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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cherohala Skyway - riding above the clouds

Tellico Plains is known to bikers because it is the western gateway to the Cherohala Skyway, "A drive above the clouds."  The national scenic byway was opened and dedicated in 1996 and is well deserving of it's designation and the small Charles Hall Museum in Tellico Plains is also a well deserved destination.

The skyway is a favorite of motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists alike.  In Tennessee the skyway is TN 165 and North Carolina labels it NC 143.  At the eastern end of the skyway is Robbinsville it connects to US 129 a.k.a. The Tail of the Dragon.  The skyway passes through the Cherokee National Forest and at times through clouds, much like the day we headed home during our July 2011 trip.
View from an overlook on the skyway
The 43 mile two-lane byway is well maintained with numerous scenic pullouts/overlooks as well as access to the Indian Boundary Lake Recreation Area.  Elevation ranges from 930 ft above sea level to at the Tellico Plains River in Tennessee to 5390 ft at Haw Knob on the NC/TN state line.
Indian Boundary Lake - just off the Cherohala Skyway
View of the Smoky Mountains from the Cherohala Skyway
Sweeping curves, tight switchbacks, great elevation change, and renowned scenic views make the Cherohala Skyway a bikers road.  The long sweeping curves allows continuous acceleration with a hard lean into the curve providing for a big grin as you exit the curve and prepare for the next one.
Sweeping curves = big grins
Shortly after leaving Tellico Plains there is a good series of tight curves and elevation change.  In the middle portion of the Skyway there are more of the sweeping curves and longer straightaways.  As the skyway nears Santeetiah Lake there are more of the tighter curves and the road descends form the higher elevations.
The one of the many curves on the skyway 
The skyway twists and turns around the southern end of the Santeetiah Lake providing great views and more opportunities to drag floorboards (if you are on a cruiser - the FJR loved the road and ate up the curves).  The skyway intersects the famous US 129 just 5 miles west of Robbinsville, NC and 16 miles east of Deals Gap store and the Tail of the Dragon.

We had a great time riding the Cherohala Skyway on the way to Robbinsville.  We enjoyed it so much we rode it again as we headed home from our trip.  This road will not disappoint a biker regardless of the speed one wants to ride.  One can ride it nice and slow to enjoy all the views or at a crisp pace smiling on every turn.  This is a great American scenic byway with great destinations at both ends.

4 comments:

  1. Beautiful area, I did the Tail of the Dragon 2 years ago, would love to go back. We also did the Cherohala Skyway and stopped for lunch in Tellico Plains, it was beautiful, great roads full of twists.

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  2. That's awesome! My wife and I had the chance to ride the Cherohala Skyway and the Dragon a couple months ago. Absolutely an amazing ride!

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  3. There are a lot of great roads in that area. It is well worth the time and effort to visit and enjoy the riding.

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  4. That reminds of a story I'll have to share someday. Let just say, a first season novice rider should probably not tackle the dragon..then get too scared to go back..so she takes the Cherohala Skyway instead. Bunch of beautiful views, one dropped bike..no two..never the less I went back the very next year.

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