Smoky Mountain Waterfalls Motorcycle Ride

Tour more than 1 dozen roadside waterfalls on this long and scenic day ride.

Smoky Mountains Waterfalls Motorcycle Ride

Smoky Mountains Waterfalls Motorcycle Ride – click for large view

Overview: 

Start in Maggie Valley. Follow US 19 west to 441 at Cherokee. Soco Falls on route. Follow US 441 south to Franklin, then US 64 / NC 28 to Highlands. 4 falls along road. Highlands to Cashiers on US 64, then loop south on 107 / 281 to see 2 more. Continue east on US 64, detour south of Brevard then onto US 276 to the Blue Ridge Parkway (3 more) Ride the Parkway to NC 215 then follow it back to US 276 and into Maggie Valley.

Roadside waterfalls abound for the motorcycle rider

Discover the hidden secrets on your motorcycle travels in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains

Detailed Route:

Distance: 190 miles.

Time: All day ride.

Easy to moderate difficulty

Before you go:

  • Exercise caution! – These are roadside waterfalls, some which are on busy roads with blind curves and limited pull-outs. Pull out with confidence and vigor.
  • Look but don’t touch – Dangerous conditions lurk around waterfalls. Visitors are killed every year. Very slippery rocks. Powerful currents. Deadly drops.
  • Plan on more time – Several waterfalls require short walks to get the views. Allow time for multiple stops and photos.

Route:

Photo-Bubbling-Springs-Branch-on-NC 215

Easy to find Bubbling Springs Branch is on a sharp curve where it flows under NC 215.

Start in Maggie Valley. Follow US 19 west.

4.1 mi Pass under Blue Ridge Parkway

5.7 miSoco Falls. Gravel pull off on left with small signs. Downhill section of road on a curve. Can’t be seen from road. Path and boardwalk lead to 2 converging waterfalls.

15.2 mi Turn left @ traffic light at casino for shortcut to US 441 south. Junction US 19 and Casino Road.

16 mi Turn left @ traffic light onto US 441 south. Junction Casino Road and US 441.

20.1 mi Follow highway 23/74 east. Junction US 441 and highway 23/74 exit 74.

27.3 mi Follow US 441 south. Junction US 441 and highway 23/74 exit 81..

45.3 mi Exit US 441, follow US 64 / NC 28 east. Junction US 441 and US 64 / NC 28 at Franklin.

54.4 mi – Cullasaja Falls. Visible from road on right. Limited and hazardous parking near guardrail on sharp curve.

57.3 mi Quarry Falls – Visible from road on right. Long paved pulloff on right side of road.

58.2 mi – Dry Falls – Not visible from road. Paved parking on right with signs. Short trail to waterfall. Path continues behind waterfall.

60.8 mi – Bridal Veil Falls – Visible from road on left. Paved pull off. Drive behind the waterfall for a photo.

Motorcycles at Cullasaja Falls in North Carolina's "Land of the Waterfalls"

With permission granted, I stand ready to help you have the ride of your life! Just say YES!

63.5 mi Turn left @ traffic light to continue on US 64. Junction US 64 and NC 28 downtown Highlands.

73.7 mi Turn right @ traffic light onto NC 107 south. Junction US 64 and NC 107 in Cashiers.

77.1 miSilver Run Falls – Not visible from road. Poorly marked gravel pull off on left. Trail leads into woods. 1/4 mile walk.

83 mi Turn left onto Wiginton Scenic Byway. Junction Wiginton Scenic Byway and NC 107.

85.2 mi Turn left @ stop sign to head north on NC 281 (Whitewater Falls Road). Junction Wiginton Scenic Byway and NC 281.

87.6 miWhitewater Falls State Park. Not visible from road. $2 fee. 1/4 mile paved walk. Highest waterfall in the east.

94.9 mi Turn right @ stop sign to continue east on US 64. Junction NC 281 and US 64.

97.1Toxaway Falls – Not visible from road. Road crosses dam with waterfall below. Difficult to get a good view. Park at Toxaway Village or along road on dam.

105 mi Turn right @ junction US 64 and US 178 at Rosman.

106 mi Turn right @ traffic light in Rosman, exit town.

107 mi Turn left onto East Fork Road. Junction US 178 (Pickins Highway) and East Fork Road.

110 mi Turn right @ stop sign  to keep on East Fork Road. Junction East Fork Road and Walnut Hollow Road.

119 mi Turn left @ stop sign to go north on US 276 (Greenville Highway). Junction East Fork Road and US 276.

120 miConnestee Falls – Not visible from road. Large sign, trailhead at end of parking lot. Short walk to overlook where 2 waterfalls converge.

