Smoky Mountain Waterfalls Motorcycle Ride

Tour more than 1 dozen roadside waterfalls on this long and scenic day ride.

Smoky Mountains Waterfalls Motorcycle Ride

Smoky Mountains Waterfalls Motorcycle Ride – click for large view

Overview: 

Start in Maggie Valley. Follow US 19 west to 441 at Cherokee. Soco Falls on route. Follow US 441 south to Franklin, then US 64 / NC 28 to Highlands. 4 falls along road. Highlands to Cashiers on US 64, then loop south on 107 / 281 to see 2 more. Continue east on US 64, detour south of Brevard then onto US 276 to the Blue Ridge Parkway (3 more) Ride the Parkway to NC 215 then follow it back to US 276 and into Maggie Valley.

Roadside waterfalls abound for the motorcycle rider

Discover the hidden secrets on your motorcycle travels in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains

Detailed Route:

Distance: 190 miles.

Time: All day ride.

Easy to moderate difficulty

Before you go:

  • Exercise caution! – These are roadside waterfalls, some which are on busy roads with blind curves and limited pull-outs. Pull out with confidence and vigor.
  • Look but don’t touch – Dangerous conditions lurk around waterfalls. Visitors are killed every year. Very slippery rocks. Powerful currents. Deadly drops.
  • Plan on more time – Several waterfalls require short walks to get the views. Allow time for multiple stops and photos.

Route:

Photo-Bubbling-Springs-Branch-on-NC 215

Easy to find Bubbling Springs Branch is on a sharp curve where it flows under NC 215.

Start in Maggie Valley. Follow US 19 west.

4.1 mi Pass under Blue Ridge Parkway

5.7 miSoco Falls. Gravel pull off on left with small signs. Downhill section of road on a curve. Can’t be seen from road. Path and boardwalk lead to 2 converging waterfalls.

15.2 mi Turn left @ traffic light at casino for shortcut to US 441 south. Junction US 19 and Casino Road.

16 mi Turn left @ traffic light onto US 441 south. Junction Casino Road and US 441.

20.1 mi Follow highway 23/74 east. Junction US 441 and highway 23/74 exit 74.

27.3 mi Follow US 441 south. Junction US 441 and highway 23/74 exit 81..

45.3 mi Exit US 441, follow US 64 / NC 28 east. Junction US 441 and US 64 / NC 28 at Franklin.

54.4 mi – Cullasaja Falls. Visible from road on right. Limited and hazardous parking near guardrail on sharp curve.

57.3 mi Quarry Falls – Visible from road on right. Long paved pulloff on right side of road.

58.2 mi – Dry Falls – Not visible from road. Paved parking on right with signs. Short trail to waterfall. Path continues behind waterfall.

60.8 mi – Bridal Veil Falls – Visible from road on left. Paved pull off. Drive behind the waterfall for a photo.

Motorcycles at Cullasaja Falls in North Carolina's "Land of the Waterfalls"

With permission granted, I stand ready to help you have the ride of your life! Just say YES!

63.5 mi Turn left @ traffic light to continue on US 64. Junction US 64 and NC 28 downtown Highlands.

73.7 mi Turn right @ traffic light onto NC 107 south. Junction US 64 and NC 107 in Cashiers.

77.1 miSilver Run Falls – Not visible from road. Poorly marked gravel pull off on left. Trail leads into woods. 1/4 mile walk.

83 mi Turn left onto Wiginton Scenic Byway. Junction Wiginton Scenic Byway and NC 107.

85.2 mi Turn left @ stop sign to head north on NC 281 (Whitewater Falls Road). Junction Wiginton Scenic Byway and NC 281.

87.6 miWhitewater Falls State Park. Not visible from road. $2 fee. 1/4 mile paved walk. Highest waterfall in the east.

94.9 mi Turn right @ stop sign to continue east on US 64. Junction NC 281 and US 64.

97.1Toxaway Falls – Not visible from road. Road crosses dam with waterfall below. Difficult to get a good view. Park at Toxaway Village or along road on dam.

105 mi Turn right @ junction US 64 and US 178 at Rosman.

