Two roads off NC 209, a.k.a. “The Rattler” add variety to motorcycle riding in this area and offer a diversion that makes things more interesting.
Due to the short days of winter, the frosty and sometimes icy mornings, and more work than expected with the success of my most recent motorcycle ride map, I’ve had to content myself with rides close to home. I’ve published several recently like Hookers Gap, dissed Grapevine Rd, and shared photos of more of the local sites you’ll see out on your motorcycle rides on Facebook.
Here are two more I’ve kept in my pocket until recently and will now add to America Rides Maps Map #6 – The Best Motorcycle Rides EAST of Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Caldwell Mountain Road and Meadow Fork Road (these are already on the big map, are new to the pocket maps).
Caldwell Mountain Road and Meadow Fork Road form a nice loop on the west side of NC 209 when joined together. The southern end of the loop starts near the mid point of “The Rattler“, about half way between Lake Junaluska and Hot Springs, just beyond Trust where NC 63 connects to NC 209. The north end of the loop connects to NC 209 just before it enters the really challenging section through the National Forest that leads into Hot Springs.
If you are on a dual-sport or adventure bike, this is one way to access the great unpaved roads that lead up to Max Patch bald and wind all the way to I-40 on the eastern edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Both Meadow Fork and Caldwell Mountains Roads are paved, though if you miss the turn at the junction, you will run out of pavement before long on Meadow Fork Road.
Both of these roads are easy to find from NC 209 , and their junction is well marked, so you should have little problems navigating them. It takes about 10 – 15 minutes to ride the 9.1 mile combined route.
Caldwell Mountain Road meets NC 209 right in the middle the run across the valley at Spring Creek. It’s an easy area to recognize as this 1.7 mile section of NC 209 across the valley is the longest stretch of arrow-straight road you’ll find in the area. There is a prominent sign for the Meadow Fork Campground which marks the junction.
Caldwell Mountain Road then makes a twisty 2.1 mile climb from the valley up what I’m betting is Caldwell Mountain. There are some nice curves, long range views are rare, pavement is a little bumpy in places, but generally pretty good overall.
Meadow Fork Road follows the Roaring Fork river from NC 209 as it carves through the mountains for 7 miles to reach the junction with Caldwell Mountain Road – again, if you miss this turn, Meadow Fork goes unpaved within a few miles. The road traces the bank of the river, so it is a nice curvy motorcycle ride for the most part.
Neither road has scenery you’ll be framing on the wall, though in general it’s pretty nice with small remote and isolated coves and valleys, the whitewater river along the road, and lots of hundred year old barns and the like.
This little side loop off NC 209 lets you add a nice diversion in what is often done as an out-and-back route without adding a significant amount of time to the fun.
- 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
Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. It’s time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely, it will change your mountain riding experience. It worked so well for me I became an instructor! Total Rider Tech