126 mi Turn right @ traffic light in Brevard onto US 64. Junction US 276 and US 64.

129 mi Turn left @ traffic light onto US 276 north. Junction US 64 / US 276 / NC 280.

135 miLooking Glass Falls – Visible from road. Large paved parking along road on right. Boardwalk to base of falls.

Photo-whitewater-falls-nc

Whitewater Falls, one of the highest in the east.

137 mi – Sliding Rock – Not visible from road. Fee area $2. Paved parking lot. Bathers slide down waterfall.

144 mi Turn right onto parkway ramp. Turn left at the stop sign to head south (towards Cherokee) on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Junction US 276 and Blue Ridge Parkway.

148.5 mi – Graveyard Fields – Not visible from road. 1/3 mile paved walk to top of Second Falls. Trails continue to 2 others.

156 mi Exit Parkway. Turn left (towards Canton) on NC 215. Junction Blue Ridge Parkway and NC 215.

158 mi –  Flat Laurel Creek – Visible from road. Hard to find. Look for 3rd gravel pull out on right on the only straight section of road.

160 miBubbling Springs Branch – Visible from road on left. River plunges beneath the roadway on a hairpin curve. Small unpaved parking are just beyond.

174 mi Turn left @ stop sign to follow US 276 into Waynesville.. Junction NC 215 / US 276.

180 mi Turn right @ traffic light in Waynesvile.. Pass through town.

Junction US 276 and Main Street.

181mi Turn left @ traffic light. Junction Main Street and US 276 (Russ Avenue).

183 mi Turn left @ traffic light to return to Maggie Valley. Junction US 276 and US 19.

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wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed, comprehensive, 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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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

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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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Impact of Government Shutdown on Smoky Mountain Bikers

Government Shutdown Predictions for Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Touring

Oct 2, 2013 – so you’ve got your Smoky Mountain motorcycle trip scheduled and you’re wondering “How does all this government shutdown nonsense affect me?” Here’s my best guesses for now –

The main impact will be around Great Smoky Mountains National Park. All the park facilities are now closed at the start of peak camping season. This includes River Road (TN 73). That’s going to displace a lot of people who will seek other accommodations and things to do on the north side of the park. Tourist traffic has already been building in Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge, this will likely make it worse. It will also disperse those park tourists onto surrounding roads in the area. If you don’t have Map #8,  I’d avoid the area for a while, especially on the weekends. On the south side of the park, I’d expect increased congestion in Cherokee.

Foothills Parkway in Tennessee is Closed – The Tennessee Foothills Parkway is the most common route to approach The Dragon on the north side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Most of the traffic will continue on US 321 to Maryville, then come west on 411, and south on US 129. If you have Map #8 look to using Walden’s Creek Road, then work over to Butterfly Gap Road, Flats Road, and Happy Valley Road. You just might find you like this route a lot better than the traditional tourist slog.

The Blue Ridge Parkway remains open for travel, but all facilities are closed including campsites. Some facilities and side roads had already been closed due to the sequester. I’d expect heavier traffic at the south end of the parkway between Cherokee and Asheville. Rangers will still be out, but routine maintenance may be postponed. Things are generally in great shape, so it shouldn’t be much of an impact. Be alert for rocks and limbs in the road with potential  decreased attention to maintenance. The Pisgah Inn south of Asheville is open.

The Dragon will likely see minor impact. I predict a small increase in car traffic as locals take the long way around rather than deal with the traffic on US 441 through the park, and some decrease in bike traffic as riders from the north go to other places rather than deal with the increased traffic on the surrounding roads. Adventurous tourists will look for other places to see.

Suggestions – Focus on the areas south and east of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Dragon and Cherohala Skyway will still be good options. Cherokee will probably be congested. Expect heavy traffic on US 64 from Franklin to Lake Lure.  It’s a great time to stray into north Georgia.

I have all these roads mapped out for you – http://americaridesmaps.com
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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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Learn Total Control

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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100 Great Motorcycle Rides in the Smoky Mountains Map

100 Great Motorcycle Rides in the Smoky Mountains Map

America Rides Maps motorcycle pocket ride maps has a brand new map!

100 Great Motorcycle Rides  mapin the Smoky Mountains

New map! 100 Great Motorcycle Rides in the Smoky Mountains

This map mails out September 6, 2013. This is the first run of these new maps, supplies are limited! Reserve yours now.

Order online here – http://www.shop.americaridesmaps.com/100-Great-Motorcycle-Rides-in-the-Smoky-Mountains-SM100F.htm

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100 Great Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rides Map

100 Great Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rides Map – both folded (road use) and unfolded (wall display) versions. Waterproof and durable. Red Roads are best, Blue Roads are best connectors.

