Oct 13 2008
10:13 am

Cherohala Skyway

Fall colors are just about peaking above 4000 ft. on the Cherohala Skyway. This week and next should be pretty good times for viewing.

Here's a recommended daytrip loop. Take US411 to Madisonville, then TN68 to Tellico Plains and get on the TN165 Cherohala Skyway. Make a detour to Indian Boundary Recreation Area where there are campgrounds, a picnic area, and a 3.5 mile easy trail along the edge of the 95 acre lake. Then go back to TN165 into NC and take a left on Santeetlah Rd., a right on Joyce Kilmer through the Joyce Kilmer Forest, follow the signs to US129, and head back across the "Dragon" to US411.

It's about 125 miles of beautiful scenery and river roads with lots of hiking trails and things to see. And it's not as crowded as the popular Smoky Mountain destinations. Here are a few photos from along the route.

redmondkr's picture

Thanks for the

Thanks for the recommendation and thanks especially for the full-screen slide show. It's beautiful.

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Mr. McBeavy's picture

Great pics. Just curious,

Great pics.

Just curious, which dam is that in your slide show?

R. Neal's picture

That's Santeetlah Dam. Had

That's Santeetlah Dam. Had to walk back off the road a ways to a rafting outfitter put-in and then some more around a not very secure fence to the base of the dam for these photos.

It was the second Tapoco dam, built in 1928, and its age is showing (you can see a leak in one photo). It doesn't have turbines. Water from the impoundment runs down the mountain through a giant pipe to a powerhouse on Cheoah.

More info:


On this drive you go by Santeetlah, Cheoah, and Chilhowee dams, and you can see Caulderwood from an overlook on US129.

fletch's picture

Wow. I'm headed that way

Wow. I'm headed that way next week. Hope I'm not too late.

Brian A.'s picture

Nice pictures. A great

Nice pictures. A great route to ride, by auto, motorcycle, or bicycle.

Why have I not done so?

Brian A.
I'd rather be cycling.

R. Neal's picture

Why have I not done

Why have I not done so?

Thought you had? I'm not sure I had ever even heard of Cherohala Skyway until your reports on bicycling it.

Or did you mean the shortcut back to 129 along Santeetlah? Our GPS recommended it.

We were skeptical at first. It thinks the road to Abrams Creek Campground continues on and comes out in Cades Cove.

Brian A.'s picture

I meant, why have I not been

I meant, why have I not been out there this fall? I've thought of journeying to Tellico Plains, but haven't done it.

How far is that dam from 129? The Cherohala Challenge bicycle ride route turns off 129 on Joyce Kilmer road. You can catch a glimpse of a dam along the way (I assume it's that dam) but I get a bit disoriented in that area and am not sure where it is in relationship to everything else.

Brian A.
I'd rather be cycling.

R. Neal's picture

Yes, same dam, same road.

Yes, same dam, same road. The road runs along the lake for a while and near the end you get a glimpse of the dam thru the woods to the right if you're coming from Cherohala.

A little further just before you get to the bridge over Cheoah River (if I remember right) there's a gravel road with an iron gate that's locked. You can see the top of the dam from the there. We parked there and walked down the gravel road and on further to the base of the dam. There's a real nice raft/canoe launch there, looks pretty new.

From that spot it's maybe 8 or 10 more miles along the Cheoah River (?) to 129. My GPS called it Tapoco Rd., not sure what the number is. It goes by the Tapoco Lodge and comes out on 129 at Deals Gap.

EDIT: Man, I was just looking at the Google map trying to figure out where we were and I'm lost. It's very confusing in there.

Brian A.'s picture

Yes, I've ridden that

Yes, I've ridden that stretch by Santeetlah Lake four times and I'm still confused when I try to trace the route on Google Maps. I'm not sure if it's me, the Google map, or both.

It doesn't help that there are hardly any road signs in that area. You feel like you are literally in the middle of nowhere.

Brian A.
I'd rather be cycling.

jmcnair's picture


If you're not tired by then I'd suggest a final segment up Foothills Parkway from 129 at Chilhowee Lake (or what's left of it) to 73/321 near Walland. I took the moms on that drive Saturday and it was glorious.

R. Neal's picture

a final segment up Foothills

a final segment up Foothills Parkway

Yes, if you get an earlier start than we did that would be a great finish.

McFall's picture


Just look at that Tennessee beauty.

There is a God, people. Something that beautiful and intricately perpetual cannot be an accident.

Thanx for the pics.
I have no pics, but the drive down 19E from Bristol toward Roan Mt. is pretty impressive as well. I highly recommend it to anyone who might be in this area.

Stan G's picture

Hiked to Looking Glass Rock

Hiked to Looking Glass Rock in the Pisgah National Forest yesterday. The colors on the south facing slopes are just beginning to change. The air was clear, however, and the view spectacular. I suspect the folks across the valley riding along the Blue Ridge Parkway enjoyed views similar to yours.

gttim's picture

I may have to go drive this

I may have to go drive this road this weekend. I would rather cycle it, but doubt I could get my friends up there.

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