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Appalachian Rides

Cherohala/Dragon Loop

 


 

This 139 mile Ride begins and ends at the Fontana Village Resort in Fontana Dam, NC.

 


Ride Map

 

This ride is one of the classic loops for riders visiting the Smoky Mountains. Either direction is great depending on whether you want to hit the Dragon or the Cherohala first.

Start by riding NC 28 east and then turning right onto NC Route 143 and following it to Robbinsville. Enter the Nantahala National Forest, pass Santeetlah Lake, and start climbing the Cherohala Skyway. The Cherohala is similar to the best of the Blue Ridge Parkway (high elevation, scenic vistas, some nice curves.)

 


Cherohala Skyway Sign

 


Cherohala Skyway

 

Stop for a break and good food at Tellico Grains in Tellico Plains, TN.

Get back on the bike for a relaxed and scenic ride north on TN Route 360 to Vonore and Maryville. Turn right on TN 72 and follow it and Route 129 to the Dragon.

Stop just before the Dragon at the Calderwood Dam Scenic Overlook to admire the view.

 


Calderwood Dam Scenic Overlook

 

The Dragon (TN 129) can be a lot of fun to ride with a few caveats:

1) Try to ride it early in the day when it is not crowded. Weekdays are best. Busy weekends can get crowded and frustrating.

2) Prepare your mind for blind decreasing radius turns. Never charge into a corner. A GPS can be a huge help reading curves, but do not rely on it.

3) Watch for people straying over the centerline. Prepare for it. Do not hug the center line.

4) Watch for speed traps. Consider riding the Dragon in one direction to make sure that it is not being heavily enforced. You can then ride in the opposite direction without distraction.

Ridden with the proper mindset and the Dragon can be a blast. I rode it 10 times on my last trip.

 


 

Dragon Map (labeled)

 


Riding the Dragon

 

After riding the Dragon, stop at the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort and pick up souvenirs and see the Tree of Shame. Go across the street to see the Dragon Statues and peruse more Dragon souvenirs.

 


Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort

 


Tree of Shame

 


Dragon Tail Statue

 


Dragon Statue

 

Leave the Dragon and ride east on North Carolina Route 28 through Nantahala National Forest. NC 28 from the Dragon to Route 143 in Robbinsville might be my favorite road in the Appalachians. The curves are plentiful with good sight lines.



NC Route 28

 

The route ends back at the Fontana Village Resort.