12 Classic Deals Gap Motorcycle Rides pocket map

12 Classic Deals Gap Motorcycle Rides pocket map

  • Size: 24 x 36 inches
  • Waterproof and tear resitant
  • Folded and unfolded versions available
  • Supplies are limited!
  • Click here to order

100 Great Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rides is the “grown up” version of our most popular 12 Classic Deals Gap Motorcycle Rides pocket map. This new larger and more detailed map adds in all the great roads that are not featured on the smaller map, more than 100 of them.

Great Motorcycle Rides in the Smoky Mountains Map

Size comparison – pocket maps vs. new map unfolded. More detail, easy to read, tons more roads!

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100 Great Motorcycle Rides in the Smoky Mountains Map

4.5 x 8 inches folded

ABOUT:

Discalimer –

  • There are way more then 100 great motorcycle rides on this map
  • Most of these roads are peripheral to the actual geologic formation of the Smoky Mountains

This new larger format map (24×36 inches) combines at least 3 pocket maps (#6, #7, #8)  and sections of 2 more (#5, #9) into one larger map that encircles and includes all the best motorcycle rides surrounding Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

This map stretches from Tellico Plains, TN in the west to include the Cherohala Skyway, The Dragon,  and connecting roads, to beyond Asheville, NC in the east. It dips into Georgia and South Carolina, and reaches as far north as Knoxville, TN. Within these borders lie some of the best motorcycle roads in the nation.

  • For the first time visitor – all the great motorcycle roads are at your disposal.
  • For the return visitor – expand on what you’ve already discovered
  • For the local – I bet you find something new

Buy this map now

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And you’ll have to wait for it until September 6, 2013;

America Rides Maps notice

Maps will mail Sept 6

This maps just arrived from the printer and I’m about to leave on my motorcycle vacation. Yes, just like you, I need my motorcycle trips.

So all I can do is let you know when you can get them –

  • You can order now –
  • I will start mailing maps again on September 6, 1st Class or Priority Mail –
  • You should have your map by September 10, 2013

Order now

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Where can I buy these maps NOW?

I’ve had no time to get them out to sellers so these are the few places they are available and in limited supply at that. Once I return from my motorcycle trip I’ll get more out to the other vendors.

http://www.shop.americaridesmaps.com/100-Great-Motorcycle-Rides-in-the-Smoky-Mountains-SM100F.htm

America Rides Maps motorcycle ride maps

How the maps compare in size –

Click here to shop online and see all the maps –

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How long to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway on my motorcycle?

How long to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway on my motorcycle?

Budget at least 2 days for your motorcycle ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway –

Map - How long to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway?

Getting to the Blue Ridge Parkway is a days ride for half the population in the US.

Blue-Ridge-Parkway-humback-rocks-overlook

Blue Ridge Parkway – Humpback Rocks Overlook in Virginia

While you can ride the entire 469.1 mile long Blue Ridge Parkway on your motorcycle trip in a single day, I strongly advise against it. I’ve done it, and trust me, you will not enjoy the experience like you should. It takes strategic planning and uncomfortable endurance to go end-to-end in a day on a motorcycle ride.

blue-ridge-parkway-spiral-curve-sign

Blue Ridge Parkway – Some tricky curves await on this great motorcycle ride!

The simple math is misleading – at an average speed of 45 mph and 469 miles to cover, it seems like a little over 10 hours of saddle time on your motorcycle tour does the trick. For many riders on a fully laden bike, the challenge of the mountain roads leads to a speed closer to 35 mph. You’ll also come across car traffic which finds this reduced speed more comfortable and few opportunities to pass.

photo-no-gas-sign-on-blue-ridge-parkway

This sign is a legacy to when gas was available on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It should now read “No gas next 400 miles”. There is no gas on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Additionally, there is no gas on the entire ride. You’ll need to leave the parkway to fill up. Choose the wrong exit and that gas station may be 15 miles down a steep and twisty mountain road. Most of us like to eat, and there is only one Park Service Lodge left on the ride, so you’ll be diverting into nearby towns adding additional time.

So how do you do it best when time is tight?

I recommend starting at the north end in Waynesboro, Virginia. If you are going to try to cover as many miles as possible with few stops, do this in the Virginia section. The road is a bit more relaxed, the elevations not as high, and while the views are outstanding, they are not as spectacular as those in North Carolina. There are more wooded sections, and it gives you a chance to get used to the curves before you get into the more serious challenges to the south.

photo - Virginia blooms on the Blue Ridge Parkway

June on the Blue Ridge Parkway means flowers! A great time to enjoy the ride.

