BEST MOTORCYCLE ROADS IN APPALACHIAN MOUNTAINS

We decided to compile a list of the Smoky Mountains’ Eleven Best Motorcycle Rides. Choose one or two, or ride all of them.

Most Popular Motorcycle Rides Near Maggie Valley

  1. Tail of the Dragon
  2. The Rattler
  3. Thunder Road
  4. Cherohala Skyway
  5. Smoky Mountains Loop
  6. Foothills Parkway
  7. Cades Cove Loop
  8. Gatlinburg to Cherokee
  9. Blue Ridge Parkway
  10. Bobarosa Saloon Run

You enjoy trying new things. Because you’re reading about the eleven best motorbike rides in the Smoky Mountains, I’m aware of this. If you’re anything like me, you want to get on your bike and have a fun ride. You want a ride that engages all of your senses and leaves you wanting more.

Mountain streams, landscapes, and dragons are all part of the same drama on this voyage. Here, lifetime friendships and memories are formed. If this describes you, you’ve arrived at the right place.
Some of the best motorcycle rides in the world may be found in the Smoky Mountains.

Beautiful mountain landscapes, rivers, forests, and breathtaking views may all be seen from the seat of your bicycle. Despite the fact that our most famous route, The Dragon, has very few views.

In the Smoky Mountains, you may ride for weeks or months and never travel the same path twice. There are a plethora of fantastic motorbike rides just waiting for you to discover them.

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1. Tail of the Dragon

  • Route: The Dragon or Tail of the Dragon
  • Type: Point to Point
  • Begin: Chilhowee, TN
  • End: Deals Gap, NC
  • Travel Time: 25 minutes
  • Distance: 15 miles
  • Highlights: 318 Curves in 11 Miles, Photographers Along the Route
Tail of the Dragon

The Tail of the Dragon on US-129 is America’s number one motorcycle road and one of the most exciting smoky mountain motorcycle rides, with 318 turns packed into 11 adrenaline-pumping miles. You’ll have the ultimate freedom to see what your bike is made of, with no crossing roads or driveways to slow you down.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Cherokee National Forest’s surrounding woodlands provide the perfect gorgeous wooded backdrop, but let’s be honest: you’re here for the road. And you’ll need to keep your eyes on the road because these hairpin twists and steep climbs and descents are no joke.

2. The Rattler

  • Route: The Rattler
  • Type: Point to Point
  • Begin: Hot Springs, NC
  • End: Lake Junaluska, NC
  • Travel Time: 1 hour
  • Distance: 33.3 miles
The Rattler

Give The Rattler a try if there are too many other riders clogging the roads on the Tail of the Dragon. It’s packed with over 234 twists and turns, making it just as exciting as The Tail but without the crowds. Between Hot Springs, NC, and Lake Junaluska, NC, the NC-209 offers some of the area’s most thrilling curves, s-turns, switchbacks, and straightaways.

Novice motorcyclists should take it easy on this one; it’s a tough ride. Mountain climbs and exhilarating speeds alternate with peaceful valleys, gushing rivers, and breathtaking views. You can even stop at Hot Springs for a bite to eat or to relax your aching muscles in the natural hot springs.

3. Thunder Road

  • Route: Thunder Road
  • Type: Lollipop
  • Begin: Maggie Valley, NC
  • End: Maggie Valley, NC
  • Travel Time: Approximately 5 to 6 hours (including rest stops and lunch)
  • Distance: 140 miles
  • Highlights: Scenic views, curvy roads, elevation changes
Thunder Road

Thunder Road is one of the most stunning motorbike drives in the Smoky Mountains. Surprisingly, it’s also one of our list’s least trafficked roads. This 140-mile lollipop-style ride on US 74 begins and ends in Maggie Valley and takes you on an awe-inspiring route along the beautiful Nantahala River.

Take advantage of the numerous turnouts to enjoy the river scenery as whitewater rafters navigate the rapids. Locals refer to Wayah Road as Thunder Road since it follows the river all the way to Lake Nantahala.

There are some waterfalls in this section, as well as the spectacular twists leading up to Wayah Gap and multiple back-to-back switchbacks on the downhill side. Basically, keep your gaze fixed on the road. As a result, keep your gaze fixed on the road.

4. Cherohala Skyway

  • Route: Cherohala Skyway Loop
  • Type: Loop
  • Begin: Maggie Valley, NC
  • End: Maggie Valley, NC
  • Travel Time: Approximately 8 hours (including rest stops and lunch)
  • Distance: 245 miles
  • Highlights: Twisties, views, sweepers, Fontana Dam, Tail of the Dragon, Bald River Falls
Cherohala Skyway

As its name suggests, the Cherohala Skyway takes riders to high elevations with spectacular mountain views. For 18 miles in western North Carolina, the Skyway winds its way through the Cherokee National Forest, increasing in altitude to over 5,400 feet. Then, it twists and turns for 23 miles down into the mountainous backcountry of eastern Tennessee’s Nantahala National Forest. The Skyway is a wide-open road with very little congestion and delivers unobstructed and awe-inspiring views at multiple scenic overlooks along the way.

