Best Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina – A sport bike loop

Best Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina – A sport bike loop ride

When I’m looking for a “dragon like” challenge close to home, this 90 mile loop satisfies every time!

Section of NC 215 near Lake Logan.

Section of NC 215 near Lake Logan. You’ll find some nice scenery on the popular road. The curves so far are just a warm up for what lies ahead.

As much as I enjoy a ride on the infamous Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap, it’s a bit of a ride to get out to it from the Waynesville / Maggie Valley area where I live. Fortunately, there are ample challenging roads nearby, and when I really want a peg-scraping ride, this is one of my favorite local loops. For those on sport bikes, it’s a must-do when you are in the area.

The higher you go the better it gets on NC 215.

The higher you go the better it gets on NC 215. The road crests where it meets the Blue Ridge Parkway, then plunges down the other side of the gap.

The map originates in the small crossroads town of Bethel, NC south of Waynesville, Canton, Maggie Valley, and Junaluska. It can also be done as a side loop off the Blue Ridge Parkway (exit at Beech Gap, MP 423.3, NC 215 – cuts 36 miles off the route).

Descending from the Blue Ridge Parkway on NC 215

The curves continue as you descend from the Blue Ridge Parkway with a brief break when you enter a valley. The curves that follow really kick it up!

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Length: 90 miles plus your ride to the start in Bethel, NC.
Ride time: 3-4 hours
Difficulty: Very challenging, tight curves, climbs and descents, sustained, varied road surfaces, all paved

Photo-curve-on-Silversteen-Rd

Imagine miles and miles of curves like this one – a.k.a. Silversteen Road

Turn-by-turn route description

Start at traffic light in Bethel (junction US 276, NC 215, NC 110).

Follow NC 215  – starts as Love Joy Road. Easy section through farmland along river with a few sharp turns.

2.9 mi – Turn left @ stop sign to continue on NC 215. Junction Love Joy Road and Lake Logan Rd (NC 215).  Moderately difficult. Rolls through houses, some nice curves, section along Lake Logan very nice.

16.8 mi – Pass Sunburst Campground. Enter Pisgah National Forest. Start climb to Blue Ridge Parkway. Road gets more twisty here. Nice stop at a roadside waterfall. Beware loose gravel on road, especially in turns, most likely to be found in the highest sections. Difficult.

17.9 mi – Pass Blue Ridge Parkway ramp. Popular break spot, if not at the junction, go up to the parkway and turn right to reach a nearby overlook with lots of parking. Continue under the parkway on NC 215. Good views from the highest section. Road surface improves south of parkway. Difficult.

35 mi – Turn right @ stop sign onto US 64. Junction NC 215 (Parkway Road) and US 64. Just a short section on this sometimes busy road. Easy.

Photo-Charlies-Creek-Rd

Charlie’s Creek Rd – typical of the wonderfully empty and inviting rides that abound in the Smokies

37.7 mi  – Turn right onto Silversteen Road. Junction US 64 and Sliversteeen Rd. Sign warns of tight turns ahead, believe it! Difficult.

38.3 mi – Keep right on Silversteen Rd. Junction Silversteen Rd and Golden Road. Difficult.

43.6 mi – Sharp left turn to stay on Silversteen Road. Junction Silversteen Rd and Macedonia Church Road. If you don’t make this turn, you will end up back on NC 215. Difficult.

45.7 mi – Turn right @ stop sign onto NC 281. Junction Silversteen Road and NC 281 (Canada Road). Nice section, a little loose gravel in places. Difficult.

57.6 mi – Turn right onto Charlies Creek Road. Junction NC 281 (Canada Road) and Charlies Creek Road. Be on your guard, surprising turns on this road. Difficult.

Photo - wolf Creek Dam

Wolf Creek Dam near the midpoint of NC 281, one of the scenic points on this great motorcycle ride.

68.4 mi – Turn left onto NC 215. Junction Charlies Creek Road and NC 215. Start back on a road you’ve been on previously.