Rocky-knob-cabins

Blue Ridge Parkway – Rocky Knob Cabins – a nice stop but come prepared with your own food and drink.

Set your sights to get across the border and into North Carolina on that first day. You’ll still have time to stop at some of the nicer overlooks and if you’re making good time you can even visit some of the roadside attractions along the way. As you get near the border you’ll find lots of places to lay over for the night. In Virginia, I usually head for Floyd or Hillsville, or take one of the many cabins located near the Parkway. Be aware, if you do choose a cabin along the way, you’ll need to bring in your own food or eat before you get there. Chateau Morrisette has great food, and you can stuff a bottle in the bags to bring to the cabin.

photo - grandfather mountain on the Blue Ridge Parkway

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

Photo - View of the grounds at the Switzerland Inn

The Switzerland Inn – A beautiful Resort on the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of my favorite stops

On the North Carolina side of the border, most choose to stay in or around Boone. You’ll find lots of lodging options here, and plenty of good places to eat in town, though you will have to deal with the traffic. If you are making really good time, the last place I’d suggest is the Spruce Pine / Little Switzerland area, the Switzerland Inn is a fabulous stop right on the parkway with nice rooms and great food as is the Skyline Inn nearby. Once south of here, there is a long stretch of empty road before you come into the city of Asheville.

Savor your second day. Once you get south of Boone, you start to climb into the high mountains. This is the time to slow down, take advantage of the numerous overlooks, and get those photos. You’ll also hit some of the trickiest turns and curves. Take your time, relax, and enjoy.

Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks - highest point

Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks – highest point. The long sweeping overlook compliments the great sweeping views

Strategic planning is critical on the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. You’ll be riding through long remote sections of road with few facilities nearby. I suggest fueling up in Asheville. You’ll find gas stations closest to the parkway here. It’s also a good place to stop for food, it’s hard to find a bad meal in Asheville. While it’s the second largest city on the Blue Ridge Parkway (after Roanoke, VA), it’s easy to navigate and a fun place to spend a little time. While the only remaining Park Service Lodge, the Pisgah Inn,  is just south of Asheville, and has great food and views, expect a wait to get served.

Blue Ridge Parkway-motorcycle-view

The southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway is worth the wait. Take your time and enjoy!

blue-ridge-parkway-devils-courthouse

Blue Ridge Parkway – Devils Courthouse, one of many spectacular sights on the ride.

If you find yourself running short on gas towards the end of the ride, the next best option for fuel is Maggie Valley at US 19 / Soco Gap (MP 455.7). You also find food there, and the Wheels Through TIme Motorcycle Museum is worth the visit. Maggie Valley is the place I most recommend for staying near the end of the parkway as it is so well located for the wealth of great motorcycle rides in the surroundings, and there are lots of rooms available at good prices.

Arriving at the south end of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Cherokee, NC, you are at the southern entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cherokee has a good number of rooms, but it’s also quite “touristy” so you’ll have some traffic to deal with. No alcohol on the reservation, and the best food is probably at Harrah’s Casino. While I’ve stayed there in the past, I suggest looking at all your options depending on which way your travels take you next.

Enjoy a Blue Ridge Parkway view on a motorcycle trip

Blue Ridge Parkway view – While 2 days will get you there, if you have more time you’ll find plenty to enjoy on a more relaxed motorcycle tour of one of the top 10 rides in the country.

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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

Total Rider Tech Logo

Learn Total Control

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

____________________________________________________________________

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Classic Motorcycle Roads Closed – a blessing?

Classic Motorcycle Roads Closed – a blessing?

Extreme rain causes flooding and washes out many favorite motorcycle rides – here’s an update and what it means for your motorcycle tour plans;

Note: we are hardly out of the woods – all this moisture in the soil could lead to more slides over time, and now with some hard freezes coming in, the freeze/thaw cycles could contribute to more problems as more rock is cracked, split, and loosened.

US 441 – Newfound Gap Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Seems this road is always under construction, over the past year or two, to repair a slide near the top on the Tennessee side of the border. As the only road which crosses the park, right through the heart of it, it carries heavy traffic loads. Now, a large section has washed out about 9 miles north of Cherokee, and it will require a substantial and costly repair.

photo - slide closes park

photo source: Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Newfound Road US 441 hit by slide, park closes

Of all the damage from the recent weather, this is the most significant. While I do show this as a great motorcycle ride on my America Rides motorcycle pocket maps, it’s one of those “if you haven’t done it, you should ride it”, but it’s not one of my favorites due to the traffic, and I typically avoid it.

