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 http://www.ncwaterfalls.com/crabtree1.htm

Image from NC Waterfalls site -http://www.ncwaterfalls.com/crabtree1.htm. For detailed info and more photos use the link.

http://www.ncwaterfalls.com/crabtree1.htm

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBrB5lrtZ9I

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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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Another Great Motorcycle Ride to be Added to the List – My Secret

It’s not all that frequently I miss a great motorcycle ride in my explorations. I really try to be thorough as well as intuitive, so few slip by. Still, I can’t claim to know ALL the great roads in the southern Appalachians, just the vast majority of them. I continue to find more, and quite embarrassingly, they are too often close to home. Everyone believes they know ALL the great roads right in their back yard. Time and again I am proven wrong, and that’s not such a bad thing.

Stop reading now if you think I am giving this one away. No photos, no road names, nada. I just gave away 30 routes at the Asheville Bikefest for free and people gobbled them up. Nor is this a post about the Asheville Bikefest, I think you may be getting sick of hearing about that, but be cautioned, there will be more to come. The event was far more successful than expected and stuff is flooding in. The only reason I mention the event is because I found this great road because of it.

As Route Master for the Asheville Bikefest (there I go again, last time) I spoke with countless people helping them find the best rides in the area and getting them to see the most in the time they had. When you’re passionate about something, even work becomes fun. I went almost non-stop for four days and I had a great time. That’s why I founded America Rides Maps.

So anyway, this guy wants me to direct him to one of the two dozen local roadside waterfalls, which I do, so he can get of picture of his bike behind it. Yeah, you can actually drive behind this waterfall right off the road. He didn’t find it. Why, I don’t know, it’s one of the most obvious roadside waterfalls there is but that doesn’t matter. What matters is this guy doesn’t give up. He gets directions which lead him off into the forest. He rides and rides everything in sight, exploring places I know better than to go. He never finds it.

The next day he comes back to me and tells me he couldn’t find the waterfall. I’m a bit incredulous, it’s so easy. I redirect him. He relates his adventures and tells me he found this awesome motorcycle ride. I’m dubious. If he couldn’t find the easy waterfall do I believe him now? I made a mental note of it nonetheless. About an hour later I’m talking to a couple of women. They’re buying maps of the areas closest to them (we all think we know our own back yard), right down the street from the “event which will not be named again in this post. Out of curiosity, I ask if they know of this road the guy mentioned. “I live on that road, it’s great!”

So I can’t resist. Today I have to check it out. It rocks. Who cares how or why I missed it.   I’ll add it to the “The Best Roads South of Great Smoky Mountains State Park – EAST” map tomorrow. The other routes in the area I’d previously identified were detours around a congested town and a four lane section of road which formed one leg of a 100 mile+ triangle of superb riding. Now I think I’m looking forward to the detour more than the great rides that lead to it.

I have some more leads to follow up. I know some will be disappointing. I think I’ve done at least one and rejected it, my standards are high, but you never know. I’d be very pleased to find another jewel.

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Motorcycle Vacation Planning – Great Ride Alternatives

SEE SOME WATERFALLS!

Photo - Whitewater Falls Highest in the east

Whitewater Falls - Highest in the east

With the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap on the North Carolina / Tennessee state line now closed due to a rock slide, many who have made reservations in advance may be wondering what to do. Before you cancel those reservations, consider there are plenty of alternatives to discover great motorcycle rides in the area within easy reach.

The Cherohala Skyway, Tennessee’s version of the Blue Ridge Parkway, remains open and is a fine ride, though be aware much of the regional traffic will be shifting onto it. It’s not quite the challenge to ride, but it makes up the deficiency with great scenery as it climbs to over 5000 feet before entering North Carolina.

Of course, NC 28 which intersects US 129 in North Carolina at the southern end of the Tail of the Dragon will be there for those looking for a more challenging motorcycle route. With the Dragon closed, I suspect traffic on it will be light. Don’t let this road fool you, it “bites” more riders than the Dragon in that it is not as predictable. Where the Dragon has one turn after another, you know what to expect,  NC 28 has some more open stretches where you can pick up speed only to find the upcoming 10 mph corner is far sharper than you are ready for.

Many motorcycle tourers who ride this section of NC 28 don’t realize it continues further south into South Carolina and miss out on a great section of road. It grows to 4 lanes as it reaches the intersection with the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway, continues a few miles on the highway, then diverts south again to become a wonderful two lane road again. All in all, it’s more than 100 miles of truly great motorcycle riding with but a few interruptions where it passes through Franklin and Highlands.

Photo - Dry Falls

Dry Falls - You can walk behind them

The first area I highly recommend you spend some time motorcycle riding is often called the “Land of the Waterfalls”. Comprised primarily of the wild mountains of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests, this area south of Great Smoky Mountains National Park hosts one of the greatest collections of easy to view roadside waterfalls in the nation including the highest waterfall east of the Rockies.

This rugged area is laced with challenging and scenic motorcycle roads including the highest and most beautiful section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Springtime is the best season to see them before the summer leaves obscure the views.

Here’s a video sample of them from America Rides Maps;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBrB5lrtZ9I

Don’t let the closure of the Tail of the Dragon ruin your motorcycle vacation. There are plenty of great rides just over the hill. These are some of the best, more to come.

Contact http://americaridesmaps.com for more suggestions and advice.

