A sojourn into the mountains of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina, an 8+ Hour Excursion.
The Cherohala Skyway affords some of the finest mountain vistas and scenery in the eastern United States. If you would like to see the mountains without seeing lots of cars this is the trip for you. The skyway itself is 42 miles long and at some points reaches elevations of over a mile high. Fontana Dam is the highest of the TVA dams. You can take a cable car trip down to the powerhouse of the dam and see the inner workings.
Note: The second leg/return portion of this trip includes a 9-mile stretch of some of the most twisted road in America – the Tail of the Dragon. If you are prone to motion sickness be advised.
Points of interest:
- Mountain views
- Fontana Dam
- Let us pack a Whitestone Bed and Breakfast Tennessee lunch for you. Tell us at least the night before. There are no restaurants on the parkway. There are several picnic areas.
- Take water or other drinks.
- Take layers of clothing. Temperature can be 20-30 degrees cooler in higher elevations.
- Take a camera.
- Let us know your plans so we can be envious.
- Start with a bountiful Whitestone Bed and Breakfast Tennessee breakfast. Pick up your picnic basket after breakfast. Your server will have it ready for you.
- Depart the Whitestone Tennessee Bed and Breakfast by turning left onto Paint Rock Road.
- Follow Paint Rock Road to Hwy. 72 and turn left.
- Almost immediately you will come to Hwy. 322. Turn right on Hwy. 322 and follow it until you reach Interstate 75.
- Take interstate 75 South to the very next exit. This is Exit 60 and Hwy 68. Turn left on Hwy. 68 and stay on it until you reach the town of Tellico Plains. The distance is around 25 miles. You will see signs leading you to Cherohala Skyway.
- Tellico Plains is an old community, at one time a Cherokee Indian village. This area abounds with Indian history; this was once part of the Cherokee nation. There was a lot of logging in the surrounding mountains and Tellico Plains had several saw mills. Stokely Van Camps had a large farm and canning facility here.
- Begin on Hwy. 165 from Hwy. 68. You are now on the Cherohala Skyway. Soon you will see the Tellico River on your left. In a few miles you will have an option to take a side trip and see Bald River Falls. It’s worth the time.
- About four miles from the start of the Skyway you will come to a fork in the road. If you want to see the falls, take the right fork. It’s about 3 miles up the road. If you don’t want to see the falls take the left fork and stay on the skyway. (See the falls, you will be sorry if you don’t).
- *If you are at the falls. This is a good place to wade in the creek. Be Careful going down. It can be slippery. Farther up the road are a fish hatchery and more good river access. When you are through, backtrack to where you got off the Skyway and turn right. You are back on the Skyway.
- Eleven miles ahead is an area called Indian Boundary. ( Old Indian reservation boundary) There is a wonderful lake there with a sandy beach, bathhouses, a picnic area and a three-mile trail around the lake. This is a US Fee area. A nominal entry fee is charged. You probably don’t have time to take this in today. Save it for a great relaxing day out.
- From Indian Boundary you will begin gaining elevation. A short way up the road is a wonderful overlook on the right. There are restroom facilities there. Don’t use up all your film. You will have many more Kodak moments.
- Enjoy the ride ahead. There are several scenic overlooks and picnic areas. You are now approximately 8 miles from the NC border. When you cross into NC the Highway changes from 165 to 143. It’s 20 more miles to the end of the Skyway.
- The Skyway ends at Snowbird Mountain. At this point turn left on FR 416 toward Joyce Kilmer forest. This road will run into Hwy. 129 in about 10 miles. You will be passing through some spectacular forests. (In this area you are very close to the present Cherokee Indian reservation).
- Take time to stop off at Joyce Kilmer forest. Remember the poem “Trees”? This forest is dedicated to Joyce Kilmer, the author of the poem. The are some huge trees in this virgin forest area.
- As you come back out of Joyce Kilmer, turn left back onto FR 416 and follow it to Hwy. 129.
- At Hwy. 129 turn left, North.
- A short way up Hwy. 129 you will come to Tapoca Lodge. This was an old Alcoa executive retreat. Time permitting you may wish to stop here. They have a gift shop and a coffee shop (Sometimes).
- Stay on Hwy. 129 N. until you reach Hwy 28. Turn right on Hwy 28 and go 6 miles to Fontana Dam. You can view the dam from below and/or follow Hwy. 28 to the top of the dam. There is a nice display in the visitor’s center and you can take the cable car down into the dam. The Appalachian Trail crosses here across the top of the dam.
- When you leave the dam, follow Hwy. 28 back to Hwy 129. Turn right on Highway 129 and go north.
- Soon you will come to Deal’s Gap. Here starts the famous “Tail of the Dragon”. Motorcycle riders call riding this stretch of road “riding the dragon’s tail”. You can buy a T-shirt in the store at the gap extolling these virtues. Even though there is a double yellow line for the next 11,very curvy miles, the bikers will be passing you all the way.
- There will be a pull-off on your left about 9 miles from the gap. There is a stone fence/guardrail. You can stop here and look down into Calderwood Lake. These mountain lakes are very deep and cold. Lots of trout.
- Some 11 miles later you have survived the dragon. You are now down and out, (of the mountains), and are driving beside Chilhowee Lake. This lake, like others in the area, was built by Alcoa Aluminum to supply electricity to the plant in Blount County near the Knoxville Airport. TVA now operates these dams and power plants.
- Hwy. 129 veers away from the lake. Start looking for Hwy. 72. Turn left onto Hwy. 72. Follow Hwy. 72 for 8 miles until you come to Hwy. 411. (Hwy. 72 and Hwy 411 are concurrent here).
- Turn left on 411 and go south 5 miles and turn right onto Hwy. 72. Stay on Hwy. 72 West and cross I-75. From I-75 you will travel on 9 miles on Hwy. 72 to Paint Rock. Turn right on Paint Rock Road and you will be back at Whitestone.
- If you have dinner reservations with us, we will see you at 6:30.
- Tell us about your trip.