Best Motorcycle Rides – A Mt. Mitchell Loop Ride

Photo-mt-mitchell-highest-in-east

The observation tower atop Mt. Mitchell. Pick a sunny clear day. Clouds will hang on the peak.

Best Motorcycle Rides – A Mt. Mitchell Loop Ride

A lot of bikers ask about riding to the highest mountain east of the Mississippi. This loop will spice up the ride with a fun run by Chimney Rock.

Who wouldn’t want to ride their motorcycle to the peak of the highest mountain in the eastern United States? At 6,684 feet, the views from the top are worth the trip, as is the enjoyable ride to get there. Located on NC 128, a spur road off a remote section of the Blue Ridge Parkway, it’s just a short walk to reach the observation tower the crowns the crest.

blue-ridge-parkway-craggy-gardens-visitor-center

Blue Ridge Parkway – Craggy Gardens Visitor Center is a popular rest stop north of Asheville with nice views.

While a ride up this section of the Blue Ridge Parkway is a satisfying experience, why not kill two birds with one stone and come back on a different route? For those looking for a more challenging ride than the park road, this loop will give you some classic curves and outstanding scenery. You’ll pass through dramatic Hickory Nut Gorge, home to beautiful Lake Lure and Chimney Rock, and wind your way home through some of the nicest curves  in the Pisgah Forest.

While there are some challenging sections, this is a great route for cruisers as most of it is pretty laid back and you can take your time.

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Great Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina - Pisgah Triangles

Great Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina – Pisgah Triangles – Looking Glass Falls on US 276 is one of the most visited roadside waterfalls in North Carolina

Distance: 205+ miles with side trips

Duration: All day ride

Difficulty: Easy to moderate ride

Before you go:

  • Fill up first – Long stretches with no gas stations.
  • Watch the weather – High elevations will have the most extremes. Bring extra clothing. Pick a nice day to visit Mt. Mitchell, the clouds will come in here first.

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Turn-by-turn route:

Start in Waynesville. Follow US 276 to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

6.3 mi Traffic light in Bethel. Last chance to fill up before the long ride.

20.8 mi Turn left @ junction US 276 and ramp to Blue Ridge Parkway.

21 mi Turn right @ stop sign onto Blue Ridge Parkway (towards Asheville).

77.1 mi Turn left @ junction Blue Ridge Parkway and NC 128. Follow to top of Mt. Mitchell – 4.8 mi one way.

88.3 mi Exit and follow ramp to NC 80. Blue Ridge Parkway exit at NC 80.

blue-ridge-parkway-motorcycles

The Blue Ridge Parkway section north of Asheville

88.4 mi Turn right @ stop sign. Junction ramp and NC 80.

100 mi Turn right @ traffic light. Junction NC 80 and NC 70.  Follow NC 70 into Old Fort.

109 mi Turn left @ traffic light. Junction US 70 and Catawba Avenue in Old Fort. Pass through town. Follow Bat Cave Road south.

121 mi Turn left  @ stop sign. Junction Bat Cave Road and NC 9.

128 mi Turn left @ stop sign. Junction NC 9 and US 74A (Gerton Highway). 

128.3 mi Traffic Light. Junction US 74A and US 64. Go through traffic light to see Chimney Rock in 2 miles. Explore Lake lure. Turn right to leave the area on US 64 (left turn when leaving).

Photo - Lake Lure

Scenic Lake Lure, south of Asheville, in the Hickory Nut Gorge is worth the side trip

140 mi Cross over I-26 on US 64. Continue into Hendersonville.

143 mi Turn left, then right @ traffic lights downtown to continue west on US 64.

160 mi Pass straight through traffic light @ Junction US 64 / US 276 / NC 280. onto US 276. Good place add some gas to your tank. 

175 mi Pass under Blue Ridge Parkway and continue on US 276.

195 mi Return to start in Waynesville via US 276.

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There is a restaurant at Mt. Mitchell. You’ll also find food in Chimney Rock / Lake Lure, as well as Hendersonville and Brevard.

Hendersonville is a bit congested with some traffic.

