Motorcycle Friendly – Still Mountain Restaurant, Hot Springs, NC

Motorcycle Friendly – Still Mountain Restaurant, Hot Springs, NC

On a classic “lunch run” ride here’s one option for the lunch stop.

Still Mountain Restaurant, Hot Springs

Motorcycle friendly Still Mountain Restaurant, Hot Springs, NC.

One of the nicest motorcycle rides you’ll do in the Smoky Mountain area of North Carolina and Tennessee is NC 209, a.k.a “The Rattler”. This 30+ mile ride through the mountains and valleys of North Carolina runs from Junaluska (Maggie Valley, Waynesville) to Hot Springs. Scenic, challenging, historic, it makes for a nice “lunch run” as an out-and-back ride or the first leg of numerous loop rides you can build with other great connecting roads.

Motorcycle Friendly Still Mountain Restaurant

Motorcycle Friendly Still Mountain Restaurant – you can’t miss it in tiny Hot Springs.

Hot Springs is one of the many historic little mountain towns that dot the landscape. Once  an important stop on the Knoxville, TN to Asheville, NC corridor, it is mostly forgotten now that the Interstate bypasses it to the west. It’s a pass-through town on the Appalachian Trail, a popular place for whitewater rafting, and there are natural hot springs where you can go soak your keister for a few bucks. On weekends, it’s a gathering spot for the bikers who flock to ride the outstanding motorcycle roads in the surrounding region.

Motorcycle Friendly Still Mountain Restaurant

Motorcycle Friendly Still Mountain Restaurant – a big comfortable porch, tasty food, and live music on this day.

Comfortable, easy to find, and with tasty food, the Still Mountain Restaurant is usually full of bikers though the occasional Appalachian Trail hiker drops in for some civilized fare on their 1500 mile walk in the wilds. You’ll feel right at home here.

Biker Friendly Still Mountain Restaurant

Biker Friendly Still Mountain Restaurant – Thumbs up!

You’ll find NC 209 and another 50+ great rides in the area on America Rides Motorcycle Pocket maps #6 as well as the 100 Great Motorcycle Rides in the Smoky Mountains.

Great Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina - NC 209, a.k.a. "The Rattler".

Great Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina – NC 209, a.k.a. “The Rattler”. Do it as an out-and-back or make a nice loop ride – one of many ways to go on this great biker road

More Rattler info here

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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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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.

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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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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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How to Make a good Deals Gap Motorcycle Ride Better –

Adding these two roads to one of the four most popular Smoky Mountain motorcycle loop rides near the The Dragon at Deals Gap makes the least of them measure up to the others.

Photo - morning on the Cherohala Skway

Morning on the Cherohala Skyway. I'm parked on the state line between North Carolina and Tennessee.

Smoky Mountain / Blue Ridge motorcycle riders who flock to ride The Dragon at Deals Gap typically take in other rides when in the area. One of the best Smoky Mountain motorcycle rides is a loop through Vonore and Tellico Plains, TN to take in the Cherohala Skyway. Another popular circuit is to loop around Great Smoky Mountains National Park crossing through the heart of the Smoky Mountains on US 441. A third great loop ride links NC 28 at Franklin, NC to Nantahala Gorge via Wayah Road. All of these are great loop rides in the Blue Ridge with unique characters.

The fourth most popular ride is to take the Cherohala Skyway west to Tellico Plains, then go south on TN 68. You then use TN 123 / NC 294 to head east, and follow US 74 / 129 north through the Nantahala Gorge to return to The Dragon at Deals Gap. This loop ride starts out with the outstanding scenery and enjoyable sweeping curves of the 50 mile long Cherohala Skyway as it crosses the Snowbird Mountain Range of the Blue Ridge. It gets nice again once you enter the curvy sections a few miles south of Tellico Plains on NC 68. It’s gets better and better the further south you go, though NC 68 can carry a bit of traffic on weekends.

Photo - Field of the Woods

The 10 Commandments at Fields of the Wood - big enough God can read them

Once you turn east on TN 123 / NC 294, the ride is still pretty good, but the road opens up and the ride is not as scenic and challenging as you progress. Here’s how to punch it back up to outstanding.

Watch for Fields of the Wood, it’s the closest landmark to the turn off onto Hiawassee Dam Access Road. Fields of the Wood is worth a stop to see and a nice place for a break. Those with devout religious leanings will be inspired by the hillside with the ten commandments written out in stone, as well as numerous other Biblical icons and monuments. For those inspired more by hellacious and challenging roads, Hiawassee Dam Access Road is next leading to devilish twists and curves.

Photo - Hiawassee Dam

The Hiawassee Dam is a nice spot for a break.

Turn onto Hiawassee Dam Access Road to start the fun. You may encounter a little traffic approaching the dam on weekends as many come for boat access to the lake and river. Once past the dam, the excellent and challenging road continues a course around the west side of the lake. Turn right onto Joe Brown Highway when you reach the end of Hiawassee Dam Access Road.

Joe Brown Highway is hardly what any of us think of when the word “highway” comes to mind. This isolated and remote twisty two lane back road is packed with curve after curve and some pretty decent Smoky Mountain scenery, though you’ll be paying more attention to the road than the horizons. It’s a whole lot of fun, usually carries very little traffic, and may be the best section of the entire loop, a nice contrast to the sweeping curves of the Cherohala Skyway.

