This 130 mile loop ride takes about 3-4 hours not counting stops. Be aware that you will cross the Cherohala Skyway with elevations over one mile, so the weather can change quickly as you gain elevation.
Take 143 West from Robbinsville. The road can have moderate traffic, many road-patches, and hazards such as gravel/tree limbs on the roadway. This winding two-lane road passes the BLUE BOAR INN and SNOWBIRD LODGE entrances before turning into the Skyway at Santeetlah Gap. The driveway into the Blue Boar is over a mile of gravel, so take this into consideration if you are making plans to visit there. The Snowbird drive is steep, but paved, with a gravel parking area. Hwy 143 improves at the beginning of the Cherohala at Santeetlah Gap.
The Cherohala climbs from 2,660 to more than 5,300 feet in the first 11 miles. There are some tight curves, but most can be traveled at the 45 mph speed limit with little difficulty. After climbing to the Santeelah Overlook at an elevation of 5,390 feet you begin a series of downhill curves before reaching the Tennessee State Line. From here to Tellico Plains the Skyway is designated as Highway 165. The Skyway descends to its lowest elevation of 900 feet along the Tellico River.
A short detour can take you to Bald River Falls. Take the Fish Hatchery Road also known as Tellico River Road. a few miles. This is a left when you first see the river on the Tellico side.
For a gas and food stop, visit the CHEROHALA MARKET located on Hwy 165 between Hwy 360 and US 68.
At Tellico Plains you have two options: One is to take a right on Hwy 360 just before downtown Tellico. This is a back road with little traffic and the route we prefer on our motorcycles. The second option is to continue in to Tellico and take a right on Hwy 68.
If you take option one above you will come to Hwy 411. There are two places of interest on TN 360 that you might want to vist. One is the SEQUOYAH BIRTHPLACE MUSEUM and the other is FORT LOUDON .After passing these two points, take a right on 411 (a four lane divided hwy). Watch-out for the Vonore Police radar traps in this area.
If you take option two above you will come to Hwy 411 at Madisonville. Take a right onto Hwy 411.
Just after crossing the Little Tennessee River at Vonore you will take a right on Hwy 72. A couple of miles into this road you will get an awesome preview of the mountains where you will soon encounter the Dragon. WARNING there is a sharp turn about 2 3/4 miles after getting on 72. There have been some 30 accidents (cars and bikes) this year. You can see it coming if you are heading west, but traveling east it catches you by surprise. SLOW DOWN Thanks to Jim JB2 from Indiana for reminding us of this. Stop at Hoots for refreshments or a Tail of the Dragon T-shirt.
Continue on Hwy 72 to the stop sign (about 6 miles altogether). The wide, straight section invites high speed - watch out because this is a favorite radar trap for TNHP.
Take a right onto US129. Follow US129 along the Little Tennessee River for approximately 8 miles and you will enter the Tail of the Dragon where 129 leaves the river. One of the meeting places on the Dragon is at the Calderwood Dam overlook. Bikers and car enthusiasts of all types stop here to see whats happening. Hwy 129 climbs to Deals Gap at the North Carolina/Tennessee Line. Here, at the Crossroads of Time, take a gander at the Tree of Shame. Bike parts are nailed to the tree and litter the ground around it. Some parts are crudely labeled with sayings such as "the Dragon bit my ass". These are grim reminders of those who have been slain by the Dragon. The store here does not carry our T-shirts.
After crossing Deals Gap the road descends to Cheoah Dam at the Fugitive Bridge. Another half mile brings you to the TAPOCO LODGE, a great place for cyclists and car enthusiasts to stay. They also carry all of our T-shirts and goodies. Continue south on Hwy 129 takes you back into Robbinsville. Be sure to stop by WHEELERS MOTORCYCLE SHOP and say hello, you'll find all the latest Tail of the Dragon souvenirs and motorcycle gear, including tires and accessories.
A word of warning: Graham County, North Carolina welcomes bikers but does enforce traffic laws. It is common for the North Carolina Highway Patrol, Graham County Sheriff, and the Cherokee Police to set up license checks on county roads. This is common year round and not aimed at harrassing motorcyclists. This occurs often on weekends and holidays. Please let us know if you are harrassed at any location on your visit here. We will investigate and try to prevent any future incidents.