Map of Mt. Mitchell / Chimney Rock loop ride

Click to enlarge

This ride and all the surrounding roads are detailed on –

Map #5 – The Best Roads North & South of Asheville, NC

Map #6 – The Best Motorcycle Rides Near Smoky Park – EAST

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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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Hurricane Weekend in Maggie Valley on my Motorcycle

Photo-mt-mitchell-highest-in-east

A little cloudy and rainy was as bad as it got atop Mt. Mitchell

While curiousity got the best of me and I did cruise up to Mt. Mitchell to get a close look at the hurricane, the Smoky Mountain weather was beautiful for motorcycle rides and I took advantage of it with a bunch of local favorites. Judging from all the other bikes out on the road, a lot of coastal folks hopped on the hog and ran for the hills. It was a good decision.

Photo-Thunderhawg-motorcycle-rentals

Thunderhawg Motorcycle Rentals, Maggie Valley

Friday found me visiting my friends at ThunderHawg motorcycle rental which just opened at the corner of US 276 and US 19 after my ride north on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mt. Mitchell. Peggy and Mark rent Harleys and it’s nice to have a local rental place again in Maggie Valley. They’ve got tons of info, maps, and they love to meet and greet motorcycle vacationers to the Smoky Mountains. Stop in and see them when you pass through.

photo-aholiday-motel

A Holiday Motel - Saturday night

Saturday, I rode the Blue Ridge Parkway the other way to Cherokee and Bryson City to stop in at The Gear Head Inn, then hopped on some of the great roads south of there. I ended up at A Holiday Motel in Maggie Valley to pass the time while my wife ran in the 8K Maggie Valley Moonlight race.  Always popular with motorcycle vacationers, the A Holiday Motel was full of bikers who came to enjoy the splendid weather. The bonfire was going out front and I was able to cheer Jackie on and spend a little time with the riders. Dale from Wheels Through Time Motorcycle Museum came by with a couple of Australian visitors who had borrowed a couple of his antique Harleys.

The view from Riders Roost Restaurant is awesome

The view from Riders Roost Restaurant is awesome

Sunday, I cruised NC 215 and US 276, then followed the Blue Ridge Parkway back to Maggie Valley to stop in at Riders Roost Restaurant in before we headed back up on the Blue Ridge Parkway to enjoy the crystal clear evening skies that came in after the storm.

No matter which way you point your wheels from Maggie Valley, you’ll find outstanding riding. The Best section of the Blue Ridge Parkway is right up the hill. It’s a great place to base out of for your motorcycle trip to the Smoky Mountains as so many great rides are within easy reach.

Check out AllRoadsLeadToMaggie.com when planning your visit. Maggie Valley is the heart of good motorcycle riding in the Smoky Mountains.

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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. 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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Great Motorcycle Rides North of Asheville Discovered

It’s not often I have such a successful day when out exploring for new motorcycle rides to add to my maps but Friday was one of the best. Most of the roads I evaluate don’t measure up against my strict standards – low traffic, engaging scenery, and a challenging and fun motorcycle ride. Nearly every road I explored turned out to be good enough to add to my map of “The Best Motorcycle Rides North and South of Asheville, NC”.

Photo - river north of asheville

Most of todays rides were through the valleys near rivers. The twisty roads hug the banks.

The weather was ideal – atypically warm, sunny, and clear. The first hints of fall color were starting to emerge in places. Most of that is concentrated in the highest elevations right now, see the post to follow for some photos of the best color. The bulk of todays riding was searching out roads to link and connect to the already outstanding rides previously discovered.

Photo - river north of Asheville

I stopped here for a break along NC 197. It's a great ride as are the roads which connect to it.

I had been avoiding the area around US 19W due to the construction to widen the road to 4 lanes. Part of the mission was to discover the side roads which skirt around it. That construction will be going on for quite some time. I found a bunch of them.

Photo - The lake at roaring Creek, TN

You can see a hint of fall color near this lake along Roaring Creek Road in Tennessee.

I also located a nice loop ride south of Johnson City, Tennessee, a good road to make loops near Roan Mountain, and quite surprising, still more great rides near Little Switzerland and the Diamondback. Much of the riding this trip was down low, through the valleys and along the rivers which are rides you can do pretty much all year round, places to go  after the Blue Ridge Parkway has closed for the winter season.

