only one motel in the downtown and a couple B&B’s where you can walk to the restaurants, pubs, and stores and galleries.
  • I usually tell visitors – eat in Waynesville, sleep in Maggie Valley unless you can snag one of the few rooms available in town.

Cherokee

One of the many painted bears in Cherokee

One of the many painted bears in Cherokee

Cherokee pros –

  • Strategically located at the south end of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the south entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee is obviously worth consideration.
  • There are lots of motels and campgrounds. No outstanding restaurants come to mind, though I don’t pass through Cherokee often.

Cherokee cons –

  • Because Cherokee is a hub of tourist activity it is often congested with traffic. The roads leading in to it are busy, there are few of them, and you’ll end up on riding 4 lane roads like US 441 and US 74 more often.
  • You’re on the Cherokee Reservation, if you want drinks you’ll need to go to Harrah’s Casino.

————————————————————————————————

100 Great Motorcycle Rides mapin the Smoky MountainsYou can get a map of more than 100 Great Motorcycle Rides near the Smoky Mountains that will show you where the roads are hiding and how they link together into endless wonderful wanderings through the mountains.

 Click Here Now
to see more about the map

If you enjoy photos of motorcycle riding in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, like MY BLUE RIDGE MOTORCYCLING FACEBOOK PAGE.Facebook

____________________________________________________________________

wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

____________________________________________________________________

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Blue Ridge Parkway Motorcycle Ride Strategies

Blue Ridge Parkway Motorcycle Ride Strategies:

Whether it’s a one day trip or part of an epic adventure, it’s good to have a strategy when setting out on a 469.1 mile long ride of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Here are some things to consider based on how long you have to make your end-to-end trip.

1 Day End-to-End

photo - grandfather mountain on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Grandfather Mountain south of Boone starts the climb into the high mountains of North Carolina

Some riders look for high mileage challenges. The Blue Ridge Parkway can be one of them – 470  miles with a 45 mph speed limit can be done in daylight on a long summer day. You’ll even have time to stop at a few overlooks for quick photos.

The key is “plan your gas stop so it’s close to a parkway exit to save time.” You’ll have to make a gas stop – choose the wrong exit and you can waste half an hour before you get to a pump.

I eat breakfast before and dinner after the ride, and pack a sub sandwich so I can eat at overlooks when I take breaks. Expect fog / clouds / mist / cool / damp in the morning, have a layer to shed in the afternoon. Go on a weekday, there will be less traffic. There’s no need to speed, but at the same time, if you’re slow through tight curves it’s going to be a long day. The ride is best done from north-to-south as it puts you in the highest sections in the afternoon when the clouds have lifted and it’s warmer.

2 Days Riding End-to-End

photo of parkway

You can really get away from it all on the Blue Ridge Parkway

2 days still means 2 pretty full days of riding.  You’ll want to be efficient with your gas stops and eating or it will sacrifice your time for sightseeing and enjoying the views. You’ll save time if you coordinate your time off the parkway well. Stop for gas where you can also eat lunch. Stay where you can eat or meals are close. You don’t need to feel rushed on a 2 day ride, but you do want to stay on track.

My strategy is to cover as many miles as possible the first day, then relax and enjoy the second day knowing you have less distance to cover. A 2 day ride is better done from north-to-south. Boone, NC is a good layover coming south. The North Carolina mountains really start to reach their heights south of Boone, you’ll be in them constantly the second day and have time to enjoy them. When going north I usually overnight near Hillsville or Floyd, or Meadows of Dan. You’ll have time to stop at Peaks of Otter and savor some of the best views from the Virginia section near the north end of the ride.

3 Day Ride End-to-End

photo  motorcycle on blue ridge parkway

If you want to stop and smell the flowers, plan at least 3 days.

If you want to get a full Blue Ridge Parkway experience, 3 days is minimum. If you’re planning to camp, it eases the pace.

With 3 days you can stop and see some of the cabins, the mill, and other sights along the road that you’d otherwise blow by.

3 days also opens the door to enjoying other outstanding rides in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Some connect to the parkway, some are close to it.

For the road warrior, it could mean doing the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2 days, then looping Great Smoky Mountains National Park to ride the Dragon at it’s western end on a three day blast!

Riding Sections of the Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway View

The highest section has the best views

If you see only one section of it, ride between Asheville, NC  and Maggie Valley, NC. That 50 mile arc goes from the low point in NC to the highest point on the entire road with much of it above 5000 elevation. There are frequent overlooks and sweeping views, dramatic drops and rocky passes.

Another great section is the high remote stretch between Asheville, NC and Little Switzerland, NC. Mt. Mitchell State Park makes a nice side trip to the top of the highest mountain in the east. Nice long range views.

The Epic Adventure

yellow motorcycle on blue ridge parkway

In it for the long haul!