89.7 mi – Follow NC 215 back to Bethel.

You’ll find gas stations in Bethel, on NC 215 on the south side of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and at the turn off US 64 onto Silversteen Road.

Jukebox Junction is a popular diner in Bethel. It’s mostly gas station food for the remainder of the ride.

Map of the ride

You’ll find these roads and many others in the surroundings on America Rides Maps motorcycle pocket map #6 – The Best Motorcycle Rides Near Great Smoky Mountains National 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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Best Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina – NC 215 done?

It appears the paving project on one of North Carolina’s best motorcycle rides has now made it one of the most dangerous as well. My hopes were high when a beautiful smooth layer of asphalt was applied, but afterwards it was covered over with a “tar and chip” surface. The road surface is much better, potholes and cracks are gone, but the remaining accumulation of loose gravel makes negotiating it at speed on a motorcycle a handful for even experienced riders.

Best Motorcycle Roads in North Carolina - NC 215

Best Motorcycle Roads in North Carolina – NC 215 – Slow and careful is what it takes to navigate the new surface on this great motorcycle ride.

Last Sunday they started painting the lines on the road, using a blower to clear the surface for the white and yellow lines. While this removed a good bit of the loose gravel on the surface, plenty remains. 4 wheeled traffic clears much of it from the tire tracks, but it builds up in between in the middle of the lane. Stray out of the clean spots and there goes your traction.

Best Motorcycle Rides In North Carolina - NC 215

Best Motorcycle Rides In North Carolina – NC 215 – Great fall color along NC 215 right now, but all your attention will be on the road.

Hope remains, as I passed through today a tractor with one of those giant roller brushes was parked near the peak of the run near the Blue Ridge Parkway ramp. A good brushing would bring the road up to snuff, let’s hope that tractor does the job.

Best Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina - NC 215

Best Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina – NC 215 – I was hoping the road surface would end up like this section on the south side of the Blue Ridge Parkway – so sweet!

I’ll keep you informed, as it gets cleaner with time all will be well and this outstanding ride will be back atop the list of best motorcycle roads in North Carolina.

You’ll find these roads on America Rides Maps motorcycle pocket map #6 – The Best Motorcycle Rides EAST of Great Smoky Mountains National Park along with another 50 or so outstanding rides in the surrounding area and a guide to the numerous roadside waterfalls.

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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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Best Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina – NC 215 Update

After hearing of several wrecks this weekend I decided I’d better make another run out to NC 215 near the Blue Ridge Parkway to check the status of the road work. The photo shows the current state – a new coat of gravel.

Best Motorcycle Rides in NC - NC 215 - new gravel

Best Motorcycle Rides in NC – NC 215; This rider made the right choice for him, hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Fresh gravel on NC 215 at this stage of the repaving, it will get better soon.

If you like drifting your motorcycle and power sliding through turns, it doesn’t get much better than this. A topcoat of gravel over s smooth hard base makes for ideal conditions. I had a blast!

Most riders though are going to find this the worst of conditions, and for now you’d better avoid it until the next phase of roadwork is completed. I’ll keep and eye on it and let you know when it improves.

Best Motorcycle Rides North Carolina - NC 215

Best Motorcycle Rides North Carolina – Paving on NC 215 has started from the top down. You can see one lane done here, still a way to go.

ADD –  Looks like US 276 is done, nice pavement, but still no road markings. Read More about what’s going on here – http://smokymountainrider.com/?p=5031

You’ll find these roads on America Rides Maps motorcycle pocket map #6 – The Best Motorcycle Rides EAST of Great Smoky Mountains National Park along with another 50 or so outstanding rides in the surrounding area and a guide to the numerous roadside waterfalls.

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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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Best Motorcycle Rides North Carolina – Pisgah Triangles Repaved!

Fresh paving bumps this NC motorcycle ride to the top of list!