Photo - Stopped near Roan Mountain

This road turned out to be a great way to make a loop ride when doing the popular ride over Roan Mountain. There is one very short but well maintained unpaved section.

I’ll be adding these new motorcycle rides to the map  The Best Motorcycle Rides North and South of Asheville, NC” this week. It’s almost done with the upgrade to the new and improved format slow but sure.

Photo - mountain view

The skies have been unusually clear lately and the long range views are outstanding.

I got some great photos of the start of the fall color in the higher elevations on the Blue Ridge Parkway. You’ll find some nice stuff starting near Boone and Banner Elk, in the area around Mt. Mitchell and the Black Mountains, not so much near Craggy Gardens, and then some north and south of Asheville. It’s still a little early, the peak will come next weekend, though it will continue through the lower elevations for a while. Next post will show you some color.

America Rides Mapshttp://americaridesmaps.com 

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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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The Most Challenging Motorcycle Ride Found? A day with the map guy.

I am either;

  1. Getting too old and out of shape
  2. Coming down with the flu
  3. Rode harder than I have in a long time

It’s probably a combination of the first point and the last. I awoke last night sore from the chest down due to throwing my bike around all day in my never ending quest to discover the best motorcycle rides in the Smoky Mountains. It was not planned to be such a day but it turned out to be quite an adventure.

I set out around 8AM for Shady Valley, Tennessee, home of “the Snake” motorcycle ride to make a delivery of motorcycle maps to the Shady Valley Country Store. Plan was to ride up, enjoy the Snake, make the delivery, then check out half a dozen roads nearby in hopes to add some to my motorcycle pocket maps. I knew one would just be a connector route. I didn’t have high hopes for many of the others, though a couple held promise.

It was beautiful and cool up on the Blue Ridge Parkway in the morning. Skies were clear and bright. Even the half hour on Interstate 40 to Asheville was pleasant. There’s little traffic before 10AM once you leave the highway and I pretty much had the road to myself. I watched hopefully for bears north of the city, then enjoyed the run up the wonderful new sections of pavement to pass Mt. Mitchell. Looks like they’ve pretty much wrapped that job up. Saw one grouse, a few hawks, but no bruins.

Photo - on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Clear, cool, breezy morning on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Altapass.

I stopped to tweet my first photo at an overlook where I could count on cell phone reception. Though hurricane Earl was approaching the coast, here in the mountains no impact was expected. Even so it was noticeably breezy.

I hit one brief delay for tree work, and another for guardrail replacement. I surprised a flock of turkeys as I came near Little Switzerland. Passing Linville, I left the Blue Ridge Parkway at Roseborugh Road, one of those handy unmarked crossroads that descends through a series of tight turns to NC 105 at Grandfather Mountain. NC 105 took me north through the congestion of Banner Elk. Broadstone Road led me west of Boone to Valle Crucis. NC 194 led to US 421 which I followed through Mountain City and into Tennessee to reach Shady Valley.

A brief pit stop turned into a decent delay as I took time to chat with several riders, mostly locals, and return phone calls when the intermittent cell reception cooperated. I figured it would take a couple hours to see the roads I wanted, then I’d zip back home as I came.

Photo - Shady Valley Country Store

The sun was still shining at the Shady Valley Country Store though the winds were getting gusty. Things would change as the afternoon wore on.

The first few roads proved less than expected. They were a decent ride for a cruiser maybe, though it was not type of rural scenery that makes a road interesting. I explored another after a couple bikes passed in the opposite direction to find it intersected the fourth road at an unknown point. Still nothing special. I turned to backtrack on the fourth road so I would be sure to ride it end to end and was thrilled to find the short leg wonderful. Nice sweeping turns through pretty countryside. Hopeful, I spun about at the intersection with 197 and headed back. The remainder disappointed. Too much straight and only mildly interesting. It was worth adding to the map but not recommending highly. The natural flow dictated I bypass the next on the list meaning another backtrack to explore the better alternative.

