Best 1000 Mile Motorcycle Ride You’ll Ever Do

If you’re looking for that epic ride this is one of the best ever!

Motorcycles at overlook in Smoky Park

Enjoy an overlook in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

When you link these mountain roads together you’ll spend almost all your time on 2 lane roads, most of it National Parks or on scenic parkways, and you’ll experience some of the best motorcycle rides in the USA.

Skyline Drive – 105 Miles
The Skyline Drive runs the crest of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. It starts at Front Royal and runs seamlessly into the Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway – 469 Miles

Blue Ridge Parkway View

Blue Ridge Parkway in NC

The Blue Ridge Parkway follows the highest ridge lines of the Blue Ridge Mountains through Virginia and North Carolina. It ends at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – 47 Miles
The most visited National Park in the nation, ride across on US 441 passing from North Carolina into Tennessee at the crest, then turn west on Little River Road. Follow through to the Foothills Parkway.

Foothills Parkway – 17 Miles
Continue west on the scenic Foothills Parkway to reach US 129

The Dragon – 15 Miles

Springtime motorcycle ride on the Cherohala Skyway

The Cherohala Skyway in TN

Turn south on US 129 to enter the Dragon. Pass through and back into North Carolina. Continue south to Robbinsville, NC to head west again on the Cherohala Skyway.

The Cherohala Skyway – 52 Miles
Climb back up into the mountains and return to Tennessee near the mid-point of the ride. Turn south on 68 when you reach Tellico Palins, TN and follow this wonderful road into Georgia.

GA 60 – 23 Miles
Work your way east on GA 60 to Blue Ridge, GA, then continue on one of Georgia’s best motorcycle roads.

The Gauntlet – 133 Miles

Georgia

The Gauntlet ride in GA

Wrap it all up with a loop around the Gauntlet. You may continue on GA 60 or veer north on Skeenah Gap Road to start the loop.

Of course, this is just an overview. It’s a great introduction to riding in the Blue Ridge Mountains, still it only scratches the surface. It’s pretty straightforward to navigate, but you’ll want to do some planning. There are many variations and additions to make it even better.

9 map setYou’ll find this region covered in detail with America Rides Maps. In addition to these well known roads, almost 500 more are highlighted on a series of easy-to-read durable maps that will fit in your pocket with the info you depend on like out-of-the-way gas stations, mileage, and how to best link them all together.

The are more great motorcycle rides in the Blue Ridge Mountains than anywhere else. Any one of America Rides Motorcycle pocket ride maps is a vacation adventure in itself. With the full set you’ll have the freedom to point your wheels in any direction and know you’re on the best rides. Take a look here and see how easy it is – http://shop.americaridesmaps.com/Full-Southeast-Package-All-9-Maps-SE9.htm

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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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Motorcycle Friendly Places – Paint Bank General Store, VA

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Morning at the Paint Bank General Store, Paint Bank, VA

Though it’s only 1/2 hour west of Roanoke, the tiny hamlet of Paint Bank on Highway 311 sits like a jewel surrounded by rolling green hills and pastoral country that makes the busy city seem a million miles away. This is spectacular motorcycle riding country and bikers flock here to enjoy the long winding rides through narrow valleys which lead south towards Blacksburg, Christiansburg, and Pembroke. The beautiful wilds of West Virginia lie just over the western horizon, and the roads north twist and turn through forests teaming with wildlife.

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A for-real General Store! Cool!

Jackie and I came in from the north on VA 615, a ride through woods so wild we had to cruise with care to avoid all the critters in the roadway. Deer and turkey were abundant, a slew of painted turtles awaited their doom on the pavement, a fox, hawks, and all sorts of other animals either watched us pass or darted off into the greenery as we approached.  We paused in Newcastle for a rest, then pointed our wheels west on 311 to make the curvy fabulous climb and descent over Potts Mountain into the valley to arrive at scenic Paint Bank.

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The lunch crowd has arrived!

Eager to get on to the next curvy climb we stopped at the Paint Bank General Store for a potty break and to top off our tanks, but as the noon hour approached we soon abandoned our ride into West Virginia to return to the Paint Bank General Store, lured back by the promise of tasty locally raised buffalo burgers in the inviting and charming rustic setting of the Swinging Bridge Restaurant.

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The buffalo burgers were great!

In the short time we’d been gone the parking lot at the Paint Bank General Store had been taken over by motorcycles with the same ambitions as us and more arrived every few minutes. “Motorcycle parking only” signs lined the periphery of the  lot and the crowd of bikes spilled over to fill the remaining space. Some milled about on the porch, others hosed the bugs off their chrome with the convenient hose, but most found their way to the restaurant to enjoy the food and comfortable atmosphere.

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Bikers flock here for lunch

The Paint Bank General Store – A unique place in a beautiful setting with gas and good food surrounding by outstanding motorcycle rides and biker friendly. What more do you need?

