Our mountains’ spectacular scenery offers more than just a great background for pictures. In fact, motorcycle riders have discovered that our region’s twisting mountain roads, lined by green forests and occasional waterfalls, make terrific touring territory. From spring through fall, you’ll see a steady flow of motorcyclists powering through Murphy, NC on their way to higher-elevation destinations. Two of these attractions have achieved legendary status, with riders often roaring in from other states to experience the once-in-a-lifetime rides.
This 41-mile-long scenic highway winds though the Nantahala National Forest and Cherokee National Forest. You’ll begin the memorable climb in Robbinsville, North Carolina, trekking up and over 18 miles of 5,400-foot-high peaks. Next, you’ll travel downward for 23 miles, passing through thickly forested Tennessee mountains before arriving in Tellico Plains, where you can get some gas and fortify your stomach. During the ride, take time to pull over and enjoy the spectacular views. The landscape’s spring greens and fall colors are especially photo-worthy.
Before you tackle the Cherohala Skyway, however, be forewarned: Except for a couple of restrooms, you won’t find any facilities along the route, so plan accordingly. Even during the summer, the high-elevation air can be chilly, so dress in layers to keep yourself comfortable. Finally, stay off the Cherohala Skyway during the winter, as you could suddenly encounter snow and/or ice that can create life-threatening conditions.
Tail of the Dragon (Deal’s Gap)
Believe it or not, we’ve got the United States’ Number 1 motorcycle road right in our backyard. With 318 curves in 11 miles, the Tail of the Dragon at Deal’s Gap is the stuff of motorcycle legend – and it’s all true.
Officially designated US 129, this high-octane stretch of road begins in North Carolina, adjacent to Cheoh Dam (or Fugitive Dam from The Fugitive movie). Bordered by the Cherokee National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains, this remote region contains multiple 5,000-foot-high peaks. Even more impressive, 16 mountains are over 6,000 feet high. In other words, living (and riding) here has many built-in challenges.
During the ride, you won’t find any intersecting roads, businesses, or homes with driveways. Instead, you’ll encounter curves – lots and lots of curves. Each curve is different, and some are actually banked like a race track. You’ll also find super-tight turns, switchbacks, and dramatic drop-offs – one after another. Taken as a whole, this road resembles the tail of a rather agitated dragon – hence the name. Fortunately, the road is generally in good shape, as maintaining this well-known tourist attraction has become a high priority. When you finally escape the dragon’s tail at Tennessee’s Tabcat Creek Bridge, you’ll be ready for a cold drink and some lunch.
Of course, every road contains a few extra surprises for those who travel it. First, you might encounter deer, turkeys, bears, and even wild boars at any time. Fallen trees can also present a serious danger. Although North Carolina and Tennessee have banned 18-wheelers from this hazardous road, you could meet one on a curve – driving in your lane. Finally, stay off the Tail of the Dragon in winter, as it’s highly unpredictable and not worth the risk.
Cherokee County Loop
For a 50-mile round trip that’s entirely within Cherokee County, head out of Murphy, NC on Joe Brown Highway. As you cruise through scenic forests and lowlands, you’ll pass the Hanging Dog, Unaka, and Hiwassee Dam communities. You’ll also travel along beautiful Hiwassee Lake, eventually arriving at the TVA’s impressive Hiwassee Dam. Take time to relax and soak up the view. Then, hop back on your bike and return to downtown Murphy.
Get Yourself Home Safe and Sound
To increase the chances of getting yourself home in one piece, leave the daredevil tricks at home (especially on the Tail of the Dragon). Don’t attempt to ride beyond your skill level, and keep a sharp lookout for road hazards and other drivers’ antics. In other words, be ready for anything. Finally, wear heavy-duty protective gear (including a full-face helmet), just to stack the odds in your favor.
The Poltrock Team – REMAX Mountain Properties – Murphy NC – www.ilovemurphy.com – Call us Toll Free at 1-866-Murphy-NC or 1-866-687-7496 – Murphy’s #1 Real Estate Team