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New Rock Slide Affects Motorcycle Vacation Plans to Smokies

Add yet another rock slide to the long list of road closures in the mountains of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. This one in particular will affect many motorcycle vacation plans to visit one of the most popular and well known rides in the region, the infamous Tail of the Dragon on US 129 at Deals Gap. Located along the western border of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the 13 mile stretch of US 129 with it’s 311 curves draws hundreds of thousands of motorcycle and sports car enthusiasts each year who come to experience the challenging stretch of road.

It’s been an exceptional year for rock slides in the Smokies, the most notable being the massive slide along the eastern edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park which has closed Interstate 40 for months. With both the east and west routes around the park closed, the only route allowing north-south travel from Tennessee to North Carolina is US 411 which cuts through the heart of the park and it too has been the scene of slides. US 441 is presently open, though cleanup continues on the northern spur road.

The Tail of the Dragon is still accessible from the North Carolina side. From Tennessee, the best route is through Tellico Plains and onto the Cherohala Skyway. Expect increased traffic loads on TN 68 approaching Tellico Plains due to yet another rock slide on US 64-74 in the Ocoee River Gorge which has shifted traffic onto it. As far as I can tell, it is still possible to reach Pumpkin Center from Vonure on the north end of the Dragon via the popular Dragon – Cherohala loop ride. Still, even more traffic will now be using these roads and you may want to reconsider visiting the area until things improve.

I’ve been reporting on the status of all the rock slides and road closures in my newsletter which you’ll find archived here – http://budurl.com/3smm. As there are so many, so widely scattered, it may be the easiest place to find all the information without bouncing around to various DOT sites (they are rarely as up to date). With so much going on, I’ll probably post an extra edition or two to keep you apprised of the situation and help with your motorcycle vacation plans. There is a lot going on you need to be aware of including the progress on the clean up to the Blue Ridge Parkway after severe winter storm damage, the closed section there, and all the roads which have been closed in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for paving.

If you have early year travel plans to Robbinsville, Townsend, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or Franklin, I suggest you consider them carefully. Better alternative destinations for motorcycle touring would include Maggie Valley and Asheville. I’m am working with local lodgers to find you the best deals and affordable as well as luxury motorcycle friendly accommodations. I’ll be stepping up those efforts. Please email me for help. The changes in traffic patterns have severely impacted their business and there are some deals to be had. Watch the blog as I review them.

Finally, for America Rides Maps patrons, I want you to be aware these rock slides have impacted 3 of the 4 loop rides on the most popular map “Maggie Valley to Deals Gap and the Cherohala Skyway”. I strongly urge you to look at the “Waterfall Package” for the best alternative. These two maps will lead you into some of my favorite areas unaffected by the changing traffic patterns and open up a wealth of fantastic rides which are too often overlooked. These roads are the first place I head when looking for great riding, the first place I take tour groups, and hold everything you’ve come to expect from a motorcycle vacation in the Smokies.

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Good Day, Good Motorcycle Tour, Great Guests!

Carolyn and Larry G. from Granger, IN., enjoy one of my secret waterfalls

Paperwork is all done, bikes in the barn, time to crack open a cold one. A good time was had by all, especially me, but that’s not hard when you’re out riding in the mountains. Thanks to Carolyn and Larry for treating me to breakfast and dinner – somehow we were having so much fun we missed lunch. My fault, I didn’t know it was some kind of secret Latin holiday and all the Mexican restaurants on the route would be closed today. The pizza was good enough.

Most guides or tour companies won’t mess with just one bike or day tours. It’s the same amount of paperwork, liability, wear and tear on the bikes, and us guides don’t work cheap. The more sensible thing to do is run groups, preferably on multi-day trips. But then most companies have to cover hundreds of miles to get enough quality sights and scenery to make a trip rewarding. Not so here. As soon as you leave the barn you’re in the heart of it.

As should be the case things ran like clockwork. I waved at Larry as he was picking up his rental Harley from Gryphon Bikes in Maggie Valley. They met me for breakfast exactly on time at the Mountaineer Restaurant. I’d urged them to take their time and not leave too early so the mountains would clear of morning clouds. The last vapors were dissipating from the high spots at Waterrock Knob when we arrived – right on time.

That hearty breakfast from the Mountaineer stayed with us and we chose to skip the lunch stop at the Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Not accustomed to a Harley, the parkway was the ideal place to get a feel for the bike on the comfortable curves. By the time we were ready to go in search of waterfalls he was ready to tackle the twisties.

As the day evolved we progressed from the easy roads and waterfalls to those more challenging and off the beaten path. Though the first couple times the floorboards scraped on the sharper turns were unnerving for a flat-lander, I assured Larry the rental agency would consider this “normal wear and tear” for our mountain territory (it is). I saved the best for last with a collection of my “secret” waterfalls, a few I don’t reveal on my maps.

The weather was pleasant, just cool enough and a little breezy up high. It was hot but not stifling down in the valleys. The clouds threatened just enough to heighten awareness of the good fortune we had with no rain. Even the bathrooms appeared at just the right times. We ended the day by returning the rental Harley with 25 minutes to spare, bellies full, and all ready to spend some quality time riding the rocking chairs on the porch. Nothing like a good tour.

Wayne@americaridesmaps.com

>> Go To America Rides Maps.comhttp://americaridesmaps.com

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