Take a Ride on America’s $100 Million Highway! The Cherohala Skyway National Scenic Byway in TN/NC

The Cherohala Skyway National Scenic Byway is the Hope Diamond of the east Tennessee/western North Carolina area for bikers, hikers and automobile tourists alike. Located near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s known as America’s $100 Million Highway.  If, like me, you ride a motorcycle, it’s a 43-mile slice of heaven-on-earth, especially in the fall!

America's $100 Million Highway The Cherohala Skyway

Since I live in Knoxville, my husband and I hop on the Skyway not far from Tellico Plains, Tennessee and ride it all the way to its termination near Robbinsville, North Carolina. The Tellico River winds along beside us at the beginning of the trek as the cool mountain breeze cuts through my hair. More than once I’ve had the “good-to-be-alive” feeling as the tree canopy overhead sent an occasional lazy leaf to the ground ahead of our bike. Motorcycle organizations routinely recognize the Cherohala Skyway as one of the “Best Bike Routes” in the United States, but you will enjoy it immensely regardless of your mode of transportation.

Taking over 38 years to construct with a cost of over one hundred million dollars, the Cherohala Skyway provides a truly unique, paved path for nature lovers from all over the world. As a result, the visitor gets the distinct feeling that they’ve entered an alternate universe, infinitely peaceful and completely disconnected from the strife of the rest of the world. At least that’s the feeling I get as I inhale that glorious mountain air. It’s easy to forget the morning’s international news headlines, or the work project that you just can’t get your head around. It’s also easy to imagine that there was once a simpler world, one in which people took their living from the land, and enjoyed a full day in the open expanse of nature.

The Cherohala Skyway, which gets its name from the two national forests it winds through, the Cherokee National Forest and the Nantahala National Forest, gradually climbs to an elevation of 5,400 feet above sea level. Along the way to this summit near the Tennessee/North Carolina line, the visitor is treated to sweeping mountain vistas. Numerous overlooks provide photo opportunities par excellence. INSIDER TIP: We go there often during peak tourist season in the Smokies, when the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Gatlinburg to Cades Cove and from Gatlinburg to Clingman’s Dome and points beyond is so glutted with traffic that the going is very slow. There is never a crowd on the Skyway, and the views are just as majestic.  The peace and quiet of the Skyway is exceptionally calming and the fall color at certain elevations in October can be vividly stunning! Also, for dining we often enjoy a Beach Burger from the Tellico Plains Drive-In or anything from the Tellico Grains Bakery!

Hikers can enjoy a wonderful dual experience on the Cherohala Skyway. In addition to drinking in the magnificent views from the roadway, they can access trails directly from the numerous overlooks. In the lower elevations of the Skyway, you’ll find a beautiful opportunity for a family-oriented hike and/or picnic at Indian Boundary. From Tellico Plains, turn off the Skyway at Forestry Road 345. Follow the signs into the Indian Boundary Recreation Area and walk the 3.2 mile trail around the lake. It’s easy and fun!

Bald River Falls on America's $100 Million Highway Cherohala Skyway

Bald River Falls near Tellico Plains, TN (Photo: Mason Boring)

Another enduring favorite in the lower elevations is the Bald River Trail. Simply take a right on River Road (Forestry Road 210) off the Skyway (if approaching from Tellico Plains).  Several miles in you’ll see the magnificent waterfall at the trailhead. Bald River Falls are roaring nearly year-round (except in the heart of winter, when they will offer a stunning ice display). A bit more than eight miles round-trip, this trail follows the Bald River, is quite scenic, but not for beginners. I’ve done the first bit of this trail with a light snow falling, the trees around me laced with snow. It was magical.

If you’d like another waterfall experience, but with a shorter trail, approximately eighteen miles from the Skyway’s inception near Tellico Plains, look for the Rattlesnake Rock West pull-off. Here you’ll find the Falls Branch Trail (#87). This 2.6 -mile round-trip adventure includes a 70-foot waterfall and beautiful forest environs. Though it’s not an overly long walk, it does get somewhat steep near the falls. The trail moves along what was once a roadbed, but does have limited signage.

