"Mile High" CHEROHALA SKYWAY - 48 miles from Robbinsville NC to Telico Plains TN

National Geographic Traveler Magazine

The Cherohala Skyway was completed in the fall of 1996 after being under construction for some thirty-four years. It is North Carolina's most expensive highway carrying a pricetag of $100,000,000. Winding up and over 5,400 foot mountains for 15 miles in North Carolina and descending another 21 miles into the deeply forested backcountry of Tennessee. The road crosses through the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests thus the name "Chero...hala". The Skyway is becoming well known in motorcycling and sportscar circles for it's long, sweeping corners and scenic views.

This road enthusiast's dream connects Robbinsville, North Carolina with Tellico Plains, Tennessee. It can be desolate at night and extremely dangerous in the winter months. There are no facilities other than restrooms for the entire 36 miles so make sure you have enough gas to make the crossing. There is little evidence of civilization from views that rival or surpass any from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Beginning at Santeetlah Gap on the North Carolina side (mile marker 0, at elevation 2660 feet), the road quickly twists and ascends to Santeetlah, an overlook at mile marker 11, the highest overlook at 5390 feet. Along this section you will ride the mountain top for another seven miles to the Tennessee state line. It can be cold and cloudy riding the mountain ridges, so make sure you dress properly, even in the summer months. We have been caught in pea soup fog, thick clouds, and bone chilling temperatures. The mile-high ride is always a new and unforgetable experience.

At mile marker 16 (still in North Carolina) the descent starts into the Tellico River basin. There are a few more spectacular scenic vistas on the Tennessee side. A detour to Bald River Falls on paved Forest Service Road 210 is well worth the short trip. Water cascades over 100 feet onto the rocks below - all which can be seen from the comfort of your motorcycle/car.

The Tellico River, at the lower elevations on the Tennessee side, is famous for it's trout fishing, and when the water is up, can be quite a challenge for canoers and kayakers. The river leads you to the sleepy town of Tellico Plains where you can fill your tank and feed your belly.

For more information on the Cherohala Skyway visit this website: Cherohala.com

WARNING: The Cherohala, with its sweeping curves, will tempt you to ride fast and one of the occassional tighter curves can surprise you. There are more deaths on the Cherohala than on the Dragon. Many of the worst curves have guardrailing that we guarantee you do not want to hit. Emergency help on the Cherohala can be 45 minutes away and then a 30 minute helicopter transport. Please ride the Cherohala with extreme respect and use caution.

Recently installed (2007) new speed limit signs on the Tennessee side of the Cherohala Skyway indicate a 40 mph speed limit for the entire 20 miles in Tennessee. This upgrade the previous ridiculous 30 mph "school zone" speed.

The North Carolina side is posted as 45 mph. It is sometimes enforced, especially on week-ends and holiday periods. The helicopter enforcement no longer exists, but you will find radar by NCHP and Graham County Sheriff deputies.