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

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

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Stay Near the Best Mountain Motorcycle Rides

Stay Near the Best Mountain Motorcycle Rides – 

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

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

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

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

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

Map of Classic Motorcycle Rides in the Smoky Mountains

Surround yourself with classic rides.

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

Bullseye on the test place to stay

Bullseye on the best place to stay

The target falls on Maggie Valley, Waynesville, Cherokee.

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

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

Maggie Valley 

 

Photo - fall colors at Soco Gap

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

Maggie Valley Pros –

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

Maggie Valley Cons

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

Waynesville

Main Street, downtown Waynesville

Main Street, downtown Waynesville

Waynesville Pros –

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

Waynesville Cons –

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

Cherokee

One of the many painted bears in Cherokee

One of the many painted bears in Cherokee

Cherokee pros –

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

Cherokee cons –

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

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

 Click Here Now
to see more about the map

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

____________________________________________________________________

wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

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

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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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Favorite Blue Ridge Motorcycle Rides Closed

Favorite Blue Ridge Motorcycle Rides Closed – 

January 17, 2013

Unusually warm weather and extreme rain wash out roads, bridges, and cause landslides, many favorite motorcycle rides affected;

photo - slide closes park

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

Days of pouring rain in the Smoky Mountain region has caused severe damage, flooding, landslides, closing many favorite motorcycle roads – significant roads so far affected:

US 441 – Newfound Road which crosses Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Landslide closes road indefinately

US 19 – west of Cherokee, slide and house sized boulder in road – road closed

Blue Ridge Parkway – Slide near Soco Gap US 19 / Maggie Valley  (MP 455) – road closed

Cherohala Skyway – NC 143 Slide – road closed

US 74 – Nantahala Gorge – slide, one lane closed

Many other bridges / roads washed out, heavy flooding – Still raining. Freeze coming tonight which may dislodge more rock and weaken slopes.

Current updates on Facebook pagehttp://Facebook.com/blueridgemotorcyclerides

Will update with assessment and suggested routing when situation stabilizes.

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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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.

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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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Scenic Motorcycle Rides – Backbone Rock, TN

photo - motorcycle cruises through Backbone RockI went back to Virginia this weekend to revisit and explore some of the sights I’d passed while mapping the area

I’m pretty much all business when mapping – I only stop for three things; gas, to take notes, and when “nature” forces me to do so. Eating is a luxury typically left for the evening to make the most of the time on the road. This trip was to go back and savor some of the gems I’d just blown by previously.

One of my favorite loop rides is found near the point where North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee meet, a 103 mile jaunt that takes you on some of the twistiest and most scenic roads. It’s listed on America Rides Map #4 – “Great Roads Near Boone, Banner Elk, and Blowing Rock.

Heading south from Damascus, Virginia, on SR 133, you soon enter the National Forest in Tennessee and signs for Backbone Rock Park start appearing along the road. Round a curve and you find yourself zipping through the quick yet dramatic tunnel through Backbone Rock.

I stopped in to investigate.

The Empire Mining Company blasted through Backbone Rock in 1901 to lay train tracks for the Tennessee Lumber Company. Long gone, the rail bed became the roadbed which continues on towards Mountain City.

The ridge is about 75 feet high and 20 feet thick, though it narrows near the top. There is a steep trail from the parking area on the right just after you pass through the rock, though if you have any aversion to heights and walking near the edge of a cliff, you’ll never make it to the section of rock which straddles the road.

There are several hiking trails, picnic tables and campsites, a waterfall is about 0.4 miles on a foot trail. The area is popular for fishing and kayaking.

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

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– 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

America Rides Map #4 – “Great Roads Near Boone, Banner Elk, and Blowing Rock

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