Cherokee to Smokey Mountains


5 of 1 votes

Ok, we’re at the south end of the Blue Ridge Parkway and our adventure begins. We’ll head west on 441 to the Smokey Mountain National Forest which is the most visited National Park in the United States. There’s a visitor’s center that has a farm, snack bar, store, and nature trails. Further west and the scenery opens up into some dramatic overlooks and outcroppings. Near the top is a side road that takes you to Klingmans Dome which is the highest peak in the Smokeys. There’s an observation tower there where after a healthy hike you can see all the way to Knoxville with 360 degree views of 80 or more miles. There’s a store and restrooms and a section of the Appalachian Trail. As you travel back to 441 there are many trails and sights to see. You could spend a lot of time here but moving on down the mountain is one of the biggest tourist “traps” in the east, Gatlinburg. Cheap hotels and many blocks of restaurants, shops, and attractions could fill a whole day. I’m no aristocrat but I swear every redneck in 10 states comes here to vacation. I’ve stayed here a couple of times and even the best hotels are suspect. Food is good if you like yours fried. The one thing I will say is there is good entertainment from street musicians.
Moving out of Gatlinburg to Pidgeon Forge and on to 341 south over to Townsend. There’s a BBQ place right on the river that has really good food. Don’t miss it. Traveling west to the Foothills Parkway where you head west over the mountain to 129. You know what 129 is? Yep, it’s the famed Dragon or Tail of the Dragon. 11 miles 318 turns of wild but safe fun. Starting from this end just know that there is a 35mph limit but almost nobody adheres. But, be careful because the cops do patrol and are mindful of vacationers but do not put up with speeders. Once you enter the Dragon notice there are pull offs so if someone comes up on you it is courteous to let them by and hopefully others will do the same. It’s an adventure but should not be fear inducing as long as you are careful and watch your speed. When in doubt push down. There are also lots of camera contractors that take your picture as you ride so be aware but do not concentrate on them. You can go to their websites to find and purchase your pictures. At the end of the 11 miles is a store, with gas, restaurant, and motel, and picture taking opportunities. Pics can be taken with the big sign that says “Tail of the Dragon”. It’s a great keepsake as well as a bragging right. There’s also the “Tree of Shame” that has parts strung on it from all the wrecked motorcycles thru the years. Take a pic but hopefully don’t add to it. Every real motorcyclist should do the Dragon at least once. Here lately I’ve gone twice a year. There’s lots to watch and see. Sometimes in the summer there will be several hundred bikes and the people watching is awesome. Get a Dragon sticker for your bike and a t-shirt. I could sit in the parking lot for hours just watching the serious riders taking off, up the hill to Slay the Dragon. It’s a real blast.
Next time we’ll head out Rt. 28 to Waynesville and the Wheels thru time.
Until then,

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