Paint Bank General Store

Swinging Bridge Restaurant

Paint Bank info

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Great food, wonderful riding, the Paint Bank General Store and Swinging Bridge Restaurant was one of the highlights of our Virginia motorcycle riding

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Great food in a fun and relaxing atmosphere at the Swinging Bridge Restaurant located in the back of the Paint Bank General Store.

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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 the Blue Ridge Parkway – Peaks of Otter Lodge

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The Lodge and Restaurant at Peaks of Otter

The Peaks of Otter Lodge and Restaurant located at milepost 86 on the Blue Ridge Parkway offers the motorcycle traveler a serene and beautiful setting in the Virginia mountains –

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The setting is serene and relaxing

Jackie and I paid our first Blue Ridge Parkway motorcycle touring visit to the Peaks of Otter Lodge this past weekend and give it a good, though not outstanding recommendation. In some ways it outshines the other Blue Ridge Parkway lodges we’re familiar with, in others it falls just a little short.

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View from our room

Like the other Blue Ridge Parkway lodges, it immerses you in a remote and isolated setting. The nearest town is Bedford, less than 10 miles distant. The city of Roanoke is 25 miles further south on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The climb to reach the Peaks of Otter on the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most beautiful stretches of heavy woodlands in the Jefferson National Forest with glimpses of the surrounding mountains, the piedmont to the east, and the Shenandoah Valley to the west from the occasional overlooks.

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The Lodge lobby is nice

There is a Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center nearby, a campground, hiking trails, historic sights, and a picnic area. Set on a  small lake in the bowl between two of the three peaks that give the area it’s name, the views on every horizon are stunning and often mirrored in the still waters of the alpine pond. A gentle trail offers a 20 minute walk around the lake to admire the hollow from all perspectives.

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Extra points for having a nice bar

The Lodge does stand above the other parkway inns in it’s rich and welcoming appearance. The gift shop is attractive, and the bar is such a welcome touch after a hot days ride. The restaurant overlooks the lake with captivating, at times enchanting views of the natural panorama. Unfortunately the restaurant is where the Peaks of Otter Lodge fell short for us.

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Captivating views from the dining room

The food does not hold a candle to the that served at the Pisgah Inn, the Blue ridge Parkway Lodge south of Asheville, NC. Service was great, pleasant and attentive wait staff insured we got what we needed. The setting is outstanding with the views but the musak was some sad mix of nursing home dirge and “One Flew Over the Kukoo’s Nest” which distracted from the atmosphere. A place this nice deserves a chef, not a cook and a new set of CD’s for the player – please throw the Victrola in the deep part of the lake.

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Rooms are clean and comfortable

The facilities are well maintained and spotlessly clean. The grounds were  manicured with precision and care. The rooms were comfortable as were the beds, and quiet. It makes for a peaceful and relaxing stay.

Overall, a stay at the Peaks of Otter Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway is welcoming and relaxing on your motorcycle vacation. Taking the dining experience to the next level would make it outstanding.

ADD – I have one big request from the Park Service: It’s the 21st century, how about a little catch up? I don’t mind not having TV, it makes the rooms quiet and draws you out of them to embrace the natural experience and beauty. Cell service comes and goes with the breeze, and the wind rarely blows – you’ll be chucking quarters into the pay phone to reach the rest of civilization. Isn’t it time to embrace our new reality and offer a wireless network?

Other Reviews from Trip Advisor

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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 – Sights: Spectacular Roadside Waterfall in VA

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Falling Spring on US 220 north of Covington, VA

Located about 4 miles north of Covington, Virginia, Falling Spring has been an attraction referenced as far back as Thomas Jefferson. It’s an easy to locate, well marked pull off on this curvy section of US 220 (a.k.a Sam Snead Highway).

Jackie and I passed through here Sunday on our motorcycle ride as we explored the wealth of great motorcycle roads west of the north end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s a popular rest stop for bikers who flock to ride this great section of US 220 north of Covington. After revisiting Sam Snead Highway I’ve decided it should be upgraded on my America Rides Maps. I currently show only the portion south from the falls as being a great ride, while in truth the entire section from VA 39 south is outstanding. As much as I’d like to give it my top rating, due to the traffic load I can only feel right listing it as a “Good Connector” road.

For the casual cruiser who’s just out to enjoy the ride through the spectacular scenic countryside it’s a superb motorcycle ride. For those looking for a more spirited approach to the twisty sections, of which there are plenty, you’ll want to ride this one during the off hours and preferably during the week.

This roadside waterfall and the surrounding great motorcycle rides in the area are found on map #1 of The Complete Blue Ridge Parkway 6 Map Series from America Rides Maps.

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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 Vacation Touring Package – Skyline Drive, Virginia

Shenandoah National Park in Virginia

The motorcycle-themed “Ride and Relax” package* includes a one-night stay at Skyland Resort or Big Meadows Lodge, warm breakfast for two, and two honorary “I Drove Skyline Drive” patches. Starting at $131 for double occupancy when booked on the weekdays and $159 on weekends, the package is valid through valid April 4 – November 24 at Skyland Resort and May 23 – November 4, 2010 at Big Meadows Lodge.  To book please visit www.visitshenandoah.com/bikers or call 866-773-5024. Promo code: BIKERPCK.