5. Smoky Mountains Loop

  • Route: Smoky Mountains Loop
  • Type: Loop
  • Begin: Maggie Valley, NC
  • End: Maggie Valley, NC
  • Travel Time: Approximately 8 hours (including rest stops and lunch)
  • Distance: 250 miles
  • Highlights: Twisties, views, sweepers, Clingmans Dome, Bald River Falls, Foothills Parkway.
Smoky Mountains Loop

The Smoky Mountain Loop begins and ends in Maggie Valley, like many other famous motorcycle trips in the Smoky Mountains. You can technically start the circle anywhere along the route, but why not start in the Smokies’ motorcycle capital?

The Blue Ridge Parkway will be your first exit off of US-19 outside of Maggie Valley. What can we add to what has already been saying about the Blue Ridge Parkway? It’s just stunning! This 13-mile stretch of the Parkway takes 22 minutes to drive and is breathtaking. After passing the Oconaluftee Visitor Center at the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, turn right onto US-441 and travel toward Newfound Gap. You are welcome to make a pit stop at the center.

6. Foothills Parkway

  • Route: Foothills Parkway
  • Type: Point to Point
  • Begin: Walland, TN
  • End: Chilhowee, TN
  • Travel Time: 26 minutes (non-stop without traffic)
  • Distance: 16.8 miles
  • Highlights: Panoramic mountain vistas, foliage, easy ride, slight curves, straightaways.
Foothills Parkway

The Foothills Parkway, a National Parkway managed by the National Park Service, is a must-see for bikers visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Townsend, Tennessee. The 71-mile Foothills Parkway project was approved by the US Congress in 1944, but financial concerns have plagued it ever since.

This 31.5-mile section of the Parkway is complete and lovely, despite being Tennessee’s oldest incomplete roadway project. The Foothills Parkway is most commonly accessed from US-321 / E. Lamar Alexander Parkway in Walland, Tennessee. Walland is a small town between Maryville and Townsend.

Foothills Parkway’s newest portion, which opened in November 2018, has been a wonderful addition. Turn left onto the Parkway at Point A on the map (Walland) and drive all the way to Wears Valley (Hwy 321) Point C to see the new part of the Parkway. Backtrack to Point A, then continue on to Point B in Chilhowee to see the oldest stretch of the Foothills Parkway.

7. Cades Cove Loop

  • Route: Cades Cove Loop
  • Type: Loop
  • Begin: Townsend, TN
  • End: Townsend, TN
  • Travel Time: 3-5 hours
  • Distance: 11 miles
  • Highlights: Historic buildings, pastoral valley, wildlife, slow ride, beautiful views
Cades Cove Loop

Cades Cove is only 27 miles from Gatlinburg and 9 miles from Townsend, making for a pleasant day trip. The route is an eleven-mile, one-way, single-lane asphalt road that loops around a small mountain valley hailed as “majestic” by many. The loop is open for most vehicles from sunrise to sunset, weather permitting, except on Wednesday and Saturday mornings from May through September.

Only pedestrians and bikers are permitted to utilize the loop until 10:00 a.m. on those two days of the week. Cars and motorcyclists are permitted to use the route after 10:00 a.m. Cades Cove is the most popular tourist attraction in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. More than two million visitors visit Cades Cove each year to escape the stresses of everyday life.

Cades Cove was a former hamlet in the early 1800s that had a population of 271 people. Churches, log homes, barns, and other settlers’ structures can be seen as you wind your way through the cove. The National Park Service is responsible for maintaining the structures and allowing visitors unrestricted access.

The abundance of animals that roams the area is also a feature. Deer, bunnies, turkeys, coyotes, and even black bears are common sightings. Bear in mind that these are wild creatures, and federal law requires people to keep a distance of 50 yards from bears and elk. Feeding bears is also illegal under federal law.

Three Important Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Feed Bears

Allow 2-4 hours for a leisurely ride, with extra time available during peak season. There are numerous locations along the path where you may want to take a break and take in the scenery. John Oliver’s cabin, three churches, Billy Tipton’s cabin, a grist mill, and many other historic structures are among them. Inside Cades Cove is a modern tourist center with a gift shop.

The Great Smoky Mountains Association, a charity with the aim of preserving and promoting Great Smoky Mountains National Park, runs the gift shop.