106 mi Turn right @ traffic light in Rosman, exit town.

107 mi Turn left onto East Fork Road. Junction US 178 (Pickins Highway) and East Fork Road.

110 mi Turn right @ stop sign  to keep on East Fork Road. Junction East Fork Road and Walnut Hollow Road.

119 mi Turn left @ stop sign to go north on US 276 (Greenville Highway). Junction East Fork Road and US 276.

120 miConnestee Falls – Not visible from road. Large sign, trailhead at end of parking lot. Short walk to overlook where 2 waterfalls converge.

126 mi Turn right @ traffic light in Brevard onto US 64. Junction US 276 and US 64.

129 mi Turn left @ traffic light onto US 276 north. Junction US 64 / US 276 / NC 280.

135 miLooking Glass Falls – Visible from road. Large paved parking along road on right. Boardwalk to base of falls.

Photo-whitewater-falls-nc

Whitewater Falls, one of the highest in the east.

137 mi – Sliding Rock – Not visible from road. Fee area $2. Paved parking lot. Bathers slide down waterfall.

144 mi Turn right onto parkway ramp. Turn left at the stop sign to head south (towards Cherokee) on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Junction US 276 and Blue Ridge Parkway.

148.5 mi – Graveyard Fields – Not visible from road. 1/3 mile paved walk to top of Second Falls. Trails continue to 2 others.

156 mi Exit Parkway. Turn left (towards Canton) on NC 215. Junction Blue Ridge Parkway and NC 215.

158 mi –  Flat Laurel Creek – Visible from road. Hard to find. Look for 3rd gravel pull out on right on the only straight section of road.

160 miBubbling Springs Branch – Visible from road on left. River plunges beneath the roadway on a hairpin curve. Small unpaved parking are just beyond.

174 mi Turn left @ stop sign to follow US 276 into Waynesville.. Junction NC 215 / US 276.

180 mi Turn right @ traffic light in Waynesvile.. Pass through town.

Junction US 276 and Main Street.

181mi Turn left @ traffic light. Junction Main Street and US 276 (Russ Avenue).

183 mi Turn left @ traffic light to return to Maggie Valley. Junction US 276 and US 19.

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Wayne Busch

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed, comprehensive, 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 Loop Ride near Hot Springs, NC

French Broad River in Hot Springs, NC

French Broad River

The small historic town of Hot Springs, NC, has long been a familiar pit stop for mountain area motorcycle riders. It is situated north and west of Asheville near the border with Tennessee on the banks of the French Broad River. The town is popular with rafters and hikers, has couple biker friendly places to eat, and there are natural hot springs to soak in at the spa.

Hot Springs, NC

Hot Springs, NC

Motorcycle riders are attracted to this area for the wonderful and tricky two lane back roads which thread through the surrounding mountains. The newfound popularity of NC 209 a.k.a. “The Rattler” as one of the top 10 motorcycle rides in the Blue Ridge Mountains is bringing more motorcycle touring enthusiasts to discover this playground of nice biker roads.

Hot Springs to Flag Pond Motorcycle Ride Map

The map shows a motorcycle loop ride that takes you across the border to Flag Pond, TN., then loops you back to Hot Springs.

  • Leaving Hot Springs, go east on US 25 / 70 making the gentle climb then descent to the junction with NC 208 at Hurricane.
  • Turn north (left) and follow NC 208 along the winding river. As you come to the junction of NC 208 and NC 212 note the small bridge over the creek. Guntertown Road is on the right just before the bridge, NC 212 is at the stop sign once you cross the bridge.
  • The north leg ( NC 212 / TN 352 ) of the triangle shaped motorcycle ride is a pretty nice cruise following along creeks and streams for the most part with a few tricky curves thrown in to keep you on your toes.
  • The east leg ( TN 23 / US 23 ) is pretty relaxed riding, there are a couple passing zones on the long inclines. You’ll want to keep an eye out for the turn onto Big Laurel Road, then hold on for the wild ride back.
  • Big Laurel Road is the south leg of the loop and full of tricky curves. Be alert for scattered debris in a couple of the hairpins around bluff faces. Walnut Creek Road spurs off to the south, be sure you veer in the correct direction when you reach this junction to remain on Big Laurel Road.
  • Guntertown Road leads you east to the small bridge on NC 208. Retrace your path to return to Hot Springs.
Motorcycles on Big Laurel Road

Big Laurel Road

The roads in this area can be extremely challenging and tight. If you prefer an easier course, the ride to Flag Pond on NC 212 / TN 352 can be done out-and-back. There is a large pull off riders use for a break at the junction of TN 352 & TN 23.

