Cherohala Skyway (Tennessee) Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

3.9
FIETS
23.7 mi
DISTANCE
5,453 ft
GAINED
3 %
AVG. GRADE

FULL CLIMB STATS

INTRO

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.  This is more a scenic adventure than a standard bike climb, as it is along one of the great scenic byways of the US. 
Average grade is 3% but jumps to 6.1% if we eliminate seven miles of descent from the gradient equation. 39% of the ride is descent, 34% is at 0-5% grade, and 23% is at 5-10%. 

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Roadway:  Two lane scenic byway in excellent condition.

Traffic:  Mild to moderate. 

Parking:  Park at the Cherohala Parkway Visitor Center in Tellico Plains at the beginning of the ride - MapStreet View
Provisions:  None on this long route.  There are plenty of places to eat and get food and beverages in Tellico Plains at the start of the ride. 
Before heading out on any cycling adventure check out our Things to Bring on a Cycling Trip and use our interactive check list to ensure you don't forget anything.
Consider doing this at an out-and-back ride - 81 miles and 11,240' of climbing - Map

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CLIMB SUMMARY

Cycling Cherohala Skyway, Tennessee - bike parked in front of NPS sign for Cherokee National Forest

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.)

Cycling Cherohala Skyway, Tennessee - sign for Cherohala Skyway Visitor's Center

Ride start

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.”

Cycling Cherohala Skyway, Tennessee - photo collage, PJAMM Cycling jersey draped over sign for Cherokee fall colors, sign for lake view overlook, National Forest, bike parked on roadside surrounded in PJAMM Cycling logo in corner

There are some tough segments on this ride -

Five miles beginning at mile 13.9 with a 7.2% average grade.

Cycling Cherohala Skyway, Tennessee - photo collage, bike parked on bridge over Laurel Branch, looking down over fall foliage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner

Bridge over Laurel Branch at mile 21.3.

Cycling Cherohala Skyway, Tennessee - bike parked against tall rock wall on roadside

Rock wall at mile 19.2 just before one mile -7.4% descent.

OVERLOOKS AND VIEWPOINTS

Cycling Cherohala Skyway, Tennessee - Oosterneck Overlook

Oosterneck Overlook, Mile 4.7.

Cycling Cherohala Skyway, Tennessee - bike parked next to informational signs at overlook

Mile 5.8

Cycling Cherohala Skyway, Tennessee - panoramic views overlooking dense forestation

Mile 15.8

Cycling Cherohala Skyway, Tennessee - bike parked next to informational signs at overlook looking over dense forestation and bright green lawn space

Mile 21

Cycling Cherohala Skyway, Tennessee - informational signs at overlook with dense fall foliage

Mile 22.4

Cycling Cherohala Skyway, Tennessee - informational signs at overlook with dense fall foliage

Mile 18.2

FINISH

Cycling Cherohala Skyway, Tennessee - photo collage, bike parked at road sign for North Carolina State line, NPS Sign for Cherokee National Forest, fall foliage, PJAMM Cycling logo in corner