8. Gatlinburg to Cherokee

  • Route: Gatlinburg to Cherokee
  • Type: Out and Back or Point to Point
  • Begin: Gatlinburg, TN
  • End: Cherokee, NC
  • Travel Time: 1 hour 24 minutes
  • Distance: 47 miles
  • Highlights: Majestic mountain roads, twisties, scenic vistas, forests, Clingman’s Dome.
Gatlinburg to Cherokee

Newfound Gap Road, which connects Gatlinburg and Cherokee, runs through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Our map depicts an artificial starting position on US-441 in downtown Gatlinburg. It takes around 1 hour and 24 minutes to drive from this location to the destination without stopping.

It is ridiculous, however, to believe that anyone would drive straight through without stopping; there is far too much to see! So, what will you see on your journey?

There isn’t much to see but wildlife, lovely flowers, rivers, waterfalls, streams, tree-covered roads, and spectacular views.

The elevation rises to around 5,000 feet as you go from Gatlinburg to Cherokee on US-441 (Newfound Gap Road). On the ridge of the mountain, you’ll reach Clingman’s Dome Road after thirteen kilometers. Many people think of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, when they think of a Smoky Mountain vacation.

Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit Gatlinburg throughout the summer months, expecting to be professionally entertained, enjoy wonderful food, and be inspired by their surroundings. Few people are dissatisfied. Visitors can easily spend a day or more at the park due to its proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park without having to travel long distances.

9. Blue Ridge Parkway

  • Route: Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Type: Out and Back or Point to Point
  • Begin: Oconaluftee, TN
  • End: Biltmore Forest, NC
  • Travel Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
  • Distance: 80 miles
  • Highlights: Majestic mountain roads, twisties, scenic vistas, Biltmore Estate, Waterrock Knob, fall colors, tunnels
Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway takes its name from the Blue Ridge Mountains, which run nearly the whole length of the road. From Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Oconaluftee/Cherokee, NC, to Shenandoah National Park in Afton/Rockfish Gap, VA, the Parkway stretches for 469 miles. The path we’ve outlined starts just south of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, near the intersection of US-441 and the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Cherokee, NC.

Only 80 miles from the start point, it ends in lovely Asheville, North Carolina, just south of the Biltmore Estate. A non-stop travel from Oconaluftee to Asheville takes only about 2 hours and 10 minutes. Of course, any stops you make along the road must be factored in.

Continue on for as long as you like if you’re enjoying the ride and have the time. For the return trip, you can turn back at any point. “America’s Favorite Drive” is synonymous with the Blue Ridge Parkway. My goal is to convey why the Blue Ridge Parkway is so popular in America, and why you will enjoy it as well. Having said that, it’s impossible to exaggerate the magnitude of this motivation.

The route is a tiny two-lane road that winds its way into the highlands. The proximity of the greenery and rock formations to the road is part of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s allure. The drive gives the impression of a mountain walk in places, yet it’s all on concrete. Grass grows all the way to the road’s edge.

There are numerous turnouts where you can stop and enjoy the scenery. The National Park Service owns and maintains the Parkway, therefore there are no petrol stations, restaurants, restrooms, or traffic lights. Before leaving the house, make sure your stomach is full.

10. Bobarosa Saloon Run

  • Route: Bobarosa Saloon Run
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Begin: Maggie Valley, NC
  • End: Maggie Valley, NC
  • Time: Approximately 6 hours (including rest stops and lunch). Non-stop riding is 1.5 hours in each direction depending on travel conditions.
  • Distance: 130 miles RT
  • Highlights: Switchbacks, views, great destination
Bobarosa Saloon Run

The Bobarosa Saloon Run begins and ends in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, like so many other fantastic motorcycle rides.

The name comes from the Bobarosa Saloon in Del Rio, Tennessee, which serves as a turning point. In the picturesque Smoky Mountains, the Bobarosa Saloon is located near to the French Broad River. Your excursion will begin in Maggie Valley’s downtown area.

Our route begins at the United States Post Office, although you can start anywhere along US-19. It will take roughly three hours to get to Bobarosa Saloon and another three hours to get back. The Bobarosa Saloon Run is an out-and-back run that follows the same routes both ways.

If you opt to spend the night in the mountains, there is a campground and a motel at the destination that can accommodate tents, RVs, pop-ups, and other types of camping equipment.

The campground sits right on the river, so close to the water that you could nearly fish right from your tent.

At Bobarosa Saloon, bikers who enjoy the saloon culture will feel right at home. Motorcycles swing from the ceiling, live music is performed, food is served, and pool tables for a fast game of “8 Ball” are available, among other things.

Motorcycles may be your thing, but saloons aren’t. Regardless, we want to urge you to go. The journey is gorgeous, and you can spend time with other riders hanging out by the river when you arrive.

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