If you are planning to base a motorcycle vacation out of Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge, you will now be forced to ride completely around the park to reach many of the best motorcycle rides. While there are some great motorcycle rides on the north side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you will also be dealing the the tourist traffic that  floods into this area. I suggest you look at options on the south side of the park instead. Map #8 details the best motorcycle rides free of traffic on the north side of GSMNP, but there are so many more on the south side you will get in more riding by basing your motorcycle trip on the quiet side of the park.

The Cherohala Skyway – NC 143/ TN 165

A significant slide on the North Carolina side of the border, about 1 mile from the state line has taken out one lane of the road and it has been closed. This is one of the nicest rides in the area, and the only road that crosses through this remote area of high mountains, a favorite scenic motorcycle ride often done as a loop ride with the infamous Dragon at Deals Gap.

Photo Source - Graham Star - Slide on Cherohala Skyway takes out 1 lane

Photo Source – Graham Star – Slide on Cherohala Skyway takes out 1 lane

This is a “wait and watch” situation right now to determine how stable the slope is over time. The good news is there is likely enough room for a temporary detour, though the work required to fix the problem will be extensive. I am hopeful, it will reopen before the riding season cranks up.

This road is featured on Map #7,  Map #8, and 12 Classic Deals Gap motorcycle rides.

US 19 – Near Burnsville

This is not a large slide in scope, but the issue is a “house sized boulder” which now sits blocking the road. Complicating the cleanup is a nearby house which is too close to permit blasting of the rock. Plan is to drill in to it and use expanding materials to break it up. I expect this problem will be cleared up relatively quickly.

yancey county slide

Photo source – Yancey County News – Large boulder blocking road

Detours use Jack’s Creek Road and Coxes Creek roads, this area is detailed on Map #5

Blue Ridge Parkway (near MP 455) Soco Gap area, near Maggie Valley

Reports of a small slide in this area seem to be over-hyped. I have hiked to it for inspection, and found a few rocks in the road which I could have cleared with one hand. No worries here.

photo - small slide on Blue Ridge PArkway

The rock slide reported near MP 455 is nothing to worry about. I could have taken care of it myself.

The most significant Blue Ridge Parkway closure in North Carolina is for slope stabilization near Mt. Mitchell. The road is closed here at least through April. You can download a free printable map of my suggested detours for motorcycles that give you other options here – http://smokymountainrider.com/Downloads/parkway-closure-2013.pdf

NC 63 – Leicester Road

I have not had personally investigated this slide, it is reported one lane has been affected. This is a popular motorcycle ride connecting to NC 209 (The Rattler), often used to make loop rides or access Asheville. The slide occurred in the best section of the road, the steep switchbacks that climb over the mountain. No further info on this one right now.

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 – These riders are looping back to NC 209 on NC 63.

Fortunately, there are many other options to make loop rides through this area, you’ll find them them extensively detailed on Map #6

So where are the blessings in all this bad news?

Most of the mess will be tended to by the time the real motorcycle riding season gets going. While 5 important roads are closed, some of them consistently on the “top 10 motorcycle rides” lists, it is only 5. I show nearly 200 other great motorcycle rides in this area, the blessing is you now have the opportunity to get away from the tourist traffic that flocks to these biker roads and discover some of little know and best scenic motorcycle rides detailed on my maps.

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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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Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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Good Motorcycle Rides near Waynesville and Maggie Valley, NC

The last place I want to be riding a motorcycle is the 4-lane highway when there are so many good 2 lane back roads in North Carolina.

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Turn off the highway onto Candlestick Lane

For most motorcycle riders, covering the distance between Waynesville and Sylva means a relatively pleasant ride on four lane divided NC Highway 74 (The Great Smoky Mountains Expressway). As far as highways go, it is a nice ride winding down from Balsam Mountain and it rarely gets enough traffic to be annoying.

Lately though, I’ve been covering the relatively short distance on a few nice little back roads which I’ve grown very fond of. Since so many motorcycle touring riders pass through and stay in this area, I think they should know about them. If you’re riding near Cherokee, Maggie Valley, Waynesville, or Sylva, these roads may come in handy.

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Next turn onto Cabin Flats Road.

Both ends meet the Highway (US 74). The Waynesville end starts near the Blue Ridge Parkway Exit for Waynesville (MP 443.1) where it intersects US 74. Pass under the parkway then exit left onto Candlestick Lane. It’s an obvious intersection, well marked, look for the signs to Balsam, Balsam Mountain Inn, Moonshine Creek Campground.

