Good Motorcycle Rides near Waynesville and Maggie Valley, NC

The last place I want to be riding a motorcycle is the 4-lane highway when there are so many good 2 lane back roads in North Carolina.

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Turn off the highway onto Candlestick Lane

For most motorcycle riders, covering the distance between Waynesville and Sylva means a relatively pleasant ride on four lane divided NC Highway 74 (The Great Smoky Mountains Expressway). As far as highways go, it is a nice ride winding down from Balsam Mountain and it rarely gets enough traffic to be annoying.

Lately though, I’ve been covering the relatively short distance on a few nice little back roads which I’ve grown very fond of. Since so many motorcycle touring riders pass through and stay in this area, I think they should know about them. If you’re riding near Cherokee, Maggie Valley, Waynesville, or Sylva, these roads may come in handy.

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Next turn onto Cabin Flats Road.

Both ends meet the Highway (US 74). The Waynesville end starts near the Blue Ridge Parkway Exit for Waynesville (MP 443.1) where it intersects US 74. Pass under the parkway then exit left onto Candlestick Lane. It’s an obvious intersection, well marked, look for the signs to Balsam, Balsam Mountain Inn, Moonshine Creek Campground.

Candlestick Circle is just a short loop off the highway, turn right onto Cabin Flats Rd. Cabin Flats Road winds along the railroad tracks a short distance, then makes a hairpin turn across them.  Balsam Mountain Inn sits on the hill above.

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The Balsam Mountain Inn – historic, good food

It’s been a long while side I last visited, but the historic inn (1905) is both scenic and the food used to be very, very, good. You can imagine it’s heyday when it was a stop on the tracks in the middle of nowhere.

Cabin Flats Road will morph into Dark Ridge Road and start a twisting course alongside a stream through the mountain passes. The railroad also follows this narrow valley and you’ll often see it off in the woods crossing the stream on bridges and trestles.

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Dark Ridge Road – more fun than the 4 lane

Dark Ridge Road, the railroad, the highway, and the stream cross each other several times on the way to Sylva in a twisted mountain mess. You go under the highway, under the railroad, over the stream several times on the ride.

Dark Ridge Road meets Skyland Road at a stop sign just after you cross the railroad tracks. Turn left (the road quickly peters out if you go right).

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Under the tracks on Skyland Rd

The first part of Skyland Road is nice and there are several good spots to stop and get a look at the now rushing whitewater stream.

The second half looses it’s appeal as it draws near Sylva and the suburbs of the town. You can follow the road all the way into Sylva. You may note the prominent fork right onto Chipper Curve Rd – it will bring you closer to downtown.

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Whitewater Creek along Skyland Rd

You can hop on-off this ride at 2 points and get back on the highway. One of them is obvious, a mile or so after you get on Skyland Rd. The other, Steeple Road, is closer to Sylva and is the best way to get back on the highway without going into town. Precision Cycles and a BP station mark it at the highway.

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Click on photos and map for larger views

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch – Cartographer

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Learn Total Control

– 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. 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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Motorcycle Riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway – in January?

I should be in Vegas – luck is with me today. Although the weather has been unseasonably warm here in the Smoky Mountains this week, it’s also been wet. Not that “Old Testament” deluge kind of wet, but a wintery wet with light but persistent rains.

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A winter view of Cold Mountain from the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mt. Pisgah.

In a normal year we’d have a bit of white on the ground, and I did see a rare patch or two today. It’s not the ideal season for motorcycling the Blue Ridge Parkway. In fact, the Blue Ridge Parkway is normally closed to traffic through this season due to the frigid conditions.

When I saw the sun this morning I knew a motorcycle ride was in order. There’s a weather front passing over with a few hours of blue sky before the snow moves in tonight. I wrapped up the mornings work and fired up the bike.

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The weather looked great to the south, what a difference the other direction.

I just wanted a nice little ride. The threatening clouds on the northern horizon foretold this break in the weather was temporary, so I chose to just head south from Waynesville on US 276 and ride up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and back after running a few errands in town.

US 276 is a well know road to motorcycle riders and part of a classic loop called the “Pisgah Triangle” south of Waynesville. US 276 forms one leg of the triangle, the Blue Ridge Parkway the second, and NC 215 the third. It’s a “must do” fun ride if you’re in the Waynesville / Maggie Valley area.