The last of the most promising roads was accessed from US 321 near Watauga Lake. It was tight, it was twisty, but it didn’t appeal. It was then that serendipity  struck. Rather than continue on my planned path, instinct told me to detour onto another road. I followed it through turn after turn after turn and it went on and on and on. All the while I expected it would peter out  into a goat trail but it just kept going without letting up. Mile after mile on narrow, sometimes poor, blacktop it climbed through the mountains finally dumping me out at Banner Elk Highway. I pulled into an abandoned gas station to take my notes and decide how to describe it.

I kept asking myself, “But was it fun?” There was no doubt it was challenging, very challenging. It kept you on the edge the whole time. It never let up. I ride the Dragon routinely and this road is much more difficult and sustained. I’d come up on some traffic and had to simply ride behind it, no room to pass, so I didn’t feel I could give it an accurate evaluation. Nor was I sure what lay at the other end. Only choice was to ride it back and see where it came out.

As I turned about my heart sank. A school bus turned onto the road ahead of me. While it looked empty, this would still be an exercise in pain as it could only crawl through the narrow serpentine climb ahead. What a relief when it pulled off within a few hundred feet. It wasn’t long before I had my answer. This road WAS fun.

Unimpeded I rode it enthusiastically back as I’d come. A few miles in I remember thinking, “If you get out of second gear on this road, look down – you’re riding a moped”. I reached the point where I’d first turned on to it and continued past. The road name changed, but its character did not. I continued mile after mile carving through the exquisitely tight turns, dodging gravel patches, potholes, and debris now falling on the road from the increasing wind. I was so happy when US 321 appeared at the margin of the screen on the GPS. I’d found a new way to link a couple major roads. Awesome.

That ride was worth the trip. I stopped and entered the notes in my Blackberry. From there I turned onto US 321 to head on to check out the last couple roads. The weather was deteriorating. Skies dark, winds gusting, it didn’t bother me a bit. Shortly, I came up on another biker who suddenly veered off on another road back in the area where I’d just been riding. I circled back out of curiosity to see what business this cruiser guy had in such a rugged area. The road he chose was a superb cruiser road and I caught up to him just as he pulled into his yard at the junction with the first great road. Bonus! Instinct paid off again.

I returned to US 321 via the cruiser road to make time. It was getting late and the weather would soon add more to the challenge of these tight roads. After a short ride on US 321, I started down the last of them which turned out to be a disappointment. A few miles in I spied a road connecting to it I felt needed exploring and eventually found a better approach though I did waste a good bit of time on dead ends and gravel lanes. Plan was to take this road a few miles, then turn onto another to make my way back towards Mountain City. As I approached the turn, instinct took over again and I purposefully rode past it.

The GPS showed the road I was on getting tighter and twistier and it was climbing higher into the mountains. Thats usually a pretty good indication it’s going to deteriorate to nothing once it nears the top and the road grew narrower and more challenging as it went on. I considered just giving up on it, but something made me go on. The smell of fresh rain on a dry road filled the air and I started hitting dark patches of pavement. I was really questioning myself when I emerged  atop a pass with a rugged valley stretched below and signs warning of a steep descent and switchbacks appeared. It would have been beautiful in nicer weather, but the dark and angry clouds only hastened my urgency to continue on, dreading the thought of having to retrace my steps.

I’ve ridden a lot of miles in the mountains yet never seen switchbacks as tight as these. I plunged down through the valley wondering where I’d end up, hoping I’d find some landmark to steer me back to something familiar. When the road ended, I looked at the sign ahead to see I was on the road I’d meant to explore next. Another great ride found, and I was ready to wrap things up after this last road.

It was longer then I thought and I reached US 421 south of Mountain City. It was now 5 PM. Rain was coming down in sheets. I turned south towards Boone. The Friday evening traffic before the holiday weekend crawled and stalled in the rain. I dreaded the idea of going into Boone and  veered off on 194 to bypass it. More traffic. I stopped near Banner Elk to top off the tank and called home to let my wife know I wouldn’t be there for dinner. We discussed the weather, the traffic, and decided I’d prefer the exposure to the elements on the Blue Ridge Parkway over the hazards of this crazy traffic. It was the right choice. The rain let up once I got up high.