Candlestick Circle is just a short loop off the highway, turn right onto Cabin Flats Rd. Cabin Flats Road winds along the railroad tracks a short distance, then makes a hairpin turn across them.  Balsam Mountain Inn sits on the hill above.

photo-balsam-mountain-inn

The Balsam Mountain Inn – historic, good food

It’s been a long while side I last visited, but the historic inn (1905) is both scenic and the food used to be very, very, good. You can imagine it’s heyday when it was a stop on the tracks in the middle of nowhere.

Cabin Flats Road will morph into Dark Ridge Road and start a twisting course alongside a stream through the mountain passes. The railroad also follows this narrow valley and you’ll often see it off in the woods crossing the stream on bridges and trestles.

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Dark Ridge Road – more fun than the 4 lane

Dark Ridge Road, the railroad, the highway, and the stream cross each other several times on the way to Sylva in a twisted mountain mess. You go under the highway, under the railroad, over the stream several times on the ride.

Dark Ridge Road meets Skyland Road at a stop sign just after you cross the railroad tracks. Turn left (the road quickly peters out if you go right).

photo-trestle-on-skyland-rd

Under the tracks on Skyland Rd

The first part of Skyland Road is nice and there are several good spots to stop and get a look at the now rushing whitewater stream.

The second half looses it’s appeal as it draws near Sylva and the suburbs of the town. You can follow the road all the way into Sylva. You may note the prominent fork right onto Chipper Curve Rd – it will bring you closer to downtown.

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Whitewater Creek along Skyland Rd

You can hop on-off this ride at 2 points and get back on the highway. One of them is obvious, a mile or so after you get on Skyland Rd. The other, Steeple Road, is closer to Sylva and is the best way to get back on the highway without going into town. Precision Cycles and a BP station mark it at the highway.

map

Click on photos and map for larger views

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch – Cartographer

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Learn Total Control

– 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. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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Motorcycle Friendly Lodging – Gear Head Inn near Bryson City, NC

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View form the Blue Ridge Parkway this afternoon - Big Witch Overlook near Cherokee

Another great motorcycle friendly place to stay in the Smokies and I got you another discount! Read on…

A gorgeous afternoon on the Blue Ridge Parkway with clear blue skies, amazing long range views, and those wonderful, wonderful curves, provided a stark contrast to the touristy mess that is Cherokee as I came off the parkway, passed through town, then pointed my wheel west on US 19 towards Bryson City, NC.

As soon as you’re out of town the pleasant green returns and two lane US 19 winds its way along the pretty Oconoluftee River for several miles as you leave the Reservation. It was easy to spot the Gear Head Inn sign and I pulled into the quiet spot cradled in the hillside along the road.

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The Gear Head in Near Bryson City, NC

The first thing that struck me was how fresh everything looked. The green metal roofs looked new, as did the paint, in fact everything showed it had been resurrected and restored to a standard that exceeds anything I’d seen in the surrounding properties. The lawns were well tended, the pool sparkled, and the first impression is that the owners have put a lot of time and effort into this making this motel a labor of love. It shows.

Jim was finishing up the last of the renovations to the spacious lobby and the room was both inviting and welcoming. Mary met me at the door and invited me in.

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The rooms are huge at the Gear Head Inn

The cold glass of spring water she brought me was welcome on this hot late summer afternoon, and I spent some time getting to know them and finding out what they had to offer the motorcycle vacationer.

The motif reflects Jim’s passion for performance automobiles, and while he’s primarily a car guy at heart, I think any performance vehicle gets his motor running and he loves the motorcycle visitors. They’ve designed this place for people who love their rides, two wheels or four, and want a place where car and motorcycle enthusiasts feel at home. It’s a great place for people who frequent the numerous custom car and motorcycle shows in the area.

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The pool - note the lights

Was I surprised when Mary showed me a room! Jeez, they are huge! Totally out of character from what you typically find in these smaller roadside motels. Must say I’m impressed.

They’ve got a bike cleaning station waiting, a nice fire pit centrally located for sharing those stories about the days ride in the evening, and nice level paved parking set well back from the road. Mary even knew of a roadside waterfall I’d yet to discover and she shared its secret location with me – sorry Mary, that was a mistake, I’m a blabbermouth and I’ll be checking it out ASAP (ask her about it).

They’ve got a few motorcycle groups coming in over the next couple weeks, but would love to see a few more. As an incentive, they’re offering a 10% discount through December if you tell them I sent you or bring in one of their cards I’ll be sending out with all America Rides Maps orders this fall.

PS – take a look at the lights by the pool – (They’re giant gear shift levers – how cool!)

Gear Head Inn

 

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

Total Rider Tech Logo

Learn Total Control

– 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

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The Birthplace of Tennessee – Best Seen on a Motorcycle

Photo - marble campfire

Who knows where this is?