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Winter riding in the Smoky Mountains can be as beautiful as the summer, just in a different way.

It takes about 25 minutes to ride out across Bethel Valley then follow the Big East Fork of the Pigeon River in the Pisgah National Forest and make the steep and twisting climb to the heights of the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Wagon Road Gap. The ramp to the Blue Ridge Parkway leads to the large parking area  overlooking Cold Mountain  (MP 412.2).

The overlook is accessible year-round. The parkway is gated on either side. The south gate (towards Cherokee) was closed, but the north gate to Mt. Pisgah was open so I took advantage of the opportunity to snap a few photos.

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By the time I turned back, those clouds had swallowed up everything.

The blue skies didn’t last long, and by the time I had turned around nearing Asheville, the clouds were swallowing the views. The wind was gusting and I started to hit some wet stuff on the way back. Some of it was white.

It was a rare treat this time of year. Next time you’re passing through, take a motorcycle ride on the Pisgah Triangle. I had a great time on just one leg of it, and the other two are better!

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A postcard from Haywood County, North Carolina shows the Pisgah Triangle

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

Total Rider Tech Logo

Learn Total Control

– 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

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Asheville Bikefest – Still the Largest Motorcycle Event in the Region

Photo - Can Am Spyders

CanAm Spyder did over 60 demo rides per day! They had a practice track set up at the event followed by road rides. I think they did a great job.

Honestly, that’s not saying much in 2011. Low turnout at Daytona was the first indication of how tough things had become. Every show I’ve worked this year, even the International shows, were way, way, down both on vendor presence and attendance. Still, nearly 2000 motorcycle riders came from throughout the Smoky Mountains to enjoy the http://AshevilleBikefest.com.

Few traveled far for the event. With the weatherman all hysterical about severe storms, hail, high winds, and a box full of nothing but green crayons to color his TV maps, I’m sure many were put off by the rumored deluge that never came. At times we could see it on the horizon, but it never impacted the show. Mother nature kindly blessed the factory demo fleets from Yahama, Star, KTM, Can-Am Spyder, and Motor Trike with dry roads for the many riders who came to sample the latest offerings from the industry after she cursed Boss-Hoss by flooding the factory only days earlier forcing them to pull out of the event.

Photo - KTM riders returning to the Asheville Bikefest

Riders returning from their KTM demo rides to the Asheville Bikefest - I talked with a lot of happy folks afterwards.

All the guided rides and the Poker Runs by the Grassroots Cafe went off well, though only a handful of people took advantage of the opportunities to ride free with professionals who usually charge some serious coin for the service. The 100 mile adventure ride sponsored by KTM had those riders totally satisfied and with tales to tell. Greg from Sportsbikes4hire.com took a small group out to the Dragon for some fun. BlindKenny.com got a few nice road shots of riders nearby.

Half the vendors pulled out before the show. Some others picked up and left before things peaked on Saturday. The remainder seemed to have what people were looking for and had a pretty good event. Personally, it was the best motorcycle event of the year for my business, http://AmericaRidesMaps.com. I was amazed at how many attendees already had my maps, knew of them, or came to see the latest offerings. I had 20 free maps of great motorcycle rides close to the event and gave away a couple thousand of them. On Thursday and Friday I gave away hundreds of my $5 maps at no charge, all you wanted, help yourself. I saw people walk off with stacks of them. It was fun.

The stunt show by the Anti-team was outstanding, as usual. The local music was good, at times great. I liked the food from the vendors.

It wasn’t a huge show. Only 1/3 as many people attended as last year. There were far fewer vendors. Those who came seemed to come with a purpose, to either get together and ride, or test ride a brand new motorcycle. I’m sure some left disappointed, others got exactly what they were looking for. Everyone got at least $5 worth of something (the low entrance fee) and usually a lot more.

Photo - Star-Yamaha at the Asheville Bikefest

Star-Yamaha did and awesome job. This is their second year - I really hope they come back for the next.

Times are hard, but what the show did, it did well. Next year is already booked at the Agriculture Center south of Asheville. As Route Master I’ve got a few new ideas. I’ll be asking you for more. Thank you, Mark and Yvonne Cresswell from Worldwide Dynamics for putting on another well run show.  They’re off to Laconia, then Sturgis, to wrap up the year for their events.

