Cherohala Skyway Scenic Byway, Tennessee & North Carolina

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The Cherohala Skyway gives you the chance to enjoy a drive through the Smoky Mountains, without enduring the throngs of tourists that crowd into the nearby National Park.  Since the Skyway is relatively undiscovered, you’ll probably feel like you have the road to yourself.

The Cherohala Skyway runs from Tellico Plains, Tennessee to Robbinsville, North Carolina, just south of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  In Tennessee, look for Rte. 165, in North Carolina, Rte. 143.

Before starting down the Skyway, stop for gas in Tellico Plains (there are no services available along the skyway).  While there, pick up a copy of the Skyway News, published by the Monroe County Advocate & Democrat paper.  The articles and map will help you decide on the best places to stop, hike, or picnic.

The skyway starts out along the Tellico River.  There are several viewpoints along the road.  If you have time, you can also turn onto Forest Road 210, to see Bald River Falls, although that detour will take at least an extra half hour.

The road quickly climbs into the mountains.  Tellico Plains is about 900 feet above sea level, so by the time you cross over into North Carolina…

… you’ve gained more than 3/4 of a mile in elevation.  The Unicoi Crest viewpoint is just beyond the state line.

Santeetlah is the highest point along the Cherohala Skyway, at 5,377 feet.  There’s a picnic table at this stop, but not much else.  Continue on up the road…

… to the next trailhead, where a 1/4 mile hike leads to Hooper Bald, and some great views.  I skipped that hike, and instead chose to stop at Spirit Ridge…

… where a 3/10 mile paved path leads through the dense forest…

… to a viewpoint that overlooks the Skyway.  This is an easy and quick trail to explore, and it’s handicapped accessible.

There are several more places to stop along the Skyway as you descend towards Robbinsville, North Carolina, including a side road that leads into the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.

Note: This trip was first published in 2006.

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