*Disclaimer: Blackout dates: excludes holiday weekends and May 28, 29 & 30; July 2, 3 & 4; Sept. 3, 4 & 5; October 1-30, 2010. State and local taxes are additional.  Not valid with other discounts or promotions. $11.00 for each additional person in room.

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Last Motorcycle Map of Blue Ridge Parkway Ride Done

711.5 miles. New one day record for a mapping expedition. A good chunk of that was on the Interstate though, so it doesn’t really count. Still, that’s a pretty good haul for the shorter days of the fall season when I typically average less than 500 miles per day evaluating two lane mountain back roads to find the best ones for my maps.

It had been raining since first light though never heavy enough to penetrate my gear and soak me through. Although the weather was fairly warm, my electric heated gear helped dry out any seepage. It was an effective tactic which helped keep me toasty warm even with a little dampness. Must give a plug to Gerbing heated motorcycle gear and Fieldshear outwear. 16 hours in the rain and I remained warm, dry, and comfortable.

As darkness came over me and the last of the two lane roads I wanted to explore passed beneath my wheels, I couldn’t justify another night in a motel at peak season prices. Within reach of Roanoke , I-81 was calling me. The daylight was spent making a huge arc from Staunton, east to the Blue Ridge Parkway, south to the outskirts of Lynchburg, and then west across the West Virginia state line on what were mostly disappointing roads. The least likely prospects are left to wrap up the end of a trip, though some jewels were discovered.

Rolling out onto the dark highway the torrents came in waves and any thought of wet clothing was overshadowed by simply trying to see through the squalls kicked up by semi trucks and a smokey visor better suited to bright sunlight than night cruising. At times the best course was to simply lock on the glowing red pair of taillights ahead and follow them wherever they went as the road disappeared in the glare of headlights reflecting on the rain-fogged helmet shield, playing havoc with any detail of lane lines or signage. The worst of it was crossing the mile high mountain pass from Tennessee into North Carolina when the winds kicked up and the midnight darkness was illuminated only once by the flashing blue lights of a string of troopers gathered to work an accident. Without a car to follow I could have easily driven up one of those runaway truck ramps in the blackness of the storm.

So what did I discover? Fewer great roads than expected. It had been a while since I last came this far north on the Blue Ridge Parkway, all the way to it’s end. I did hit it at pretty much the peak of color, and the days prior had been clear and sunny so I could fully enjoy the fall splendor. The trees were putting on a great show, but I am a harsh judge, spoiled by living near the best section of the 469 mile national roadway.

There are a wealth of rocky outcroppings and the occasional long range view. To the east, you are often treated to views looking out over the vast expanse of the Piedmont stretching to the horizon. To the west, you overlook the southern end of the Shenandoah Valley. The mountains here are distinctly separated by broad valleys which make them stand out in contrast to the flatter portions between them. Elevations are lower than near my home base, and the foliage reflects that. More oak and scrub which tends to turn yellow-orange-gold then quickly brown. Occasional bursts of red, but lacking the evergreens, birch, dogwood, and beech, found at higher altitudes to give a full rainbow of hues. Much or the roadway is through forested patches and the overlooks are less dramatic – they frequently highlight streams which course close to the road instead of the more impressive scenery found south. It’s not that it’s not a worthy ride and full of enjoyment, just not as eye-catching as what I am used to seeing. There’s no place like home.

The really dramatic views are found off the parkway, often to the west as the mountains rise again into West Virginia. The roads through the valleys do have an appeal. Rural, farms and dairy pastures, and lots of historic tiny towns, their relevance lost to time. For those with an historic bent, viewing them is rewarding. I appreciate old homes, and they are found in both pristine preservation and admirable depreciation. In general though, these valley roads offer nothing special, though I did find a few exceptions.

Roads connecting to the Blue Ridge Parkway, typically a good location to find great rides, are disappointingly short due to the lower altitudes. Once the descent is made they either empty into towns or connect to unremarkable valley byways. Again, I noted the best of these.
The most interesting areas are found west where the mountains start to rise again. There are still valleys between them, but roads which cross the ridges can be fantastic. The closer you draw to the West Virginia state border, the more likely you’ll find enjoyable riding. It confirms my desire to expand my travels into West Virginia and explore the border area in more depth.

This trip provides the information to complete the last map in the Blue Ridge Parkway series which means I now offer full coverage of every great ride adjacent to the park from end to end, locations of reliable gas stations, and suggestions to make a trip down that roadway a lot more interesting and enjoyable. It shouldn’t take long to put it together as much of the work was completed before I left. First, a day of rest. Expect the newest America Rides Map this week.

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