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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, comprehensive, 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 – 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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Motorcycle Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway – Commuter Zones

Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway - commuter zones

You have no clue you’re passing through some sizable cities on a Blue Ridge Parkway ride  – 10 minutes ride from a parkway exit puts you in the heart of Asheville, NC, a fun place to visit!

On a 469 mile long Blue Ridge Parkway ride you will pass through two cities – Roanoke in Virginia, and Asheville in North Carolina. Each has its “commuter zone”.

In both cities, the parkway weaves along the east edge of town then curves around to the south, though barely a hint of the surrounding neighborhoods are visible. Riding along you never see a downtown area at all nor any indication you are near a sizable city. It’s part of the magical illusion of a Blue Ridge Parkway ride. The views have been well protected over the years.

What’s a Commuter Zone?

There will be a handful of exits relatively close together as you pass through one of the cities on the Blue Ridge Parkway. For locals, the Blue Ridge Parkway is just one more road to get through town, a shortcut. A lot of local traffic hops on it to save time and zip an exit or two to the road they want.

photo-no-gas-sign-on-blue-ridge-parkway

This sign is a legacy to when gas was available on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It should now read “No gas next 400 miles”. There is no gas on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Take advantage of close gas stations to the parkway in the commuter zones.

What you need to know about Parkway Commuter Zones –

Expect more traffic and more aggressive traffic in the commuter zones on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Locals are hopping on the parkway to save time and they may push the speed limit.

The speed limit drops in some areas and it’s more heavily enforced in the commuter zones. The Asheville commuter zone of the Blue Ridge Parkway went to 35 mph last year to try to slow down the local traffic. Watch for the signs.

Enforcement is heavier near cities, especially in commuter zones. More traffic means more resources assigned to deal with it. Watch your speed whenever you feel you are getting into a populated area. You can also expect more attention near popular areas along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

ranger on the parkway

Watch your speed and be alert in the commuter zones

Here are some places where I tell myself to roll back on the throttle when riding the Blue Ridge Parkway:

  • From the Start of the Parkway  in Virginia to Humpback Rocks
  • Peaks of Otter area in Virginia, near Buchanan
  • From 221 exit to 221 exit near Roanoke
  • Linn Cove Viaduct area near Blowing Rock
  • Moses Cone / Julian Prince Park near Boone
  • Altapass Hwy north of Spruce Pine / Little Switzerland
  • Crabtree Falls area
  • From Craggy Gardens through Asheville
  • The southern section of the parkway into Cherokee

Be aware of and alert for these commuter zones near the cities along the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are few signs on the road, but if you see any indication you are approaching a congested area be alert and ready to deal with increased traffic with a different agenda than you.

7 map Blue Ridge Parkway + The Dragon set

7 map Blue Ridge Parkway + The Dragon set

Get the maps!
http://shop.americaridesmaps.com/Blue-Ridge-Parkway-The-Dragon-Package-BRP12.htm

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 - 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.

 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 - 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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Blue Ridge Parkway Motorcycle Ride Strategies

Blue Ridge Parkway Motorcycle Ride Strategies:

Whether it’s a one day trip or part of an epic adventure, it’s good to have a strategy when setting out on a 469.1 mile long ride of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Here are some things to consider based on how long you have to make your end-to-end trip.

1 Day End-to-End

photo - grandfather mountain on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Grandfather Mountain south of Boone starts the climb into the high mountains of North Carolina

Some riders look for high mileage challenges. The Blue Ridge Parkway can be one of them – 470  miles with a 45 mph speed limit can be done in daylight on a long summer day. You’ll even have time to stop at a few overlooks for quick photos.

