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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Scenic Roads #1 - #5

This is part 2 of 2 about my choice of the top ten scenic roads I have ridden.

Part 1 of 2 - Scenic Roads #6 - #10 post        video

As stated in part 1 - "Scenic Roads" are roads with great views and/or wildlife viewing opportunities.  These views are worth slowing down for and/or parking the bike to enjoy the surroundings for a moment.  Some of the "roads" I have chosen are really combinations of roads fitting together as one ride/route.

5) Tennesse 165/ North Carolina 143 a.k.a. Cherohala Skyway  - Map -  43 miles.  The Cherohala Skyway runs from Tellico Plains, TN (860 feet) to the Santeetiah Gap (2,660 feet) north of Robbinsville, NC.  The Santeetiah Overlook is the highest overlook of the Skyway at 5,390 feet.  The Skyway has a great combination of twisties and sweeping curves.  There are numerous overlooks along the road, each provides an awesome view of the Smoky Mountains. The Skyway runs though the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests and very little signs of civilization are seen, other the road and the vehicles on it.

Cherohala Skyway on the NC side

4) Yellowstone National Park roads - Map - 310 miles of paved road.  The roads in Yellowstone National Park provides the most diverse and unique scenery of any road I have traveled and of course home of the world famous Old Faithful.  The park roads run through Lamar Valley, known as America's Serengeti because the amount of wildlife in the valley (the valley is home to bison, elk, wolves, and has the highest concentration of grizzly bears) and Hayden Valley, also home to a large amount of wildlife. Eagle Peak (11,358 ft - highest peak in YNP) and Mt. Washburn (10,219 ft) are two of the many awesome mountains in the park.  Geysers, waterfalls, rivers, canyons, valleys, mountains, wildlife, wildflowers are all park of the experience as you ride through the park. The 45 mph speed limits and "bison jams" (everyone stops when they see wildlife) means there is not any knee dragging or floorboard scraping, but the views are great!
 Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is spectacular
I really struggled on the order of the top 3 on my list.  I kept switch them back and forth.  I finally just had to make a decision - here it goes.

3) Colorado 550 a.k.a. Million Dollar Highway - Map - 70 miles.  The official Million Dollar Highway is the 25 miles between Ouray and Silverton, but most people refer to the entire stretch from Durango to Ouray as the Million Dollar Highway.  The road transverses (south to north) Coal Bank Pass (10,640 ft), Molass Pass (10,910 ft), and Red Mountain Pass (11,018 ft).  CO 550 cuts through the Uncompahgre and San Juan National Forests and runs along the Animas River on the southern end.  With steep cliffs, high road grades, narrow lanes, hairpin turns, sweeping curves, and a lack of guardrails caution and care is vital.  The mountain peaks are plentiful and high.  There are 13 mountains over 14,000 ft in the area.  The historic towns of Ouray, Silverton, and Durango have a lot to offer including the famous Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.  The views are breathtaking, so pull over and enjoy, there is not a lot of "forgiveness" on these mountain roads.
Million Dollar views and curves on CO 550

2) US 212 (Montana and Wyoming) a.k.a. The Beartooth Highway - Map - 67 miles (Red Lodge, MT - Cooke City, MT).  Beartooth Highway crosses the Beartooth Mountains from Montana to Wyoming back to Montana with about 34 miles in Wyoming.  Passing through parts of Shoshone National Forest and Custer National Forest the road zig zags up the mountain to the 10,947 foot Beartooth Pass and spectacular vistas.  Some of the switchbacks are really sharp, but quite enjoyable.  Near the pass the road levels off on a plateau offering views for miles (on a clear day)!  Numerous lakes can be seen from the road including Beartooth Lake at 9,000 ft.  Bear, wolf, mountain goat, and various species of birds have been seen in the area.  A great place to stop for refreshments is the Top of the World Store and Resort.  Enjoy a cold drink from the porch at 9,400 ft and soak in the view.
Oz leading the group on Beartooth Highway - July 2010
1) US 34 Colorado a.k.a. Trail Ridge Road (TRR) through Rocky Mountain National Park - Interactive Map - 64 miles (including Bear Lake Road and Moraine Ave).  The combination of wildlife and views propelled Trail Ridge Road to the #1 spot.  The amount of wildlife I have seen while traveling this road exceeds all others.  Bighorn Sheep, elk, dear, coyote, and fox are common.  Not as common is moose, but my son and I have seen three moose northeast of Grand Lake in the Kawuneeche Vallwy on two different occasions.  TRR ascends above timberline to an altitude of 12,183 feet giving US 34 the distinction of being the highest continuous highway in America.  TRR crosses the Continental Divide at Milner Pass (10,759 ft).  TRR passes the Alpine Visitor Center which sits at 11,796 ft and has a restaurant, snack bar, gift shop, and restrooms, it is a great place to take a break and enjoy the surroundings. TRR overlooks west of Milner Pass provide views of the Colorado River Headwaters, Mount Ida (12,880 ft) and Kawuneeche Valley.

The sights are too numerous to mention all of them.  This road is well traveled, but well worth the time.  I think you find all 10 Scenic Roads great rides and you will take a lot of photos.

Link to video of Scenic Roads #1 - #5 


3 comments:

  1. All scenes are just amazing. Bike riding on these type of places is always a great fun.

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  2. Great blog, and these roads look so beautiful! Wish i could see them for myself

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