Cycling Cherohala Skyway from the Tennessee side
Ride 23.6 miles gaining 5,345’ at 3% average grade.
This is a beautiful ride along the lines of Shenandoah National Park/Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway. The climb begins at the Visitor Center in Tellico Plains, Tennessee (pop. ~909, elevation 876’). The climb is in the Green Mountains subrange of the Blue Ridge Mountains/Appalachian Mountains.
“The west side of Cherohala Skyway is an interesting and isolated ascent. Quite shallow, long and with multiple, short descents (14) it cuts through scenic forest toward North Carolina. Never steep, the route goes gradually up through thick woods over most of its lower sections. There are stretches of solid grade between flats or mostly small descents. Closer to the summit views appear as the trees thin. After 18.6 miles you enter North Carolina at Beech Gap where you find a flat/descent and a more alpine feel. Soon climbing resumes over fairly shallow grade and you continue to climb/descend/climb until you reach Santeetlah, a marked top (small parking area on left with elevation 5,377 feet). There is a slightly higher part of the road but it involves leaving the main road. This is a long hill so go prepared.” (This quote provided with the approval of John Summerson from his book The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike), 2nd Edition, pg. 117.)
Photo: Monroe County Tourism
Monroe County Tourism writes of the Cherohala Skyway National Scenic Byway:
“The Cherohala Skyway was opened and dedicated in 1996. The road has been designated a National Scenic Byway. The road cost over 100 million dollars to construct. The Cherohala Skyway crosses through the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee and the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina. The name “Cherohala” comes from the names of the two National Forests: “Chero” from the Cherokee and “hala” from the Nantahala. The Cherohala Skyway is located in southeast Tennessee and southwest North Carolina. The Skyway connects Tellico Plains, Tennessee, with Robbinsville, North Carolina, and is about 40+ miles long. The Cherohala Skyway is a wide, paved 2-laned road maintained by the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The elevations range from 900 feet above sea level at the Tellico River in Tennessee to over 5400 feet above sea level at the Tennessee-North Carolina state line at Haw Knob.”
There are some tough segments on this ride -
Five miles beginning at mile 13.9 with a 7.2% average grade.
Bridge over Laurel Branch at mile 21.3.
Rock wall at mile 19.2 just before one mile -7.4% descent.
OVERLOOKS AND VIEWPOINTS
Oosterneck Overlook, Mile 4.7.