Cherohala Skyway Ride

Fall is usually one of the best times of the year in Atlanta for riding.  Fall is usually dry and the temperatures are on the cooler side, making motorcycle riding very pleasant. This year has been different.  After record drought over the past couple of years we have been getting above average rainfall over the past months.  We have had weeks where it rained almost every day.  In September we had 12-18 inches of rain in a few days that caused terrible flooding in many parts of Atlanta.  Just last week a tropical storm came though and dropped another 3-4 inches two days.  This hasn’t been the greatest fall I can remember for motorcycle riding.

This past weekend we got some really nice weather.  The forecast was for temperatures in the middle 70s and sunny.  I couldn’t see wasting a nice day doing yard work or working around the house so we decided to take a day ride.  We rode up to Tellico Plains Tennessee to ride across the Cherohala Skyway.

The morning started out in the very low 40s but by 10:00 AM it was warming up quickly.  We bundled up and headed out at about 10:30.  We rode north on I-575 / GA 515 through Ellijay up to Blueridge, GA.  From there we took GA 5 up to Copperhill, TN.  Then TN 68 to Tellico Plains.  TN 68 is a twisty two lane highway that winds it way through numerous small towns and townships and up and down through the hills of Tennessee.

It took about two and a half hours to get to Tellico Plains.  Tellico Plains is a very pretty little town.   As the name implies it is on a plain of slightly rolling hills but looking to the east you can see the Great Smokey Mountains that are not far away.   We found our way to the downtown area, that wasn’t all that hard, and had a bite to eat in the bakery/internet café.  After lunch we checked out the Tellico Motorcycle Outfitters store.  Tellico Outfitters is a nice store with lots of motorcycle apparel and accessories.  They have riding jackets and pants and full riding suits as well as all manner of riding accessories.  There are also a number of motorcycle motels and resorts in Tellico Plains.  We saw a couple of them coming in on TN 68.  It would be a great place to do a overnight ride and explore the area on the bike.  Apparently there are a lot of motorcycles that come through there on the way up to the Skyway.

The owner of the Outfitter store told us about a side trip off the Skyway up to a waterfall.  About five miles up the Skyway from Tellico Plains is River Road, and 3 miles up River Road is the Bald River Falls.  River Road winds along the river that has numerous white water sections and lots of Kayakers and canoes.  We went as far at the falls but according to the GPS River Road winds its way all the way to the state line.  The falls were really flowing!  Tennessee has had a lot of rain too as evidenced by the amount of water coming over the falls.

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Bald River Falls

From the falls we continued on our way up the Skyway, we kept climbing and climbing.  Tellico Plains is at an elevation of about 960 feet.  The Skyway climbs to over a mile high.  At one point I saw 5700 feet on the GPS.  I noticed that the difference in the Cherohala Skyway compared to say, the Blue Ridge Parkway, is that the Skyway isn’t surrounded by other mountains.  You can see for miles and miles from the scenic overlooks along the Cherohala!

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Scenic overview on the Cherohala Skyway (Approx 2000' elev.)

The Skyway runs along the tops of the mountain ridges and winds back and forth.  Traveling east toward Robbinsville, North Carolina you actually travel in just about every direction of the compass.  Climbing higher and higher and seeing increasing greater views of the plains to the west and south, this is quite a ride.  I highly recommend it!  There are plenty of scenic overview stops along the Skyway to stop, rest, and have a look at the fantastic views.

We arrived in Robbinsville on the other end of the Skyway just after 4 in the afternoon.  It took longer than I thought it would to get across the Skyway and it was starting to cool off.  It was supposed to be in the middle 70’s but up at that altitude I don’t think it got too much over the middle 60’s.  At Robbinsville we picked up US 129 and then US 19 and headed southwest towards Andrews and Murphy North Carolina.  With it getting dark so early now, I put the hammer down once we hit the four lane section of US 19.  Passing Murphy and turning toward Georgia on Spur 60 we headed back toward GA 515.  One more stop for fuel and a couple of hours and we would be home.  Barbara was getting cold at this point, so I suggested that she put her Frog Toggs on to keep the wind off of her.  The Frog Toggs kept her warm on the cool ride home.  Frog Toggs are simply the best all around rain / warm suit that you can have for any kind of outdoor activity!

Once on 515 I set the cruise and we hammered home arriving home at about O’Dark Thirty.  This was the longest ride we have had in a while and we were both pretty tired when we got home.  But it was a good day ride, one of the best we had this year.

Ride Safe!

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