I coursed through the mountains in the twilight relatively unimpeded. It got cold but I made good time. Reaching Asheville, I merged into the traffic jam that clogged Interstate 40 all the way home. Arriving in my driveway as darkness fell, I’d had a successful day. I’d discovered some great roads. I had reason to go back with hopes of more. I had money in my pocket. Sometimes, a cartographers life is to be envied. I wish I had more photos, but I got swept up in the riding. Maybe next time.

wayne@americaridesmaps.com

America Rides Maps – from north Georgia to north Virginia, the best motorcycle rides

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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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Last Blue Ridge Parkway Section Opens Friday – Personal Road Report

Photo - Blue Ridge Parkway barricade at NC 151

Blue Ridge Parkway barricade at NC 151 on the south side of the closed area.

For the first time in 18 months or more the entire 469 miles length of America’s favorite motorcycle ride, the Blue Ridge Parkway, will be open for travel. I’ve patiently watched and waited for this day, trying to sneak peeks at the progress on clearing the slide area near milepost 400 without success. Despite a grueling bicycle ride to make first hand observations, I was put off by the high fence and $5000 fine for trespassing, and have had to simply wait for the announcement. Work is still being done and there will be temporary traffic lights to manage traffic at a nearby tunnel.

Photo - fence near closed section of the Blue Ridge Parkway

I was put off by the high fence and $5000 trespassing fine from getting a first hand look at the progress.

Work continues elsewhere on the Blue Ridge Parkway clearing the damage from one of the most severe winters on record. One of the worst hit areas near Linnville is now pristine again, an amazing job considering how badly it was affected. Ice and wind storms had covered the road with fallen trees and debris. Riding through now, you’d have to know what to look for to see evidence of the devastation now hidden by fresh summer greenery.

Photo - View of Blue Ridge Parkway with trees down from ice in February

View of Blue Ridge Parkway with trees down from ice in February

Paving continues between Mt. Mitchell State Park and Asheville, most concentrated near the Craggy Gardens area. The southbound lane is nearly completed and the quality of the new roadway is outstanding. You’ll hit a few delays and a mile or so of road that has been top-scraped in preparation for new asphalt. There are some rough sections and pot holes. The north bound lane still has a way to go and while the killer pot holes have been filled, the road is rough for many miles. It has also been prepped, but the pot holes are more numerous and it’s a bumpy ride.

Photo-section-of-the-Blue-Ridge-Parkway-damage-near-Linnville

The volume of trees down on the section of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Linnville was amazing. You wouldn't know it looked like this riding through now.

A recent hazard to be aware of is near Mt. Mitchell State Park where guardrail replacement is being done. A very slick sand is found in places near this work and motorcyclists should be vigilant and exercise caution. This video shows what to watch out for.

http://americaridesmaps.com The best Blue Ridge Parkway maps

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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.

Photo - Dining at the Grove Park Inn

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.

Photo - Lake Lure

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.

Photo - View from NC 80

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.

Photo - Bike riding north of Asheville

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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Tail of the Dragon Closed – Great Rides Nearby – Hot Springs

No new info on the rock slide which has closed the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap. In a previous post I suggested some great rides nearby in the “Land of the Waterfalls” and provided a video sample. It’s just one great spot near the Tail of the Dragon with great motorcycle rides nearby, here’s another.

Photo - View of Hot Springs, NC

Hot Springs, NC - A town so small it fits on one photo.

This time I’m going to direct you to an area which sees little traffic, yet contains some fabulous and challenging motorcycle rides with some enjoyable sights and scenery. It’s an area most motorcycle tourists either drive right past on their way into the region or sample only the most notable road. Trust me, there is a lot there to explore and enjoy.

Photo - A roadside view near Hot Springs

Pausing to admire the view near Hot Springs, NC

I urge you to spend some time riding the great roads found in the mountains east of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Smoky Mountains do not end at the border of the park, in fact they continue their long run northward reaching their greatest heights north of Asheville, North Carolina at Mt. Mitchell, highest peak in the east just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The mountains between the park and Mt. Mitchell are spectacular and beautiful, the valleys dotted with rural farms and tiny hamlets, sections of wild national forest, and roads which trace the serpentine courses of rushing mountain streams.

