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 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. 


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. 


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.

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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

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 –



Dumb Things to Do on Your Motorcycle – Cades Cove Bears on a Saturday

I don’t know what possessed me to ride through Great Smoky Mountains National Park on a warm, sunny, Saturday, but then I’m kinda getting in the spirit to do more dumb things on my motorcycle this week – more on that plan later. Nonetheless, I had a new tire to scrub in so I took off for the Dragon at Deals Gap to do the deed. Arriving early in the afternoon, I found it pleasantly low in traffic. Most everyone had already made their passes and headed out to explore the surroundings and I had a good run through it thanks to my brother riders who waved me to slow down when approaching the police stationed along the route. I arrived at the overlook with the new front tire looking like someone had taken a cheese grater to the shoulders and satisfied with the performance of the new Michelin Pure rubber which now adorned both ends of my ride.

I stopped in to see Jody at the Punkin Center Motorcycle Campground who was deeply engaged in a mid afternoons relaxation on the porch, and had to pass on the cool one offered as I had miles to before I reached home. We talked briefly of roads and riding, then I set out for the Foothills Parkway which runs along the Northwest border of Great Smoky Mountains National Park .

Photo - Cades Cove, Gear Smoky Mountains National Park

A view from the Cades Cove Loop Road which rings the valley in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Foothills Parkway has never impressed me much, but then my standards of comparison are skewed from all the time I spend on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I passed through Townsend, then fell in line with the cattle herd that staggers it’s way through the park. Regardless of the speed limit, there is always some plod who thinks the posted speed is at least 10 mph too fast and there are a dozen cars in front of you. Oblivious to the landslide of perturbed drivers riding up his bumper, he motors right past pull off after pull off where he could let the traffic pass. It’s all part of the experience.

Photo - the Cades Cove Loop Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Freshly paved, the scenic loop road around Cade's Cove is a great place to see the wildlife that is so plentiful here

The purpose of my visit was to lay eyes on the newly paved sections of road so I made a detour out to Cades Cove to see the Loop Road. I started, stopped, started, stopped, started (you get the idea) out the freshly paved single lane but quickly realized at this pace I could throw away my watch and use a calendar to figure when I’d get home. I took the first opportunity to shortcut the loop with Sparks Road, an unpaved cut more or less straight across the valley. Nearing the South end of it, I saw the first bear up in a cherry tree gorging on the summer fruit and stopped to snap a photo.

Photo - bear in tree in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

One of several bears I saw on my short visit. They were high in the cherry trees gorging on the summer fruit.

Reaching the south side of the loop road, I fell back into the herd which was held up by another bear spied in another cherry tree at which point people just abandon their cars in the road and walk out to stand beneath the bruin for a telephoto of the bears ass. It’s all part of the experience.

Photo - riding with the herd on River Road

Just one of a long like of bikers on River Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The ride back from Cades Cove, along River Road, then across the park on 441 need not be detailed, it was as was already described. All the way. All the time. I finally escaped onto the Blue Ridge Parkway scooting around the next plodder who was doing 20 mph in the 45 mph section with a quick twist and flick, then fell in with another bike that was obviously not a tourist. I felt it my duty to ride along at a matching pace as a safety backup just in case his enthusiasm wasn’t matched by the talent it took to lay a bike through the turns like he was and someone had to make a 911 call. I’m always there for you bro.

Which brings us back to more dumb things to do on your motorcycle. One day this week I’m going to ride the 469 mile long Blue Ridge Parkway from end to end. In one day. That’s really dumb, like seeing how fast you can have sex. The goal is not to see how fast I can do it, though my competitive nature would naturally lead to that extreme.  Nor do I want to establish a benchmark which will invite challenge by setting a time. I’m building in a safeguard to prevent me from giving in to that temptation. I’m going to force myself to stop once every hour, take a photo, and tweet my location and situation when I have cell phone reception.

I was hoping to go south to north on Tuesday, but the morning fog has been so heavy lately it might not only delay me, but the photos I take will show nothing but white for the first couple hours. It looks like I’ll come from the North end south on Thursday instead. Don’t ask why, it’s something to do with the summer heat no doubt.

