I’ve been taking every opportunity to get out on the motorcycle on the Blue Ridge Parkway and photograph one of the best years for fall leaf color in a long time. I’ve captured some great shots so far. Yesterday though, the weather changed and the high places were quickly enveloped in cloudy wetness so thick I could barely see. Resigned to give up the day to the weather, I stowed the camera and left the Blue Ridge Parkway at Beech Gap (map) to return home to Waynesville via NC 215.
Currently, a ride on NC 215 is a Jekyll & Hyde experience. South of the Blue Ridge Parkway, this popular motorcycle ride is an exquisite pleasure as it plunges down from the heights to reach US 64 near Rosman. Recently paved, this southern section of the road courses through the Pisgah National Forest, with stunning views from the high parts and challenging curves and bends that thrill.
In contrast, the north end of NC 215 is a nightmare for the motorcyclist and I’ve heard many bikers cursing the experience of surviving the twisty descent on a road now strewn with loose gravel after recent road “improvements”. It got a “tar & chip” repair job a few weeks back which addressed the breaks in the pavement, but left a slippery legacy to negotiate turns that are a handful on a road with ideal conditions. Riding it on a motorcycle now is an experience that brings dread to the minds of most.
Coming down in the rain, already wet, I took my time and paused along the route to capture some shots of the scenery most motorcyclists will miss as all their attention is focused on staying upright on this challenging road.
There are many hidden secrets along this stretch of NC 215 as it traces the course of the Little East Fork of the Pigeon River though most blast right by them. It’s worth taking a little time to pause and explore.
The river is never far from the road, and several small streams add to the torrent along the way. For those who enjoy hiking, the trails through this area are ripe with outstanding scenery.
The Little East Fork eventually reaches Lake Logan where it is captured by a dam. It then continues on to join the Big East Fork before it continues it’s run on through Canton, NC then on into Tennessee where I-40 cuts through a dramatic gorge at the state lines. Eventually it flows through Pigeon Forge, TN, then on to join the great rivers beyond.
Forced to slow down by the road, the rain, and the rocks, I enjoyed a ride most others despise. NC 215 will always be one of our favorite local North Carolina motorcycle rides. I’m hopeful it will see a proper paving in the future, but if not, it will still be a road I visit often and recommend to others. The gravel will eventually be cast along the roadside by traffic.
Don’t be put off by the condition of NC 215. Take your time, go easy, and you’ll be rewarded with some outstanding sights along this classic North Carolina motorcycle ride. It will only get better with time.
– 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
You’ll find NC 215 and some of the best motorcycle rides in this outstanding area along with a guide to more than a dozen roadside waterfalls on America Rides Maps “The Best Motorcycle Rides EAST of Great Smoky Mountains National Park“