The key is “plan your gas stop so it’s close to a parkway exit to save time.” You’ll have to make a gas stop – choose the wrong exit and you can waste half an hour before you get to a pump.

I eat breakfast before and dinner after the ride, and pack a sub sandwich so I can eat at overlooks when I take breaks. Expect fog / clouds / mist / cool / damp in the morning, have a layer to shed in the afternoon. Go on a weekday, there will be less traffic. There’s no need to speed, but at the same time, if you’re slow through tight curves it’s going to be a long day. The ride is best done from north-to-south as it puts you in the highest sections in the afternoon when the clouds have lifted and it’s warmer.

2 Days Riding End-to-End

photo of parkway

You can really get away from it all on the Blue Ridge Parkway

2 days still means 2 pretty full days of riding.  You’ll want to be efficient with your gas stops and eating or it will sacrifice your time for sightseeing and enjoying the views. You’ll save time if you coordinate your time off the parkway well. Stop for gas where you can also eat lunch. Stay where you can eat or meals are close. You don’t need to feel rushed on a 2 day ride, but you do want to stay on track.

My strategy is to cover as many miles as possible the first day, then relax and enjoy the second day knowing you have less distance to cover. A 2 day ride is better done from north-to-south. Boone, NC is a good layover coming south. The North Carolina mountains really start to reach their heights south of Boone, you’ll be in them constantly the second day and have time to enjoy them. When going north I usually overnight near Hillsville or Floyd, or Meadows of Dan. You’ll have time to stop at Peaks of Otter and savor some of the best views from the Virginia section near the north end of the ride.

3 Day Ride End-to-End

photo  motorcycle on blue ridge parkway

If you want to stop and smell the flowers, plan at least 3 days.

If you want to get a full Blue Ridge Parkway experience, 3 days is minimum. If you’re planning to camp, it eases the pace.

With 3 days you can stop and see some of the cabins, the mill, and other sights along the road that you’d otherwise blow by.

3 days also opens the door to enjoying other outstanding rides in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Some connect to the parkway, some are close to it.

For the road warrior, it could mean doing the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2 days, then looping Great Smoky Mountains National Park to ride the Dragon at it’s western end on a three day blast!

Riding Sections of the Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway View

The highest section has the best views

If you see only one section of it, ride between Asheville, NC  and Maggie Valley, NC. That 50 mile arc goes from the low point in NC to the highest point on the entire road with much of it above 5000 elevation. There are frequent overlooks and sweeping views, dramatic drops and rocky passes.

Another great section is the high remote stretch between Asheville, NC and Little Switzerland, NC. Mt. Mitchell State Park makes a nice side trip to the top of the highest mountain in the east. Nice long range views.

The Epic Adventure

yellow motorcycle on blue ridge parkway

In it for the long haul!

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one part of the park road system. At the north end it continues as the Skyline drive into Shenandoah National Park for another 105 miles. At the south end, it meets US 441 to take you 30 miles across Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can ride more than 600 miles on 2 lane twisty mountain roads entirely within our National Parks.

Leaving the National Parks you can then follow the parkways, skyways, and legendary back roads that weave throughout the south end of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I’d run through the Dragon, out across the Cherohlala Skyway, then down into north Georgia, looping back into the mountains south of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The “I don’t want to ride the parkway” strategy

A holiday motel in Maggie Valley

Maybe you already have a favorite place to stay – when you find one, explore all the great roads nearby.

Maybe you’re one of millions who have already enjoyed a motorcycle ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Maybe you find it’s more enjoyable to stay in one place than be on the move.

The best location to maximize your access to the best motorcycle rides is somewhere along the south side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You’ll find less traffic and congestion, numerous motels, cabins, and campgrounds. There are plenty of rooms on the north side of the park in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, but more of the good roads are on the other side of the park. Crossing through or going around Great Smoky Mountains National Park gets repetitive.100 Great Motorcycle Rides mapin the Smoky Mountains

Find a good base camp and get a copy of my 100 Great Motorcycle Rides in the Smoky Mountains map. You’ll spend more of your time riding that way. You’re surrounded by great roads, the map will show you how close they are! It couldn’t be easier!

