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SMOKY MOUNTAIN ROADS NEAR THE DRAGON

Here are the roads in and around the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee with our thoughts about them.

Highway 441 is perhaps the best known, running from Cherokee, North Carolina to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This 34 mile mountain crossing could rival the Dragon except for one thing ... the damn traffic. During the summer months it can be just about bumper to bumper as the tourists come to hopefully glimpse a bear. Most of the bears have been relocated to more desolate areas (like the Dragon) to keep little tourist children from being eaten.

The Big Hump, as we call 441, has many attributes that might make it worth a trip. The views from the outlook at the top (5190 feet elevation) are spectacular and even in the heat of the summer the weather can be cool. The western side from Gatlinburg to the top has some of the best twisties I ever ridden - one turn is a complete loop! The eastern side from Cherokee to the top has some sweeping curves like the Cherohala. If you do ride "the Hump" try to get there early in the morning before the gawkers finish breakfast - it will be much more tolerable.

The Blue Ridge Parkway intersects 441 just north of Cherokee and is within an hour of the Dragon. This is the entrance point of the Parkway (mile marker 469) as it begins the route to Front Royal, Virginia. CLICK HERE to see more about the B.R.P.

The Little River Road intersects 441 near Gatlinburg. It has some really tight twisties in its 19 scenic miles from 441 to 321 at Townsend. Once again the traffic can be a spoiler, but many people enjoy the forested ride, especially in the fall. This road parallels Little River for much of its length and is rated in the top 100 scenic roads of America by Reader's Digest.

Cades Cove We advise riders to stay away from Cades Cove from May through October. Located near Townsend, Tennessee, this is truly a beautiful 11-mile loop in a hidden mountain valley, but you can walk the 11 miles as fast as you can ride it. Be prepared to spend most of the day with an over-heated machine and temper. Parsons Branch Road, half way around Cades Cove, is a one-way escape that brings you right into the middle of the Dragon, but it is 8 miles of gravel with 19 creek fords best left to the dual sports. We've seen Harleys coming out Parsons and they swear never again!

Our most recent ride through the Cove and Parson Brach was in September of 2007 CLICK HERE

We rode Cades Cove on April 5, 2001 and had a great time. Read about our experience CLICK HERE

Gatlinburg is not the best place for those who love the open road. It is crowded just about year round and the traffic creeps through town. There are lots of specialty shops and places to stay if you don't mind the masses.

Cherokee is a little better, at least as far as traffic goes. Stop and get your picture taken with a Cherokee Indian who has his hand out for a big tip or lose all your vacation stash at the casino. CLICK HERE for more information on Cherokee NC.

The Foothills Parkway links the Little River Road with the Dragon (US 321 to US129). The speed limit on this rather straight, little traveled 21-mile stretch of highway is 45 mph. It is patrolled by the U. S. Park Service. There are some great views along this road.

State Road 28 is a connector that many riders use to get to the Dragon. This road runs from US 74/19 near Bryson City, passes through Fontana, and then intersects 129 at the Crossroads of Time. The eastern section of this road is brand new (and LEO enforced) 4-lane.

This road becomes quite enjoyable after passing the SR143 intersection to Robbinsville. There are some good twisties and scenic views all the way to the Dragon. This section of 28 has been nicknamed Hellbender 28 CLICK HERE for info. Fontana Resort is fast becoming a motorcycle and sportcar destination, well suited for groups both big and small. The resort is primarily several hundred rental cottages, country store, outdoor outfitting, marina, camping area below Fontana Dam, and a gas station. A short detour to Fontana Dam is worth your while - follow the signs.

Old US 19, a 45 mile, two-lane road that takes you through Bryson City, Cherokee, and Maggie Valley to Waynesville. The road parallels the new 4-lane US 74/23. If you are not in any rush this route can be relaxing and fun. There are some great twisties between Cherokee and Maggie Valley. If you are in more of a rush stay on 4-lane US 74/23 that runs from the 19 and 28 intersection to I-40 near Waynesville.

Interstate 40 from North Carolina into Tennessee is only for the bravest. We don't even like this route in the car! The lanes are narrow, the road is winding, and it is crowded with truckers tailgating at 60 mph. We were once delayed for 6 hours when a wide load stalled in a tunnel. I-40 is often shutdown one direction or the other because of rockslides or accidents. Just avoid this route at all costs.