A couple of weeks ago, I took a day and rode up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. As you know, it is one of my favorite places to ride, being only 55 miles from home at its closest point. Here is my report of the scenery. Look at the end of the post for my guess on the best time to visit for fall colors.
I ride up US-178 to Rosman, NC, then further north on NC-215 to the Parkway entrance. The sun dapples on the pavement and riding into the sun in places make it difficult to judge the curves and road surface, so I take it easy. Once the sun rises a bit, that problem will go away, though by that time, I will be on the Parkway.
|Almost to the Parkway entrance on NC-215.|
That's Bucky and his GoPro in the bottom, left.
|The Parkway entrance is just beyond that overpass.|
|I follow these two guys for a while.|
|Some reds are showing amongst the yellow and green.|
|You have to be careful of bicycles in the tunnels.|
I pass the highest point on the Parkway, then go in several more miles and turn to go up to the parking lot at Waterrock Knob. I take in the view and the colors here.
|A nice mixture of colors -- about the best along here so far.|
I continue on the Parkway and discover a spur that I don't know about. It is at milepost 458, about 13 miles from the south end of the Parkway, and leads to an entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. That paved road goes to the Heintooga Overlook. I found out later, and I wish I had know about it when I was there. Consequently, I didn't go that far. (See the maps later on.)
Heintooga Overlook.The road is also known as Heintooga Ridge Road, and there are quite a few hiking trails off this spur.
The one-lane unpaved Heintooga Round Bottom Road begins there. Heintooga Ridge and Balsam Mountain Roads are usually open from late May through October. - See more at: http://www.romanticasheville.com/balsam_mountain.htm#sthash.Itr42qn5.dpuf
The one-lane unpaved Heintooga Round Bottom Road begins there. Heintooga Ridge and Balsam Mountain Roads are usually open from late May through October. - See more at: http://www.romanticasheville.com/balsam_mountain.htm#sthash.Itr42qn5.dpufThe road continues from the overlook as Heintooga Roundbottom Road, 14 miles to Cherokee, NC. It is one way and is dirt and gravel. Here is a link to some overlook and road info.
I turn back to the main Parkway road and continue toward Cherokee. I turn right at the end of the Parkway, just to see what's there. Great Smoky Mountains National Park starts there. It is only about 34 miles to Gatlinburg, NC, that haven of tourist traps. That's the direction my new friend Robert took a few months ago on his epic journey.
I don't want to get into that much traffic, so I turn back toward the town of Cherokee. I fuel up, in the too-busy town, then hurry back to the relative calm of the Parkway.
This time, I go further than NC-215 where I first entered. I continue on, past Mt. Pisgah, where there is a good restaurant and hotel. Further still, I reach the outskirts of Asheville, NC, and route NC-191. There, I leave the Parkway and take I-26 and US-25 back home. It is fast to come back that way, but the concrete joints are a punishment to my back.
|There's my turn.|
|Too many uneven slab joints on I-26!|
|And too much traffic.|
Here are some individual maps, and an interactive map of the trip from Pickens, SC to Cherokee, NC, about 89 miles.
- Pushpin A - Pickens SC
- Pushpin B - Rosman, NC
- Pushpin C - Parkway entrance from NC-215
- Pushpin D - Waterrock Knob
- Pushpin E - Entrance to Heintooga Ridge Road
- Pushpin F - South end of the Parkway
Here are some more individual maps, and an interactive map of the trip from Cherokee, NC: to Asheville, NC, about 77 miles.
- Pushpin A - South end of the Parkway
- Pushpin B - Entrance to Heintooga Ridge Road
- Pushpin C - Waterrock Knob
- Pushpin D - Parkway entrance from NC-215
- Pushpin E - Pisgah Inn
- Pushpin F - Entrance to Parkway at NC-191
So get moving, or you'll miss it!
An Alternative Destination in the Same Neighborhood:
A close-by attraction I could have gone to instead is in Maggie Valley. The Wheels Through Time motorcycle museum. Highly recommended.