It was the middle of nowhere yet it was the center of everything. I’d stumbled upon the birthplace of Tennessee.

I had low expectations. My research told me most of the roads I’d be riding today would hold little interest to the typical motorcycle rider who had come to ride The Dragon at Deals Gap and the Cherohala Skyway. None of the roads I’d ride on my 450+ mile travels would come anywhere close to those legends. Still, the morning held a surprise I never expected and made the efforts worthwhile.

Photo - Cherokee National Forest Road

Parked along Pleasant Mountain Road. It's typical of other roads nearby - of little interest to most. Still I check them all.

Arriving in Tellico Plains, Tennessee, after an early morning motorcycle ride where I’d had the whole of the Cherohala Skyway to myself, I pointed my wheel north onto TN 360 and my workday began. Within a few miles I’d reach the point where I’d previously abandoned my search for great motorcycle rides and the explorations would resume. Rounding a curve a green street sign flashed past with a name I recognized and I clamped on the brakes to swing around.

I could rule this road out as soon as I saw it, it was doubtful it would be of any interest. Consulting my map, I saw it connected to another I wanted to investigate, so I snicked into first gear determined to make quick work of White Plains Road and move on.

Photo - Tanasi Monument

The Tansi Monument - Tennessee gets it's name from here

It met Smoky Branch Road in a few miles where they both intersected Citico Road. I’d eventually loop back through Smoky Branch Road, also of little interest. Obviously Citico Road was the daddy in this area, the main thoroughfare of better quality, decent pavement, and sporting a faded double yellow line, a proper road.

I expected it would quickly peter out, but after several miles it continued to wind and snake through the mostly bland countryside and I started to wonder if it actually went somewhere in the big empty white space on the map. Curiosity aroused, I couldn’t resist investigating the Tanasi Memorial Site when the sign appeared.

Photo - Tanasi Monument

The empty and isolated setting quickly fills with visions of what must have been

Never heard of it. Turning the motorcycle onto Bacon Ferry Road I ventured out into the nothingness on the barely paved bumpy and potholed  single lane that led out onto a low finger of land surrounded by Tellico Lake. I rode past the pull-off, but a quick glance towards the lake had me circling back when I saw the shoreside monument.

Photo - Tanasi inscription

Inscription transcribed below

Tanasi

Capital of the Cherokee Nation

1721-1730

Origin of the Name for the State of Tennessee

The site of the former town of Tanasi, now underwater, is located about 300 yards west of this marker. Tanasi attained political prominence in 1721 when its civil chief was elected the first “Emperor of the Cherokee Nation”. About the same time, the town name was also applied to the river on which it was located. During the mid 18th century, Tansi became overshadowed and eventually absorbed by the adjacent town of Chota, which was to the immediate north. The first recorded spelling of Tennessee as it is today occured on Henry Timberlakes map of 1762. In 1796, the name Tennessee was selected from among several as most appropriate for the nation’s 16th state. Therfore, symbolized by this monument, those who reside in this beautiful state are forever linked to its Cherokee heritage.

Pho

Cherokee Tanasi to Tennessee - State. A heritage preserved and honored.

I don’t much adhere to theories of “vortexes” or spirituality, but there’s something about this site that is powerful enough to make it worth a visit, it will be on the new map. It’s worth the ride out to it. See it if you have the chance.

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Wayne Busch
Wayne Busch – Cartographer
– 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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Motorcycle Touring the Blue Ridge Parkway in One Day – What was it Like?

On Thursday I rode the Blue Ridge Parkway on my motorcycle from the start at Waynesboro, Virginia, 469 miles to the southern end at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. As I progressed I paused to snap photos and posted them on Facebook and Twitter. Here’s a recap of the experience;

Photo - sign at start of Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway starts where the Skyline Drive ends near Waynesboro, Virginia.

I chose to start at the north end as I knew I’d need to leave at daybreak. The morning fog has been so heavy at the southern end I didn’t want to chance it slowing me down or making for pictures of nothing but white mist. I spent the previous night in Richmond and left before 5 AM to make the 1 1/2 hour ride to Waynesboro in the darkness.

Photo - sign at the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

I took these photos the previous day as I expected it would be too dark to take them on the actual trip. I was right.

I fueled up in Waynesboro, grabbed a cup of coffee and a pack of doughnuts to sustain me, and headed on my way. It would be the last time I stopped to eat or drink. 469 miles is a long way at the 45 mph speed limit. I had no time to waste. At least that was my attitude early on.

Photo - morning at the lake on Otter Creek

The sun comes up at the lake on Otter Creek. Easy ride so far.