I remember when I first met Mark, he told me (I’m paraphrasing), “You can’t force an event. It has a natural growth. It takes time. Each has it’s own character, and I want this event to be all about RIDING in the mountains, respecting and reflecting the values and mountain heritage that are the heart of this region and sharing that with riders who already love this area and those yet to find it”.

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Motor Trike had some exciting designs. These folks are looking at the tamer versions.

Mark’s kept to his plan. He’s selective with the vendors to steer the show in a certain way, pruning some branches, nourishing others. This is his home turf, he lives here in Black Mountain.

We’ve made it through the “terrible two’s” Mark, and you know what they say, “Three times a charm”. We’re already setting things in motion for 2012 and the Third Annual Asheville Bikefest and Blue Ridge Run – 2012.

There. I’m first to say it. Get involved. I”ll see you at the Third Annual Asheville Bikefest and Blue Ridge Run – 2012. next May.

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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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Tail of the Dragon Closed? More Motorcycle Rides Nearby – Asheville

Asheville, sometimes locally referred to as “AsheVegas” has long been a destination for those seeking refuge from the lowlands in a beautiful mountain setting. Great scenery, a thriving cosmopolitan culture, historic buildings, a wonderfully diverse menu of great eateries, the plethora of microbreweries that have earned it the “Beer City” award, and an artsy / musical / film undercurrent have endeared this “Portland of the South” to visitors for generations. Small enough too be easy to get around yet large enough to still be truly called a city, it has something to offer most every visitor, but none so much as the motorcycle traveller.

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Fine dining at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, one of many great places to visit and eat.

Pivotal in the historic creation of the Blue Ridge Parkway which wraps the border of town, it sits in the French Broad River Valley cradled by mountains on every horizon. The tallest mountain in the east, Mt. Mitchell, is close enough that bicycle races are held to it from town and you can find enjoyably steep and serpentine roads climbing from the very heart of the city.

While the city itself is an attraction, it’s the grand mountains which surround it that make it a worthy destination for those seeking great motorcycle rides. Too many are satiated with a relaxing cruise along the Blue Ridge Parkway and miss out on the fabulous and challenging rides found on every point of the compass. I’ve already hinted at those to the northwest near Hot Springs and the “Land of the Waterfalls” to the southwest in earlier posts.

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Scenic Lake Lure, south of Asheville, in the Hickory Nut Gorge

One of the most popular areas to visit is south of the city, the Hickory Nut Gorge area. Home to Bat Cave, Lake Lure, and Chimney Rock, it’s a Mecca for tourists and sightseers with it’s stunning scenery and attractions. Don’t be lulled into complacency as you make the approach on the long flowing valley roads – once you hit the mountains the curves, climbs, and descents begin as does the fun. While the main roads may be choked with traffic at times, those who venture off them onto the back roads will discover some amazing rides and the company of local motorcycle riders who flock to enjoy them.

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Early winter view from NC 80, one of the most challenging rides east of Asheville

Looking west, still more great rides present, many of which are worth the time and travel to enjoy them. Recently dubbed ‘The Diamondback” (you’ll be hearing more about these rides soon), a combination of loops using NC 80, US 226, US 226A, NC 180, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and other roads will give the motorcycle tourer everything he’s come for whether you’re cruising along enjoying the sights or looking to to get a knee down and drag some pegs.

Photo - Winter View from atop Roan Mountain looking into Tennessee

Winter View from atop Roan Mountain looking into Tennessee, north of Asheville

My personal favorite area though lies north of the city. It’s a vast region, crossing the border into Tennessee and will give you some of the longest and most enjoyable rides through the highest peaks and deepest valleys in the east. Sparsely populated, dotted with small towns, the twisting two lane back roads which lace through this area are mostly devoid of traffic and waiting for you to enjoy in solitude. Because most choose to take the Interstates which bypass this rugged region, it’s a hidden gem which gets bypassed and lies mostly undiscovered.

From the city, the Blue Ridge Parkway courses northwest towards Virginia. The roads which intersect it lead out into the surroundings and make it an avenue for including on great long loop rides all along it’s course.

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Long winding rides through lush mountain scenery devoid of traffic lie north of Asheville

Long rides, short rides, nice cruises or challenging curves, stunning sights, great scenery, and a motorcycle friendly city at the hub, the mountains surrounding Asheville should be on your motorcycle radar. Home to the Asheville Bikefest May 13 – 16, it’s one more place to add to your list of great motorcycle destinations.

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