Freshly paved  –

  • US 276 from Fish Hatchery Road to the Blue Ridge Parkway (done)
  • US 276 from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Big East Fork (done)
  • NC 215 from Blue Ridge Parkway to Sunburst (in progress)

Unbelievable! Fantastic! Outstanding motorcycle ride!

US 276 – the Newly Paved Section

Note – while paving is done (it was a quality job) there is still fill work along the shoulders and pavement markings / lines need to be added so expect work crews in the area. It will take a bit for the gravel at the edges of the road to settle in, so you need to be watchful for loose stone in the curves for a while. 

We’ve just come in off a great North Carolina motorcycle ride on the newly paved sections of US 276 which connect Waynesville to Brevard just south of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. US 276 crosses the best and most scenic area of the Blue Ridge Parkway at the mid-point on this 30 mile ride.

Best North Carolina motorcycle rides - US 276

Best North Carolina motorcycle rides – Jackie gives a big “thumbs up” to the fresh paving on US 276 near the Blue Ridge Parkway

South of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the fresh paving invites motorcycle riders to snake all the way down from the parkway’s heights to popular Looking Glass Falls, one of the most visited roadside waterfalls in the southeast. Along the way you’ll find scenic areas like Pink Beds, informative and historic places like The Cradle of Forestry, and you might even want to plunge 60 feet down a waterfall for a chilly wake-up at Sliding Rock. The entire ride carves and switchbacks through the steep and wooded mountains of the Pisgah National Forest with whitewater streams, dark tree lined passages, and numerous pull-outs to stop ad savor the surroundings.

Best motorcycle rides North Carolina - US 276

Best motorcycle rides North Carolina – the south side of US 276 winds through thick forest

North of the Blue Ridge Parkway, US 276 drops more than 1000 feet in a 3 mile plunge from Wagon Road Gap (MP 412.2) to the trailhead at Big East Fork, then it flanks along the slopes of Cold Mountain following the Pigeon River to the Bethel Valley. This section of tight curves is one of the most sustained series of back-to-back turns you’ll come across anywhere AND it’s a steep grade to boot. For the motorcycle rider looking for a challenging stretch of road, this one has all you need!

Why is this important?

US 276 is one leg of a triangle which form a number of the best motorcycle rides in North Carolina I call The Pisgah Triangles. The other long leg of the triangle is NC 215. Several roads form third legs of a series of triangles crossing between NC 215 and US 276  within the upside down “V” formed. The roads which hold the most challenging, steep, curvy, and scenic sections of the rides are found near the top of the triangle and have been in poor repair making a challenging ride even more difficult. Once these sections of road are repaved, the quality of the motorcycle rides on The Pisgah Triangles will beat most, if not all of the best motorcycle rides in North Carolina.

Great Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina - Pisgah Triangles motorcycle map

Great Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina – Pisgah Triangles motorcycle map – At least 4 variations, the 3rd is my favorite.

See photos, map, and ride guide here – The Pisgah Triangles

The Final Piece is in the Works! – 

We were delighted to see the upper portions of NC 215 are also receiving a sweet smooth coating of fresh asphalt. There is still a good bit to be done as it’s a much longer run down to the Sunburst Campground at the edge of the national forest. Like US 276, NC 215 traces the course of the Little East Fork of the Pigeon River as it rushes down from the heights.

Best Motorcycle Rides North Carolina - NC 215

Best Motorcycle Rides North Carolina – Paving on NC 215 has started from the top down. You can see one lane done here, still a way to go.

Easy to find, convenient to ride, lots of options!

Both US 276 and NC 215 intersect the Blue Ridge Parkway on the highest and most scenic portion of the road. If you are riding the Blue Ridge Parkway it’s easy to hop off and play with these roads or if you are riding through, it’s a short cruise to loop back from the south end at Cherokee and enjoy. I believe most riders are going to enjoy these roads more than The Dragon at Deals Gap as they are not only curvy, but wonderfully scenic and carry very light traffic.

image-motorcycle-ride-map-cover

You’ll find these roads on America Rides Maps motorcycle pocket map #6 – The Best Motorcycle Rides EAST of Great Smoky Mountains National Park along with another 50 or so outstanding rides in the surrounding area and a guide to the numerous roadside waterfalls.