Photo - entrance to the Hot Springs Spa

Entrance to the Hot Springs Spa - Natural Mineral Baths and Massage

The hub of this great motorcycle riding area is the small and historic town of Hot Springs. It’s a good place to pause for lunch, do a little sightseeing, and maybe pay a visit to the natural hot springs which give the town its name. Long popular with hikers (the Appalachian Trail passes through town), fly fisherman, and whitewater rafters and kayakers on the French Broad River, it’s also a popular local motorcycle watering hole as it’s a convenient ride from Asheville.

Photo - French Broad River at Hot Springs

The French Broad River flows through Hot Springs

Honestly, there’s not a lot to the town. No traffic light. One gas station. A few shops and restaurants, a campground, and of course the Hot Springs Spa. You can capture the whole thing in a photo. It’s the roads and the beautiful countryside which surrounds that makes it worth the visit.

Photo - Iron Horse Station, Hot Springs

Iron Horse Station - One of several places to grab a bite and quench your thirst in Hot Springs.

If you take but one ride into the area, do the classic section of NC 209 which runs from Lake Junaluska to the heart of town. It’s such a nice ride. It takes about an hour one way. It’s a local classic. Be aware there is plenty more out there if you know where to look for it.

Photo - Fall Color at Lake Junaluska

One of the best rides, NC 209, starts near Lake Junaluska

I’ve been working on a video to showcase the area, though the severe winter pretty much closed the door on that for a long while. I’ll be getting back to it ASAP. Here’s the sample that gives you a good idea of what to expect:

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

For more detail on the area look to America Rides Maps ” East of the Smokies, West of Asheville, All Around Hot Springs” map which catalogues about 400 miles of the best roads in this small area.

Don’t worry, there’s still more great riding alternatives to come in future posts. Closing the Tail of the Dragon opens the door to you discovering just how much you’ve been missing.

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Motorcycle Friendly Lodging – Blue Ridge Parkway – The Switzerland Inn


Photo - View of the grounds at the Switzerland Inn

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

The Switzerland Inn, located directly on the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 334  between North Carolina’s Mt. Mitchell (tallest peak east of the Rockies) and Grandfather Mountain with it’s mile high swinging bridge, is perfect for overnight stops while traveling the entire parkway, or a good multi day stop if motorcycle riders want to get off the Blue Ridge Parkway and ride some great local roads on your motorcycle vacation.

Photo - Always popular with motorcyclists.

Always popular with motorcyclists, the Switzerland Inn aims to please.

The Switzerland Inn provides a variety of accommodations, dining, and amenities as you plan your motorcycle vacation. If you’re traveling through and want a clean low cost room, the Diamondback motorcycle lodge is perfect ($65.00). If on the other hand a couple are traveling and want a comfortable suite with great mountain views, private balconies, etc. and wish to explore and enjoy the many relaxing and beautiful sights in the area, a luxury suite can be reserved ($180.00).

Photo - A rider heads out for a day of scenic riding

Ride hard all day, rest easy each night. Beauty surrounds wherever you are.

The Switzerland Inn is a full service resort with two restaurants, two bars, hot tubs, pool, concierge service for fishing, horseback riding, golf, whatever a guest needs or wants while on vacation in the mountains.  They have covered bike parking, motorcycle rentals, airport service, and motorcycle tour guides if needed.

Photo - Covered Parking for your bike

Of course, there is covered parking for your bike.

Gary and his wife are both avid riders with a garage full of toys, so they know just how to cater to the motorcyclist traveling through the region. Popular over the years with both sports cars and motorcycles who come to enjoy such unique and challenging roads as “The Diamondback” (NC 226A), the Blue Ridge Parkway, and other notable and challenging roads nearby, The Switzerland Inn has something to offer everyone.

Photo - View of the Switzerland Inn

A spectacular setting popular with car clubs and motorcyclists

Learn more and make your travel arrangements at: http://www.switzerlandinn.com

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