Wayah Road, oh, Wayah Road.
Deals Gap. Cherohala Skyway. They're all great roads - but, right now I want to find something for myself, a road where I can disconnect and not worry about the guy coming around the corner or up my rear. Something with switchbacks so tight that I can see my reflection in my tail lights. Elevation changes, great scenery, I want it all.
Wayah Road, are you that hidden jewel I'm searching for?
Often overshadowed by it's bigger brothers The Dragon, Hellbender 28, and Cherohala Skyway, Wayah Road is seldom written about or highlighted in the motorcycle route books or websites for this region. I like it that way. Lets just keep this one between you and me, ok?
This road is delightful if you're a fan of the backroad thrill. The thrill of riding unencumbered, alone, and no care's in the world. The reason so many of us started motorcycling.
The road is one of those up and over kind, up and over the mountain and then back down. Snaking it's way for 28 miles between Old Murphy Road near Franklin, NC and US19/74 at the Nantahala River Put-In, this road is just good old fashion fun.
Hidden from the sun, deep under the protective cover of a mature forest, you'll feel like you're riding through the movie set of Lord of the Rings. Only the babble of the Wayah Creek will be there to keep you company in this fairy tale environment.
Looking to test how much rubber you can rub off the outside edges of your tires? Wayah Rd will help you do that with an incredible amount of twisties and outstanding switchbacks.
When I say switchbacks, I don't mean some lame mile long switchback that by time you're halfway through it you forget that you're turning. No, my friend. I mean the kind of switchback that'll twist your helmet back on as you look through the turn. Some of them are so tight that even the warning signs get confused - check out the picture below.
And don't worry, if you like the thrill of riding downhill or if you like the grunt of a bike as it pushes up hill you'll get what you want riding in either direction. Elevation changes are in no short supply on this road. Ride the road as an out and back to see what both sides of the mountain have to offer.
As you get to the northern end of this road, the forest opens up to the blue sky and reveals Aquone Lake. There aren't many opportunities to pull off and enjoy this body of water though, so expect to just take in the sites as you roll on through.
Looking for some water with a little more 'movement'? Wayah Rd delivers again. North of Aquone Lake the road runs along side Nantahala River. Take a minute to pull over and watch the kayakers go by.
Before riding this road, you'll want to make note of the fact that there is a decent amount of gravel on it. Most of the time it's easy to pick a clear line through it, but be aware that gravel does exist. Also, since it is in the middle of forest and not heavily traveled I did pass a few substantial branches in the road.
After riding this stretch of excitement, keep in mind you're surrounded by incredible roads- just pick any direction. If you're headed north, pick up 129 and head north to Slay the Dragon, or motor east on 74 and ride Hellbender 28. Southbound you say? No problems, head up the road to Franklin and pickup NC 28 north, in my opinion the best section of 28 is between Franklin and 74.
This road is truly one of those hidden jewels. And in an area that is a true motorcycle mecca, it's tough to find any road that gives you that back road thrill. If you're looking for twisties, elevation changes, solitude, and just plain old fun point your front wheel towards Wayah Rd. Just do me a favor, and try not to tell everyone about it after you're done riding.
Things to Consider
The northern side is slightly more crowded, and has more gravel due to the large amount of residential construction going on.
Gravel. There is some on this road, be aware that it's there and you'll enjoy the ride that much more.
Since most of this road is through heavily forest, you can get some moisture on the road unexpectedly. Especially early in the morning.
The climate of the North Carolina mountains is temperate with moderately cold winters and warm, humid summers. Precipitation is fairly well distributed throughout the year; there are no wet or dry seasons. October has the least rainfall, July the most. Snowfall is quite variable from year to year, and some winters have relatively little. Thunderstorms occur most frequently in spring and summer but can occur in any month.
Nearby Things To See
WAYAH CREEK: Wayah Road parallels much of the 6-mile stream. The creek is a good fishing stream, but most of the streamside is private land and is posted 'no trespassing.' Along Wayah Creek is the Arrowood Glade Picnic Area. Wayah Crest Picnic Area is at Wayah Gap
WAYAH BALD: A side trip to Wayah Bald is well worth the effort. This vantage point is 5,342 feet in elevation. From Wayah Gap, journey 1.3 miles up gravel Forest Road 69 and see the Wilson Lick Ranger Station. Built about 1913, Wilson Lick was the first ranger station in the Nantahala National Forest. Continue another 3.2 miles up Forest Road 69 to Wayah Bald. Take the short paved trail to the historic Wayah Bald Fire Tower. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's, on a clear day, you can see north to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and south into Georgia and South Carolina. You can picnic nearby at the Wayah Bald Picnic Area. The bald is known for its outstanding display of azaleas in June. Two long-distance trails, the Appalachian Trail and the Bartram Trail, cross the mountain at the tower.
NANTAHALA LAKE: This lake has 29 miles of shoreline and offers fishing and boating.
NANTAHALA RIVER: This mountain river offers great trout fishing in its upper and lower reaches. The stretch of river above the powerhouse has excellent catch-and-release fishing from spring until early summer.
This is a motorcycle ride in the state of North Carolina. This motorcycle route has 7 scenery characteristics and other road conditions to help you plan your road trip. This motorcycle map was created by OpenRoadRider in July. Click here to see other Motorcycle Roads by OpenRoadRider
I called it the "Dragon's Cousin", in a previous listing, because it is near, yet not so popular. The only reason I gave it only 4 stars was because of the gravel or debris you might encounter. Yet every time I ride up that way from florida, I make it across wayah road at least in one direction.
Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 9:10 AM
My group rode this road on 2007. It is truly a quite ride threw all of the different changes a mountain road can give, less the traffic.
Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 9:09 AM
We just returned from the Smokies and I have to say that this is an EXCELLENT run. Took about an hour or so to ride it with 4 other bikes but with all the uphill and downhill twists and turns and doing it at 7:45AM with the sun rays peeking through the trees, it was an awesome experience.
Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 9:09 AM