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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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First Day of Winter – Let’s Ride the Blue Ridge Parkway!

So here it is, winter is officially upon us today and I spent the best of it on my motorcycle on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I couldn’t stand it any longer. It was so warm when I took the dog out this morning I knew I was going to HAVE to get on the bike. The weatherman says rain is coming to the Smoky Mountains so I knew I’d need an early start.

photo-wayne-at-lake-junaluska-dam

I would have settled for a nice short ride - (if you believe that, you don't know me very well)

“Just a short ride” I told my wife.

If nothing else I’d top up the near-empty tank and make a short spin of it. Thinking of someplace close I could get a photo, I headed to the dam at Lake Junaluska. Sure looked like rain was coming. Got my photo, then where?

It’s been so unusually warm lately, I decided to ride over to Maggie Valley and see if the Blue Ridge Parkway was open. Slim chance of it, but just maybe….

Photo-Wayne-celebrates-at Waterrock-Knob

Made it to Waterrock Knob! Enveloped in clouds, raining, but totally unexpected at this time of year. That would have been enough for most riders - it just goaded me to push on.

Passing the man made snow at Tony’s Tube World as I left the valley, I started to consider alternatives. If snow could linger down low, it would sure be too cold up high for the parkway to be open. If it wasn’t, I could always cruise over to Cherokee.

I turned onto the ramp to the Blue Ridge Parkway at Soco Gap, and sure enough, the gates towards Cherokee were closed when I reached the top. Oh well.

motorcycle-at-fork-ridge-overlook-1st-day-of-winter

I stopped for a photo when I came down to the mile-high Fork Ridge overlook. You can see the cloud ceiling a few hundred feet above me and the clouds in the valleys below.

As long as I was here, might as well ride over to see if the gates were closed heading south though the chances were even slimmer as the parkway climbs to some of the highest parts in that direction.

Surprise, surprise, the gates were open and I rolled on the throttle!

I didn’t think I’d get far, but I might at least get a photo from one of the lower overlooks. As I climbed, I came nearer and nearer to the cloud bank that socked in the mountain tops. Still, the road was clear.

Photo-first-day-of-winter-on-blue-ridge-parkway

It was a good day for riding so long as you stayed down low. At 4000 feet, the Woodfin Valley overlook shows it's fine at the lower elevations. I couldn't resist going higher.

I was stoked when I reached Waterrock Knob. Totally enveloped in thick clouds and peppering light rain, I stopped for another photo. This was awesome and a rare occasion this far into the cold season.

I was happy as I continued towards the next exit at US 74 in Waynesville, dropping back below the ceiling of clouds and out of the rain.

I almost left the parkway at Waynesville (see my video of Waynesville), as the next section of the Blue Ridge Parkway leads to the highest point on the road. No way it would be open. Still, I was curious as to how far I would get and amazed to find the gates open as I crossed over the highway.

photo-wayne-rides-his-motorcycle-to-the highest-point-on-the-parkway

Can't believe it! I rode to the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway on the first day of winter. Same day last year we got a snow that covered the yard until well into march.

I began climbing again, and before long was back in the wet cloud bank. Except for a few stray cars, I had the road to myself and enjoyed it with enthusiasm.

It was windy and poor visibility when I reached the high point, but it was another unexpected treat. Took another photo to remember it by.

I rode the rest of the way to Beech Gap and NC 215 in heavy wet fog (here’s a wicked ride nearby). No views to speak of, and lots of rocks and debris from the small slides that occur where rocky faces run close to the road. Winter thaws and freezes cause a lot of little slides during this season but it’s not much of a problem as no one is there to be affected by them.

photo-fall-on-nc215-great-motorcycle-ride

Road condition has improved marginally since this fall photo of NC 215 following the resurfacing. Still plenty of loose gravel and slippery corners to negotiate. Not for the faint-of-heart. It will improve, but how much?