Get map 100 Great Rides in the Smoky Mountains

see  The most detailed Maps Here – America Rides Maps

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 - 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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Your Fall Motorcycle Leaf-peeping trip to the Smokies – Tips

Your Fall Leaf-peeping Motorcycle Trip to the Smokies – Tips

Some of the best views will be from the heights of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Some of the best views will be from the heights of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

 It’s that time of year again, the brief lull before the start of the peak of the tourist season in the Smoky Mountains. It’s a good time to pass along some last minute tips and advice to those planning to come see natures spectacular autumn show.

Blue Ridge Parkway Fall Motorcycle

You don’t have to go far to find great scenery

Last minute advice – Get a room! If it’s your first visit to the Smoky Mountains on a fall motorcycle tour for leaf season, you don’t yet know how “last minute” this advice is. The nicest places to stay and most of the motorcycle friendly sites took reservations last year, they are probably booked. You can try calling, but you’re probably relegated to the second tier establishements. If you “wing it” you’ll be looking for adventure in the third tier or bouncing between crowded campgrounds.

Tanassi Creek Road

Tanassi Creek Road – all yours, no traffic!

Tip – you’ll be back. There is no way you can hit all the best roads on one trip, even two trips. Some are worth coming back and riding again. If you really like the experience and find a base camp that treats you well, book ahead for next year.

Last minute advice – when is peak leaf viewing? Depends and varies. Were I to pick one (OK, 2 dates) for the Smokies, it would be Oct 16-17. Leaf color depends on climate conditions over the year. It takes a cold snap to make the leaves snap and the right mix of wet and dry. Who knows?

Becky Mountain Road

Becky Mountain Road

Tip – Leaf season is longer than it seems – That “peak of color” date is misleading. Due to the changes in altitude, the leaf change occurs at different rates at different altitudes. There are several weeks to either side of the announced peak date when the leaves will be spectacular, but limited within the altitude. High areas change early, valleys change later. There is still good leaf color into November at the lower altitudes.

Last minute advice – What will the weather be like? While it’s typically a dryer time of year, it’s also one of those transitional periods where we fluctuate between a couple warm days then a few colder ones. Cold fronts usually come through hard and fast, warm ones kinda drift in with gentle rains. On nice sunny days the temperatures may rise well into the 60’s, even 70’s. But, a damp and cloudy day in the 50’s can feel mighty chilly when the winds pick up atop the mountains. Morning lows will generally be in the 40’s, though a cold snap will bring frost (and help the leaves have good color).

Ellijay Road - beautiful and fun!

Ellijay Road – beautiful and fun!

Tip – Bring warm gloves, a good jacket, and several layers. Mornings are typically foggy, an early start may mean the views are obscured. Don’t be in a rush to get to the mountaintops. As always, throw the rain suit in just in case. If you’ve got an open helmet, consider face protection.

Advice – What about the traffic? While millions will flock to the mountains to see the fall show, their patterns are predictable. Weekends, especially afternoons, will find the popular places like Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Chimney Rock, The Dragon, and the Parkways congested. Mornings are the better times to pass through the busier areas.

Photo-motorcycles-on-the-Blue-Ridge-Parkway

View from Waterrock Knob

Tip – try to hit those most popular areas during the week. They are definitely worth visiting, but you will enjoy them more if you can be riding, not idling. On the busiest days, there are still hundreds of great, fun, empty 2 lane back roads for you to enjoy riding, and they are all lined with colorful trees where the leaf-peepers rarely stray.

Advice – What should I watch out for? Be extra cautious when riding. Half the people out there may be tourists paying more attention to the scenery than the road. Be ready for the unexpected (like a car stopped dead in the road to take a photo on a curve). Same goes for you riders – use the numerous overlooks and pull offs to get the best views. Several motorcycles ride off the mountainsides each year when the driver was distracted by gorgeous the views. Pull over!

Blue Ridge Parkway Fall Motorcycle

Enjoy the ride but pull over to enjoy the scenery. Don’t ride off into the sunset – it’s a long way down.