Plan on following me on my Parkway-in-a-day tour this Thursday.


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 –



Motorcycle Touring the Blue Ridge Parkway – Crabtree Falls Visitor Center – Is it worth the stop?

So what does the Crabtree Falls Visitor Center offer those on a motorcycle tour of the Blue Ridge Parkway and is it worth a stop?

Image located at

Image from NC Waterfalls site - For detailed info and more photos use the link.

If you pull into the Crabtree Falls Visitor Center near milepost 339.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway expecting to see a dramatic and breathtaking cascade you’ll be disappointed. The waterfall is a mile hike distant down a rough trail, not the ideal venue for riding boots and gear. Should you want to see the falls, come prepared to change into something more appropriate for the hike to reach it. Of course, if you’re spending a night at the campground (71 tent and 22 RV sites, May – October, $14) it’s a must do.

Photo - Visitor Center at Crabtree Falls

The Visitor Center at Crabtree Falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Visitor Center serves as a convenience store for the campground and parkway traffic. You can get snacks and sandwiches, drinks, and limited supplies.

Photo - seating area at the Crabtree Falls Visitor Center

Seating area at the Crabtree Falls Visitor Center where you can savor your snacks

There’s an indoor seating area as well as a porch, though I would consider the views of a small clearing surrounded by trees all that inspiring. Still, it’s a nice and quiet place to spend a break.

Photo - Gift Shop at Crabtree Falls Visitor Center

One section of the Gift Shop at Crabtree Falls Visitor Center

The Visitor Center at Crabtree Falls is as much a gift shop as it is a convenience store with the usual craft and parkway related items.

Photo - Inside the visitor center at Crabtree Falls

Supplies are limited, but you won't starve if you come in off the road looking to camp.

So is it worth a stop on your motorcycle vacation? If you’re making your motorcycle trip by camping along the way it might just be the nice quiet campground that you’re looking for. It’s certainly a good pit stop for those passing through who need break, a bathroom, and a little something to sustain them on their way.

For info about other waterfalls on or near the Blue Ridge Parkway look at Virtual Blue Ridge -Parkway Waterfalls.

If you’re really into seeing roadside waterfalls, check out America Rides Maps 2 map bundle – The Carolina Waterfall Tour with nearly 2 dozen roadside cascades to enjoy with little if any walking.


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 –



Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Vacation Touring – Rider’s Roost

Rider’s Roost Motorcycle Resort & Campground is located not far from Boone, NC, near the midpoint of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It offers the motorcycle touring rider an affordable and comfortable place to bed down for the night, whether it’s in a tent or rental cabin. It’s an exclusively motorcycle resort so you won’t be dealing with blaring RV generators or throngs of kids running through your camp, and it could make a great place to spend part of your motorcycle vacation.

It’s more than just another motorcycle campground, for some it’s a must stop touring destination. Comedy nights, pig roasts, live entertainment, a central pavilion with a game room offer lots of ways to shake the kinks out after a day on the great roads in the surrounding area. Take a dip in the river or just settle down to watch the sunset, get into touch with home via wifi.

It just off NC221, and while I haven’t stayed there yet, it’s been highly recommended. I’m planning to visit next time I’m staying up that way on my motorcycle tours. Texas Ron has a nice testimonial in one of his blog posts –

“Riders Roost was a great Bike Campground, No cages, no kids, no hassles. Uncle Roy and Mary really know how to take care of “motorcycle pilots”. “The Road goes on forever and the party never ends.” I think that’s the Roosts motto or it should be. There’s a perfect little river that runs through the camp ground and in the rocks is a place that is like natures recliners, complete with moss to scratch the back. The water temperature is cool but after riding all day in the sun and heat….man what a refreshing way to relax and wash the road off ya. Most gather at the party headquarters located under the pavilion/game room. There is a pool table and darts to keep one entertained. This is also where the midnight auction is held too. What a way to start an adventure.”

Get more info at the Riders Roost web site at

For the most detailed motorcycle ride maps of the area see