The ride home via NC 215 (see my video of NC 215)is unchanged from my last visit – the road is till a mess. If riding sharp turns on loose gravel isn’t your thing, you will want to avoid it a while longer until things clean up.

Same day last year, we got snow so deep it laid in my yard for 3 months. This year I’m riding. I think I like this year better!

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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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North Carolina + Motorcycle + Camera + Rain = Waterfalls!

Photo-clouds-move-in-on-the-Blue-ridge-Parkway

As the clouds moved in, I left the Blue Ridge Parkway color behind.

I’ve been taking every opportunity to get out on the motorcycle on the Blue Ridge Parkway and photograph one of the best years for fall leaf color in a long time. I’ve captured some great shots so far. Yesterday though, the weather changed and the high places were quickly enveloped in cloudy wetness so thick I could barely see. Resigned to give up the day to the weather, I stowed the camera and left the Blue Ridge Parkway at Beech Gap (map) to return home to Waynesville via NC 215.

photo-Flat-Laurel-Creek-on-NC 215

Easy to miss, Flat Laurel Creek cascades down the rock faces - 3rd pull out on right, first long straight section of road from top

Currently, a ride on NC 215 is a Jekyll & Hyde experience.  South of the Blue Ridge Parkway, this popular motorcycle ride is an exquisite pleasure as it plunges down from the heights to reach US 64 near Rosman. Recently paved, this southern section of  the road courses through the  Pisgah National Forest, with stunning views from the high parts and challenging curves and bends that thrill.

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

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

In contrast, the north end of NC 215 is a nightmare for the motorcyclist and I’ve heard many bikers cursing the experience of surviving the twisty descent on a road now strewn with loose gravel after recent road “improvements”.  It got a “tar & chip” repair job a few weeks back which addressed the breaks in the pavement, but left a slippery legacy to negotiate turns that are a handful on a road with ideal conditions. Riding it on a motorcycle now is an experience that brings dread to the minds of most.

Coming down in the rain, already wet, I took my time and paused along the route to capture some shots of the scenery most motorcyclists will miss as all their attention is focused on staying upright on this challenging road.

Photo-East-Fork-Pigeon-River

The river calms briefly near the Sunburst Campground with an easy to find pull off along this section.

There are many hidden secrets along this stretch of NC 215 as it traces the course of the Little East Fork of the Pigeon River though most blast right by them. It’s worth taking a little time to pause and explore.

The river is never far from the road, and several small streams add to the torrent along the way. For those who enjoy hiking, the trails through this area are ripe with outstanding scenery.

The Little East Fork eventually reaches Lake Logan where it is captured by a dam. It then continues on to join the Big East Fork before it continues it’s run on through Canton, NC then on into Tennessee where I-40 cuts through a dramatic gorge at the state lines. Eventually it flows through Pigeon Forge, TN, then on to join the great rivers beyond.

Photo-Lake-Logan-North-Carolina

The river pools behind the dam at Lake Logan, then continues on.

Forced to slow down by the road, the rain, and the rocks, I enjoyed a ride most others despise. NC 215 will always be one of our favorite local North Carolina motorcycle rides. I’m hopeful it will see a proper paving in the future, but if not, it will still be a road I visit often and recommend to others. The gravel will eventually be cast along the roadside by traffic.

Don’t be put off by the condition of NC 215. Take your time, go easy, and you’ll be rewarded with some outstanding sights along this classic North Carolina motorcycle ride. It will only get better with time.

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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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You’ll find NC 215 and some of the best motorcycle rides in this outstanding area along with a guide to more than a dozen roadside waterfalls on America Rides Maps “The Best Motorcycle Rides EAST of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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