Tip – when traffic is heavy, best to avoid it. Get off the main roads, divert around towns, and look for those tiny back roads others bypass. You’ll have much more fun, see things others never do, and discover reasons to come back and ride more during the off season. Just one or two of my pocket maps will insure you have the best motorcycle vacation ever – they show you all the great back roads.

Charlies Creek Road

Charlie’s Creek Road – Not only will you find some of the best hidden pockets of leaf color, but you’ll  have one of the best rides of your life.

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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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Top 10 Motorcycle Rides – The Cherohala Skyway

“One of the finest motorcycle rides you’ll ever enjoy”  –

Fall color on the North Carolina end of the Cherohala Skyway

Fall color on the North Carolina end of the Cherohala Skyway

The Cherohala Skyway takes the motorcycle rider on a long and sweeping romp through the mile high ridge lines of remote national forests just west of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Stunning long range views can be enjoyed from overlooks and rest areas along the park-like road. Traffic is typically light and the curves are challenging and consistent for the 50 mile town-to-town ride through some of the most wild and scenic areas in the Blue Ridge mountains.

The Cherohala Skyway is near The Dragon at Deals Gap. It runs from Robbinsville, NC to Tellico Plains, TN.

The Cherohala Skyway is near The Dragon at Deals Gap. It runs from Robbinsville, NC to Tellico Plains, TN. Click on map for larger view.  Source – America Rides Maps Motorcycle Pocket maps – AmericaRidesMaps.com

Enjoying a summer motorcycle ride on the Cherohala Skyway

Enjoying a summer motorcycle ride on the Cherohala Skyway

The majority of motorcycle riders are drawn to this remote mountainous area to experience the thrill of riding US 129 a.k.a. “The Dragon” which skirts the western border of Great Smoky Mountains National Park nearby. A good number of them find the ride on the Cherohala Skyway far more enjoyable. It’s a relaxing contrast to the commotion and crowds that race back and forth through the Dragon’s legendary curves.

The Cherohala Skyway runs east to west connecting the small towns of Robbinsville, NC, and Tellico Plains, TN. Between them lies a large undeveloped mountainous section of the Cherokee (TN) and Nantahala (NC) National Forests. The made-up name “Cherohala” comes from a combination of the names of the remote forests it runs through.

Motorcycle flying through the mile high curves on the Cherohala Skyway

Flying through the mile high curves near the middle of the long wonderful ride

From either end the road makes a gradual climb to reach the 5000 ft heights near the middle section. Two broad lanes with sweeping curves arc through the mountain passes. Scenic overlooks, some with rest areas, yield views of a vast forests often free of visible human impact to the horizon. While the towns at either end have food, gas, and lodging, there is nothing but empty pavement on the 40 or so miles between them.

Springtime motorcycle ride on the Cherohala Skyway

Springtime on the Tennessee end of the Cherohala Skyway – nice long view of road, click to enlarge

Riding the Cherohala Skyway on a motorcycle you’ll find smooth pavement with good traction save a few bumpy patches here and there and the occasional bit of gravel dragged into turns by cars that run wide. The speed limit is 45 mph though there are many turns where a prudent rider will carry a bit less and the experienced rider will find satisfaction at speed. The overlooks and pull outs are well marked, paved, and have ample parking. Elevation signs along the road signal each 1000 ft change. It’s very much an experience like riding through a national park – similar to riding the the Blue Ridge Parkway (less than an hour east).

Stop to enjoy the views from the nice overlooks on the Cherohala Skyway

Stop to enjoy the views from the nice overlooks on the Cherohala Skyway

As relaxing as that “park-like” experience sounds, the road challenges the motorcycle riders’ skill. The Cherohala Skyway is  “big brother” to the nearby Dragon with it’s back-to-back tight turns. The Cherohala Skyway is a ‘super-sized” version of it. The curves open up and relax a bit but they keep coming one after another with the added dimension of long winding climbs and descents.