I had the road to myself in the early morning twilight. Within a few minutes I’d seen both deer and turkey. The road starts a gradual climb to elevation here though nothing like the heights reached further south. With no other traffic on the road, my speed crept up a bit, something I’d fight the remainder of the trip. As you get comfortable and into the rhythm of the road, the temptation to take things at your more comfortable pace is always there taunting you. Knowing how far I had left to go didn’t help.

Photo - Above the clouds approaching Roanoke

I paused at this overlook to top up on oil, lube what was left of the chain, and take a few moments to savor the views I was rushing by.

I was also facing the challenge of not knowing if my chain would last the trip. It was already shot before I left, adjusted to the end of the swingarm, far beyond the normal limit. It now sagged precariously and was making noises that had me wondering when it would snap. I’d never seen a chain smoke when lubed before, and I took advantage of opportunities to slather it with lubricant whenever my concerns peaked. I prayed it would not jump the sprockets when carving through a turn and catapult me into a rock face or over a precipice.

Photo - me and my bike along the Blue Ridge Parkway

A fellow biker snapped this photo of me at a rest stop. Riding from Florida to Maine and back, he and his wife were enjoying the parkway on their return.

Traffic remained surprisingly light through the morning with few holdups to pass slower vehicles. I watched the parkway wake up, the rangers and maintenance crews come to work and start their labors. Finding cell phone coverage to post my photos was always a challenge. You never know when it will be available, sometimes there in what looks like the most unlikely spots, other times absent where you think it should be a strong signal.

Photo - near Doughton Park

By mid morning there were plenty of other motorcycles on the road. This photo was taken somewhere near Doughton Park.

My first stop for gas necessitated a detour into Floyd, VA. Knowing where the nearest gas stations are is one reason I map the area so throughly. You can waste a lot of time looking for them if you don’t know which way to go. While in Floyd I popped in for a minute to see Derek at the Hotel Floyd, one of my favorite places to stay.

Photo - Historic cabin on the Blue Ridge Parkway

There are a few historic cabins along the road in southern Virginia.

As I crossed into North Carolina and entered the high mountains I knew cell phone coverage would be much more limited. The curves tightened up bit and the road was often wet from spotty showers. It would be another day with temps approaching near 100 in the valleys, but at elevation things remained tolerable so long as I was moving. I somehow avoided all but a slight peppering of rain which felt wonderful at the time.

Photo - Grandfather Mountain

Passing Grandfather Mountain I felt I was back on home turf though still a long, long way to go.

Delays had been brief so far, and I planned my next fuel stop to coincide with a quick stop to say hello at the Switzerland Inn in Little Switzerland, one of my favorite places to eat or overnight. I fueled up in Spruce Pine. It was tempting to get a good meal, but I forced myself to press on. The real hold ups came as I approached Asheville. Tree crews and road construction caused significant delays and I hit the “commuter section” during evening rush hour.

Photo - French Broad River Overlook

It was a great relief to finally cross the French Broad River southwest of Asheville and begin the climb to the highest and most scenic section of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The sun was drawing near the horizon as I carved my way along the high ridge tops of the section of the Blue Ridge Parkway I consider my back yard. Thunderheads lurked and the road was wet in places, but my luck continued.

Photo - at the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Reaching the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I knew there was less than 40 miles to go to reach my goal.

I reached the southern end of the 469 mile ride with daylight to spare and took a pause at the Oconoluftee Visitor Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I grabbed a few photos but found the battery was now dead on my cell phone. Here they are now –

Photo - start of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

The Southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway near the Oconoluftee Visitor Center.

While my Blue Ridge Parkway in a day adventure was completed, I still needed to get home. Noting the evening traffic, I chose to avoid going into Cherokee and got back on the Blue Ridge Parkway now headed in the opposite direction. I rode through to Soco Gap, then passed through Maggie Valley to finally get to my home in Waynesville.

Photo - sign at the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway

Go through Cherokee or back the way I'd come? I chose to return home via the Blue Ridge Parkway of course.

My chain lasted the trip. My rear tire is bald. It’s time for some service on the engine. New parts are on order and it will take this week to get the bike roadworthy again. Next week? I might just poke into east Tennessee. I’ve too long ignored the area between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville. If I can locate at least a dozen good rides there it will warrant a new motorcycle pocket map. I discovered some great roads along the Virginia / West Virginia border on this trip, several of which will be added to existing America Rides Maps. It will take a few more trips north to determine how the map of that region will lay out but it will come. For now, it’s catch up on the work I left, update the existing maps with the new rides I discovered, and make preparations for the roads ahead.

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America Rides Maps – the best motorcycle pocket maps money can buy

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

 

– 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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