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Home » Remarkable Drives

Gliding A Mile High On Cherohala Skyway

Posted on November 6, 2009 | Remarkable DrivesNo Comment

Cherohala Skyway, Tennessee and North Carolina

A journey 42 miles entwining and 1 mile above the sea level skyway starts right from voyaging Tennessee through the border of North Carolina till the top of Great Smoky Mountains. The beautiful trail edges with the Tellico Plains followed by the remarkable woods of evergreens and hardwoods making its way to Robbinsville in North Carolina.


The Skyway of Cherohala serves as a bridge between two petite towns and moves through a of mile ascending track from the Unicoi Mountains. Skyway Cherohala is the most expensive boulevard in North Carolina and was termed as ‘National Scenic Byway’ immediately after its opening in 1996. $100 million and three decades were spent to built this imminent man made wonder of the world. The drive along this skyway can be completed within a short time of three hours, but the sites viewable from this route are worth stopping your car for some more hours as this path was actually constructed for sightseeing. The panorama of flora, natural waterfalls and sturdy mountains can be seen from the route that rubs against the four mountains of above 5,000 feet in height, and nine more mountains of over 4,000 feet of altitude. Elevating to the fresh air of Smoky Mountains, the Cherohala skyway starts mounting of from around 930-feet near Tellico Plains till 5,390 feet towards the top spot of the road which brings you at Santeetlah Overlook. Most of the acending route starts after a 10-mile horizontal path from Tennessee, North Carollina.

cherohala skyway

Begin from Tellico Plains

Tellico Plains is an ideal place to start your gliding trip. Get some more information about the route and sites by stopping at the nearby Cherohala Skyway Visitor Center which will help you with a tour map. Also, don’t forget to fill your containers and gas tank as there are no restaurants or gas stations throughout this route.

Like Hiking? Halt at Cherokee National Forest

Along the way, you will come across the only national forest present in Tennessee, Cherokee National forest. This is a place filled with enormous recreational activities along with hiking tracks of over 600 miles which also includes part of the well known Appalachian national Scenic Trail. The national park serves as a sanctuary to wildlife and is conserving flora and fauna of over 154 types of fishes, 262 types of birds, 55 types of reptiles and amphibians, and 43 types of mammals since 1911.

Cherokee National Forest

Bald River Falls

The straight pathway starting from Tellico Plains is a journey of gorgeous sights making its way through varied forests. This part of Tellico attracts a number of tourists, adventurers and fishermen. After driving 5 miles on the same path, a diversion of another 6 miles through straight 210 will drop you very close to Bald River Falls of 100-foot. This falls and the nearby hiking trails is an ideal spot for picnic and camps. Make sure you park your car at the campsite that is less than a mile away from this site, as parking at Bald River falls is restricted.

Camping at Indian Boundary Campgaurd

The landscape becomes more and more beautiful after every mile of road driven by you on the Cty. Road 165. Take a turn towards the Indian Boundary Campground of Cherokee national Forest, which is around thirteen miles away from Tellico Plains. The campground is suitable for camping as it offers variety of hiking, camping, and views from traditional houses to modernistic bathhouses.

Adventure at Nantahala National Forest

Very close to Indian Boundary Campground is the route N.C. 143 from where you drive towards Nantahala National Forest. This is yet another spot rich in recreational activities and at the right time after you tiring journey. It offers fishing, camping, hiking, rafting through the waves of Nantahala River, and relaxation. Many other types of water activities are made available by Commercial outfitters under their guidance.

Peek down from Santeetlah Overlook

The elevating route offers some splendid views from high above the ground; one of them is the vista of great Smokies. Driving some more miles will take you to the peak point of Santeetlah Overlook which is 5,390 feet above the sea level. This is the best picnic spot among all others and the view from the top is quite unique. You can watch the stretching mountains and forests of about seven miles till the state line of Tennessee. Wonderful sights of Slickrock, Joyce Kilmer forests, Appalachian Mountains, and Snowbird are worth capturing in your cameras.

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

Now, start your descending journey from Shute Cove which is at the altitude of 3,550 feet followed by the Hooper Cove at 3,100 feet. This route takes you to N.C. 134 for a side trip of two miles to enter the Joyce Kilmer National Forest. Although each site mentioned above are well known, the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is the most famous site on this skyway. The beautiful engineering of woods along with calmness brought by the winds brushing though forests revitalizes your body. Rich with distinct variety of trees, this forest also embraces some trees of hemlock and poplar as old as 400 years.

Joyce Kilmer Forest

Road Kit

Natural beauty of the route throughout Skyway is best observed in spring and fall. Carry your necessities along with you as the trip does not offer much of shopping options. Forest Service Campground is the only service available in this area.

Nantahala National Forest
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