Photo - Nantahala Outdoor Center

The Nantahala Outdoor Center on the river is another great break spot with bathrooms, good food, nice views, and the place to arrange a river trip.

Joe Brown Highway runs you right through downtown Murphy, NC to intersect US 129 / 74 at the junction with US 64 East. Turn north to follow the four lane to Andrews where it funnels down to two lanes again for the ride through scenic Nantahala Gorge. You’re bound to run into traffic in Nantahala Gorge, but the scenery along the popular whitewater river makes up for it. Avoid the gorge on weekends when possible as the buses hauling rafters and kayakers tend to bottle things up.

Once through Nantahala Gorge, turn left onto NC 28 and back into the twists and curves to return to The Dragon at Deals Gap.

Photo - View from Hiawassee Dam Overlook

There are nice spots for a break both atop and below the Hiawassee Dam. The road runs across it then continues around the lake.

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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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Great New Motorcycle Route Named In North Carolina

The practice of naming great motorcycle rides is a long and honored tradition. It’s a convenient shorthand way to refer to a road or series of roads that makes for a particularly good motorcycle ride. The Dragon, Hellbender 28, Blood Mountain, The Devil’s Triangle, Thunder Road, and many others are all utilized to describe rides that rise to the level of classic motorcycle rides. Add one more to the list – the Diamondback (NC 226A) and the Lake James Route.

Image - The Diamondback Post Card Map

Postcard image of the Diamondback / Lake James Route which originates at the Switzerland Inn

This 65 mile loop combines a number of great sections of road into one beautiful and entertaining ride which offers a great combination of outstanding mountain scenery and challenging curvy two lane roads. The ride originates at the luxurious Switzerland Inn adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway in Little Switzerland. Located on sinuous 226A, the ride can be enjoyed in either direction though I’m inclined to immediately jump down the steep and technical descent from the Inn and get the party started. On the return via the Blue Ridge Parkway I’ll savor my fun and let the bike cool down after the hot sections along the route.

Photo - View of the grounds at the Switzerland Inn

The Switzerland Inn - A beautiful Resort on the Blue Ridge Parkway

After the initial descent, NC 226 gives you a chance to catch your breath before you turn northeast to trace the foothills and the twisty ride to reach NC 181.  Turn back towards the high country, I most enjoy NC 181 when climbing. The sweeping turns and curves have long been a favorite ride for motorcyclists in the area and you’ll get the best views of dramatic Table Rock while clawing your way up the mountainside. While beautiful and entertaining, the Blue Ridge Parkway section returning to the inn is a nice cherry on top of the shake below.

Photo - Table Rock

Table Rock is even more dramatic as it imposes on the horizon viewed end on from NC 181

I’m shipping post card maps of this ride with every order America Rides Maps so long as they last to help you discover this great loop ride. For those motorcycle touring along the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Diamondback makes for a wonderful side trip to add to your motorcycle adventures.

You’ll find these great roads and many, many more on America Rides Maps “The Best Roads North and South of Asheville, NC” . Contact the Switzerland Inn for even more detail and be sure to visit http://diamondbacknc.com . I’ll have video of this ride ASAP.

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Motorcycle Friendly Eateries – Rock Bottom Sports Grill, Hot Springs, NC

Photo - Rock Bottom Sports Grill in Hot Springs, NC

The Rock Bottom Sports Grill in Hot Springs, NC - Biker Friendly

I spent a bit of the beautiful weekend in Hot Springs, NC, getting the final footage for my upcoming video about one of North Carolina’s classic motorcycle rides – NC 209. While we were there I made a lunch stop at the Rock Bottom Sports Grill in the heart of town.

Photo - the bar at the Rock Bottom Sports Grill

It was too nice a day to be inside at the bar - everyone was out on the porch overlooking the stream and enjoying their meals

I was lucky enough to catch Melissa, the owner there on Easter Sunday. She’d come in to put out the fires that developed over the holiday weekend. They’d been swamped with business and she was doing her best to locate more staples and replenish the menu on a day when many suppliers were closed for the holiday. The photos of the bar and inside of the restaurant are misleading – with the beautiful weather, the covered porch outside was packed with diners enjoying their meals while overlooking the creek which flows aside the building.

Our food was good, though they’d run out of buffalo burgers, always a treat when I can find them. The standard version fit the bill quite nicely and I overheard several complimentary comments about the fries – there are very tasty.

Photo of painting of the town of Hot Springs, NC

Photo of painting of the town of Hot Springs, NC - river rafting, backpackers passing through on the Appalachian Trail, how many motorcycles can you spot?

My visit had another purpose. As route master for the Asheville Bikefest, I’m trying to visit any many locations as I can prior to the May 13 – 16th event to not only alert them of the traffic it is likely to generate, but verify they are welcome to biker business. Before I start telling thousands of motorcyclists of great places to stop while enjoying the wonderful two lane mountain roads I’ll suggest to them for their visit, I want to insure they are welcome there. No problems with the Rock Bottom Sports Grill in Hot Springs. Melissa has been riding for years, made the pilgrimage to Sturgis last year, and is looking forward to seeing you and insuring you have a great time.

Photo - another interior shot

Got to talk with the still photographer - entirely missed the crowds outside on the porch.

I’m pulling the video together as time permits, expect to learn a lot more about Hot Springs and the fabulous motorcycle riding in the surrounding area. Here’s the Teaser I put together before the snow shut things down. The full version is coming soon;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hsCLMCIUOo

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