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Townsend, TN giant loop. Foothills, Dragon, Cherohala 360 Foothills and back

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Ride Stats:

  • Distance: 205.51 miles / 330.7 km
  • Ride Time: 1 day
  • Approximate Fuel Costs: $15.62
  • States Visited: Tennessee, North Carolina
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I have ridden this in about 6 hours. But sometimes it can take 7 or more. Depends on your style and bike. This figures you start in Townsend, TN and will end up back there. About 220 miles total round trip. Start out head west out of Townsend over to the Foot Hills Parkway. Take the old section west towards Highway 129. 129 follows along the shoreline of Chilhowee lake for about 8 miles, and then you start up the Tail of the Dragon. 13 miles and 318 curves later (30 minutes of the tightest and most technical twisties you will ever encounter) you will end up in Deal's Gap to stop and select your swag at the store. Continue down 129 into North Carolina, cross over the bridge right below "The Fugitive Dam" where the stunt double for Harrison Ford actually jumped out of the dam when Tommy Lee Johns said "I don't care". Stop at Stecoah Gap Lodge for a great lunch on the veranda along the Cheoah river bank. Continue south on 129 for another 8 miles of bliss in a legal 55 MPH section of great sweepers. Turn at the Forestry (paved and recently improved pavement) called Joyce Kilmer. follow it about 6 miles along the southern shoreline of Lake Santeetlah to the Virgin Old Growth forest (and a short one mile hiking opportunity) at Joyce Kilmer. Primitive camping is allowed along that road for those adventurous folks. Pit toilets are there for those needing some. Continue through Joyce Kilmer and you will come out on the Cherohala Skyway. You haven't missed any of the good parts of Cherohala at this point, but saved about 30 minutes of going all the way into Robbinsville to get on at the beginning. Turn right and head up hwy 143 (Cherohala in NC) to over 5,000 feet in elevation. head back down once in Tennessee on hwy 165 (still the Cherohala) Be sure you have plenty of gas because there is nothing along the 55 miles stretch of the Cherohala. Speed limit is 45 in NC and 40 in TN. Curves and sweepers, with a few twisties thrown in. Pavement is very good right now (new asphalt on NC side 2019) There are a couple spirals (reducing radii) curves so be careful. They are clearly marked with flashing lights. Awesome views and pulloffs for pics are along the 55 mph long Skyway. Just before Tellico Plains you will pass a Harley Swag shop to collect shirts, stamps or pins. And then just past that is highway 360 off to the right. Might want to go into town for gas and a break or eats. Head north on 360. about 9 miles up the road route 360 turns off to the right while the pavement continues straight. Look for an empty white building used to be a grocery/gas stop on the left right across from where you need to turn. it is important to turn where marked or else you will loop back around. If you come upon Tellico Baptist Church, you missed the turn about 3 miles back. Very poor way of doing things, but it is what it is. Continue north on 360 and you will cross Lake a couple time. When you come to a "T" intersection turn left and continue on 360. You will ride along and cross the lake again a couple times. Great scenery. When you come to a traffic signal at a "T" intersection. that is Hwy US 411. You have come about 25 miles total on hwy 360. Turn right (there is a gas station on the corner if you need some). Continue on 411 about 4 or 5 miles to Hwy 72 on your right, just past a truck weigh station (after you cross the lake on a big bridge). turn right onto 72. follow it about 10 miles, part of it good sweepers, part of it pretty but straight. You will come to a "T" intersection with Hwy 129. Turn right onto it. About a 4 mile section of nice gentle twisties and then it opens out to follow the shoreline along the Chilhowee (lower) lake. Follow this about 8 to 10 miles. You will pass a Harley Swag shop if you need to add to your stamp or pin collection. You will come to the bottom of the Foothills Parkway that you started on in the morning. You can take it back, which is a great ride (entirely different than coming as the downhills are now uphlls and vice versa), Or you can take, as I have highlighted, Happy Valley Road. That section is paved, but can very often have gravel washed down onto it from driveways and rain storms, so be careful along it. Happy Valley comes back into the Foothills at about the halfway point near Look Rock. Continue east on Foothills. When you come down to the end of this first (18 miles) section of the foothills, you can get off and follow 33 back to Townsend, the opposite of what you ride in the morning. Or you can continue on the new section (opened 2019) of the Foothills for another 14 miles over to Wear's Valley. I have included this in the route. Foothills ends there. Exit off the clover leaf and you will turn left onto hwy 321 to follow it back to Townsend (Note, they may have opened an off ramp from the foothills by now instead of making you take the clover leaf. If so, turn right at the end of that ramp onto 321).

If you do the legal speed limits and make one stop for Deal's Gap and one more stop to rest and gas, you can do this in about 6 1/2 hours. I live in Knoxville and ride this a lot. My favorite ride in the US and I have been all over. The Foothills climbs in elevation for great views of the Smokies. You are immersed in the mountains. The Foothills rides the ridge
allowing great views on both sides. Make sure your pillon passenger has a camera at the ready. I have seen bear, wild boar, turkey, deer, Elk, groundhogs, Red Tail Hawks, Bald Eagles several times on several of these roads. Traffic is light to moderate (light during weekdays, moderate on weekends). Avoid the Dragon on weekends if you can. If not just take it easy and be careful of oncoming traffic crossing the double yellow. It is crowded and car clubs can bunch up traffic, along with the police details positioned along the way to issue MAJOR tickets especially to out of towners. Make sure your helmet has DOT approval and insurance card is at the ready. They issue multiple tickets for any stop. Even for NON-DOT approved glasses if you don't have a visor. They will haul away your bike on their trailer if you go more than 15 over the posted 30 MPH on the dragon.

All these roads are paved. The Joyce Kilmer is paved but is the roughest, with potholes filled with cold patch. Take rain jacket. In the mountains it is not unusual for a local isolated thunderstorm to pop up in the mid to late afternoon. Riding this in October is amazing with the Fall colors, but that is also the most crowded time. Spring time such as the end of May can be the best. Mountain laurel is in bloom, along with late azaleas and other spring blooming. and Schools aren't out yet so RV's haven't hit the roads yet. April is really the best with Dogwoods and Pear trees blooming, but temps can be fickle and sometimes storms can leave black ice on the morning rides or shady spots.

This is a motorcycle ride in the states Tennessee, North Carolina. This motorcycle route has 8 scenery characteristics and other road conditions to help you plan your road trip. This motorcycle map was created by rtcoker in June. Click here to see other Motorcycle Roads by rtcoker

Rider Photos:

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Ride Scenery:

Historic SitesParksFall ColorsLakesForestMountainsRuralRiver

Best Time to Go

Spring, Summer, Fall

Road Characteristics:

Sweeping Curves RoadTwisty RoadHillyLight TrafficSmoothAdequate Gas StationsAdequate

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Previous Comments from other Riders:

rtcoker says:

If you are staying in Pigeon Forge, just take 321 to Wear's Valley and jump on the Foothills there. Skip Townsend, unless you want to visit it or eat/gas stop there. The rest of the route is perfect for Pigeon Forge/Sevierville guests/riders

Sat Jun 29, 2019 at 4:47 PM


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