The Cherohala Skyway and the Dragon are often ridden together in a 123 mile long loop ride which runs north on US 129 to via TN 72, then to Vonore, TN, then south via TN 360 to Tellico Plains, TN, then across the Cherohala Skyway to Robbinsville.  When you ride both roads , the contrast is obvious -the need to be hyper alert and vigilant in the parade of bikes on the Dragon is relieved on the Cherohala Skyway. It seems empty by comparison, you can relax and it has all this gorgeous scenery too!

Great views, nice pavement, low traffic, and miles and miles of sweeping curves make the Cherohala Skyway a top motorcycle ride.

Great views, nice pavement, low traffic, and miles and miles of sweeping curves make the Cherohala Skyway a top motorcycle ride.

The best time for a visit is fall when the leaves are changing. Staying at the eastern (NC) end of the road places you near several other great motorcycle rides like the Dragon and NC 28. Robbinsville, NC is the larger town with more food / lodging options though many like the west end in Tellico Plains, TN for the camping.

The Cherohala Skyway is open all year (except when snow blocks) making it one of the first destinations for southern riders in the spring and a winter play spot for the hardcore adventurer.

Motorcycles starting up the grade from the North Carolina end of the road on the Cherohala Skyway.

Starting up the grade from the North Carolina end of the road on the Cherohala Skyway.

Tips and Advice – 

  • It’s about 50 miles with no gas. Fuel at either end. Be safe – top off.
  • 3000 foot elevation change – it will be cooler, more windy, and wetter at the higher altitudes. Dress for it.
  • It’s a long, long way if you need help. Ride with that in mind.
It takes a little effort, but visiting Bald River Falls on your Cherohala Skyway ride is worth it

It takes a little effort, but Bald River Falls is worth the trip

Make a side trip to Bald River Falls –

You’ll see a sign for Bald River Falls near the start of the Tennessee end of the Cherohala Skyway. Follow barely paved River Road for several miles, it’s obvious.

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wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

– Wayne Busch produces the most detailed and comprehensive motorcycle pocket maps of the hundreds of great roads in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains so you know where the best roads are and how to spend the bulk of your riding time on them.

You’ll find the Cherohala Skyway on America Rides Maps –

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Tips for Riding the Dragon on your Motorcycle – #5 Dance

5) Relax and enjoy it – do the Dragon Dance

Relax – don’t ride scared. Don’t push beyond fun. While it’s OK to feel the thrill, if you’re not relaxed, you are compromising the function of your motorcycle. Worse yet, you may be on the verge of panic when you slip out of your comfort zone. Everything you do when you panic makes the situation worse – you tense up, sit up, roll off the throttle, and hit the brakes, all of which makes the motorcycle stand up go in a straight line while reducing traction. There are no straight lines in the Dragons’ corners.

Sport Bikes on the Dragon

Control the corners – slow in, fast out.

The right attitude is to dance with the Dragon, not fight with it. Find a pace where you flow into the curves in control with a little in reserve. It’s supposed to be fun. If it’s not, you’re doing it wrong. Seek out that rhythm where you are rolling into the curves at a speed where where you’re getting on the throttle as soon as possible, not the brakes. Gently power through them and you’ll find you have more ground clearance and better traction. Strive for a slow approach to the corners, gently power through, and you’ll end up with a smooth quick controlled exit AND a margin for error or the unexpected.

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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

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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Tips for Riding the Dragon on your Motorcycle – #4 Da Bike

4)  Ride the Bike you Brought

You can have a good time riding the Dragon on any bike you can ride there. If you’ve ridden there, you’ve got the basic skills to ride the road. In fact, you’ve already hit some decent curves on the way. So what makes the Dragon such a challenge? You do – it’s all about how you ride it. But…

A scooter on the Dragon

A scooter on the Dragon – a fun ride regardless what you brought.

The Dragon will not magically transform your behemoth cruiser into a Moto GP race bike. It will not make the mass of your passenger disappear. You will not miraculously find the ground clearance you never had before. If you’re dragging hard parts through every corner, hard on the brakes coming into each turn, you’re doing it wrong and it’s just a matter of time before the Dragon bites.

Chopper on the Dragon

Ride the bike you brought as it was built to be ridden.

Riding the Dragon well comes down to skill and technique regardless of the bike. Strive to be smooth, relaxed, and in control.
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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

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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