Cherohala Skyway – TN & NC

White trees

On Tuesday, I had a whole day to explore – rare for me on weekdays due to client work necessary to keep the gas tank filled.  I have seen so many gorgeous places more than once, but today I felt the need to be on a scenic road I’d never been on before – that’s always a thrill for me.  Friends have told me since I’ve been here not to miss the Cherohala Skyway, but I’d just never done that before since it was farther away and I knew I’d need all day.  Not being an early morning riser, I didn’t leave until 11:00, so was thankful for the longer daylight hours now.

The name Cherohala comes from combining the two forests you pass through – Cherokee and Natahala.  Trees and mountains – two of my very favorite beings!  It’s 40 miles of pure bliss and the Skyway designation is appropriate since so often you’re looking down upon the hazy blue mountains!

I entered from Tellico Plains, and shortly came to the sign directing to the Ranger station.  There I learned about nearby Bald River Falls where you could view the falls without leaving your car.

Forest Road 210

It’s a little over five miles down this Forest Service Road 210.  Most trees are still bare, but the blooming redbuds alongside the river were most welcome companions.

Bald River Falls

This is seen from the bridge you can drive over, but of course I couldn’t resist getting out and walking across.  I could feel the mist from the plentiful water flow that day and it was so refreshing on this just-right spring day.

Bald River Falls 2

To the right of the main falls were these magical slimmer falls.  I could have stayed here all day, but since I had just started, I reluctantly left to get back on the Skyway.

Cherohala Skyway road scene 1

Breathtaking vistas around every turn!

redbud - mountains

Redbuds were nice frames for the mountains here, too.

distant mountains

After crossing from Tennessee into North Carolina, I loved this changing light scene and could appreciate this season of sparse leaves on the trees which afforded more unobstructed views of the distant mountains.

Cherohala Skyway - NC

There are numerous pull-offs where you can stop and enjoy the views or have a picnic.  I appreciated the view through white budding trees, too.

To get to my homestretch via Hwy. 129 (Tail of the Dragon) with its 318 curves in 11 miles, I turned off on Joyce Kilmer Road:

Joyce Kilmer Road

Another perfectly gorgeous drive hugging the serene Santeelah Lake.

Santeelah Dam

Again, due to the almost bare trees, I caught glimpses of  Santeelah Dam.

Tapoco Lodge

I passed by historic Tapoco Lodge and thought this might be one place to make me give up the comforts of my own rolling home to stay there for a night or two.

Hwy 129

Here you can see the road around one of the extreme curves on the Tail of the Dragon.  A marvelous drive with even more scenic vistas around every curve!

Hwy 129 trees

Thankfully, there are small pull-offs along the road where you can catch your breath and this day I was treated to redbuds and dogwoods alongside one.

Hwy 129 mountain view

Still thankful for bare trees affording views of my beloved mountains.

Hwy 129 mountain lake

Almost to Foothills Parkway and almost home, this was one of my favorite views – colorful trees, water and mountains – it doesn’t get much better than this!

Hwy 129 sunset

The light was fading beautifully and I was pretty tired with an extreme case of sensory overload by this time.  It took me eight hours to drive 170 miles through two states, but I was one happy camper!

Foothills Parkway

After turning off onto Foothills Parkway and the last leg home, I was happy to see it was celebrating spring as well!

What a perfectly exhilarating day exploring the wonders of this glorious area – one of those days I was happy to be alive, blessed with eyesight and especially thankful for my wandering RVing lifestyle!

  • Cheryl J. Cox

    Beautiful photos of Spring life! Thanks for sharing!

    • Sharing spring is only fitting after the long, cruel winter we had! But I stuck it out exactly because I knew this was coming. 🙂

  • Colleen Phipps

    Glad to see you blogging again. The photos in the recent posts are wonderful. Love all the pink flowers. Glad you are enjoying it there because you are missing out on a great bluebonnet year here.

    • Thanks Colleen – I’m putting more effort into doing actual posts instead of taking the easier way out by just posting to Facebook. 🙂 I’ve seen some gorgeous pictures of the bluebonnets and I’m happy to see them that way, but I must admit, spring in the Smokies is not making me homesick for Texas yet. This is a new experience for me and I always love those!