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one part of the park road system. At the north end it continues as the Skyline drive into Shenandoah National Park for another 105 miles. At the south end, it meets US 441 to take you 30 miles across Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can ride more than 600 miles on 2 lane twisty mountain roads entirely within our National Parks.

Leaving the National Parks you can then follow the parkways, skyways, and legendary back roads that weave throughout the south end of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I’d run through the Dragon, out across the Cherohlala Skyway, then down into north Georgia, looping back into the mountains south of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The “I don’t want to ride the parkway” strategy

A holiday motel in Maggie Valley

Maybe you already have a favorite place to stay – when you find one, explore all the great roads nearby.

Maybe you’re one of millions who have already enjoyed a motorcycle ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Maybe you find it’s more enjoyable to stay in one place than be on the move.

The best location to maximize your access to the best motorcycle rides is somewhere along the south side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You’ll find less traffic and congestion, numerous motels, cabins, and campgrounds. There are plenty of rooms on the north side of the park in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, but more of the good roads are on the other side of the park. Crossing through or going around Great Smoky Mountains National Park gets repetitive.100 Great Motorcycle Rides mapin the Smoky Mountains

Find a good base camp and get a copy of my 100 Great Motorcycle Rides in the Smoky Mountains map. You’ll spend more of your time riding that way. You’re surrounded by great roads, the map will show you how close they are! It couldn’t be easier!

Get map 100 Great Rides in the Smoky Mountains

see  The most detailed Maps Here – America Rides Maps

If you enjoy photos of motorcycle riding in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, like MY BLUE RIDGE MOTORCYCLING FACEBOOK PAGE.Facebook

____________________________________________________________________

wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

____________________________________________________________________

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Best Motorcycle Rides, NC – Wayah Road

Best Motorcycle Rides, NC – Wayah Road

Best Motorcycle Rides In NC

Best Motorcycle Rides In NC – winding up Wayah Road from the Nantahala Gorge.

30 mile long Wayah Road connects US 64 near Franklin, NC to US 74 in the heart of the Nantahala Gorge near Topton, NC. It’s a useful and strategic road to know of as it’s the only one that cuts through this rugged section of high mountains and national forest and it points to the Dragon at Deals Gap. While the ride lacks panoramic long range mountain views, there is plenty of scenery along the whitewater river. Clear and sparkling alpine Nantahala Lake is a treat near the top.

Best Motorcycle Rides, NC - Wayah Road

Best Motorcycle Rides, NC – Wayah Road – section from Map #7. Only main roads shown. Other great rides near here.

The climb out of the depths of Nantahala Gorge is steep and twisty right from the start by the powerhouse. It follows the  bank of the river as it cascades down the slope from the lake above, crossing it on narrow bridges a few times. You may run into fishermen along the lower stretch, otherwise there’s little traffic.

Best Motorcycle Rides, NC - Wayah Road - Waterfall along Wayah Road

Best Motorcycle Rides, NC – Wayah Road – The ride along the river on Wayah Road is spectacular!

When you reach the top of the climb, the road relaxes and rolls across the heights of the mountain passing through the small community near the lake. The road gets tight again along the shoreline of the clear deep lake, then climbs a bit more to reach the gentle run across the high stretches of Wayah Bald. This last short climb has some very tight turns and is notorious for gravel drawn into the road from unpaved driveways. There is a small restaurant on the lake and a few places to pull off for a break or photo.

Best Motorcycle Rides, NC - Wayah Road

Best Motorcycle Rides, NC – Wayah Road – Picnic lunch at alpine Nantahala Lake

There’s a steep plunge down the eastern slopes with some true hairpin curves. You emerge in a tight valley that grows wider as you approach Franklin. The east end of Wayah Road is marked by ‘Loafer’s Glory” country store and gas station (click her for Yelp review). Wayah Road ends when it reaches Old Murphy Road. Four lane US 64 is half a mile south on Old Murphy Road or you can follow Old Murphy Road about 5 miles in to downtown Franklin.

Best Motorcycle Rides, NC - Wayah Road

Best Motorcycle Rides, NC – Wayah Road. The curves at the top of the climb are some of the most severe and the most fun. Be alert for gravel in these turns.

Wayah Road is a classic so you’ll find it on the “12 Classic Deals Gap Motorcycle Rides” pocket map from America Rides Maps. Do yourself a favor and look at Map #7 if you are coming to ride in this area. “The Best Roads South of Great Smoky Mountains National Park” covers this are in detail. I’ve only hinted at the many nice rides near Franklin with the snippet of map I’ve shown.

Get The most detailed Maps Here – America Rides Maps

If you enjoy photos of motorcycle riding in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, like MY BLUE RIDGE MOTORCYCLING FACEBOOK PAGE.Facebook

____________________________________________________________________

wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

____________________________________________________________________

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