Among the many other hiking opportunities accessible from the Cherohala Skyway you’ll find a section of the very famous Benton MacKaye Trail. Take the Mud Gap trailhead from the Cherohala Skyway (near mile post 3 in North Carolina) to Whigg Meadow, a 1.7 mile walk (one way). You’ll be able to say you took a portion of the famous Benton MacKaye trek, which is a nearly 300-mile trail through three states and over a long section of tough Appalachian mountain terrain. The views from Whigg Meadow of the surrounding mountains are truly spectacular.

Weather on the Cherohala Skyway can turn nippy year-round, especially in the higher elevations. Layers are recommended for bikers and hikers. We’ve started out in short sleeves in Tellico Plains and ended up in jackets and gloves at the top many times! For even the shortest and easiest of hikes, take plenty of water and snacks. Don’t forget your camera!

For more information, visit the Cherohala Skyway Visitor Center or call 423-253-8010. The Cherohala Skyway Visitor Center is located in Tellico Plains, Tennessee and is open Monday – Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Laurie Crater Battles Writer BloggerLaurie Crater Battles – journalist, writer, hiker, biker, mom, wife, animal and coffee lover who makes her home in west Knoxville. 

Happy Halloween 2016 from HeySmokies! We’ve Scared Up Some Fun in Great Smoky Mountains!

Happy Halloween 2016 from HeySmokies!

When witches go riding,
and black cats are seen,
the moon laughs and whispers,
’tis near Halloween!

For the main attraction, we’re taking you back to Mt. LeConte Lodge this year for another adventure that pays homage to one of our favorite scary movies, The Shining, starring the Smokies’ very own “Jack Nicholson!”

There’s lots of Halloween happenings in the Smokies, so be sure to check them out at “Today’s Events” on the sidebar to your right! Wishing everyone a safe and happy All Hallow’s Eve 2016!

Autumn Ambles in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park | Enjoy a Fall Hike with a GSMNP Ranger!

Take an Autumn Amble with a Great Smoky Mountains National Park Ranger on Thursdays and Saturdays this October! This new, free Ranger Program is from 9:00 to 11:30 with locations dependent of where the best fall color is. About four days before each scheduled program, rangers will decide where the group will hike.

Autumn Ambles in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Take an Autumn Amble on Thursdays and Saturdays in October!

“We’ll try to follow the leaves,” says GSMNP Ranger Andrea Walton, “This is a really good program to see the fall colors and learn about what the animals are doing to prepare for winter…and what the people who lived here used to do to prepare for winter.”

Pre-registration is required to participate in an Autumn Amble. Reservations can be made up to four days in advance by calling 865-436-1291. Programs are limited to 20 people. Participants must have sturdy walking shoes, water and snacks for this moderate hike.

For more information on other great Ranger Programs, visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Bearly 5K Run/Walk at Appalachian Bear Rescue’s Visitor Center in Townsend on October 29th

Lace up your shoes for the Bearly 5K Run/Walk at the Appalachian Bear Rescue Visitor and Education Center in Townsend on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Get into the spirit of the season and wear your Halloween costume or just come as you are for day of fun for the bears! There will be a special prize for the best dressed runner!


The event begins at 10:00 a.m. with on-site registration at $45 per person. Register before October 15, 2016 and receive an early bird discount for $35 per person. Participants will receive a special Bearly 5K Run/Walk T-Shirt and Pancake Breakfast following the walk! The Bearly 5K Run/Walk is not a timed event; however, the first three runners to cross the finish line will receive a special prize from Appalachian Bear Rescue! Register online at ABR Bearly 5K Run/Walk or call 865-448-0143.

Be sure to visit the Open House until 4:00 p.m. and learn all about the exciting work of Appalachian Bear Rescue. They have great gift items for purchase for the upcoming holidays! And you’ll want get your raffle tickets for ABR’s Annual Raffle! 

Proceeds from the Bearly 5K Run/Walk benefit Appalachian Bear Rescue in Townsend, TN. For 20 years, ABR’s mssion has been to care for orphaned and injured black bear cubs for return to their natural wild habitat and increase public awareness about coexisting with black bears. For more information, visit Appalachian Bear Rescue and stay in touch with them at ABR on Facebook.


Hillside Winery Hosts 2 “Pink” Events in October! Drink Pink and Fight Breast Cancer!

Hillside Winery in Sevierville will host two “Pink” events in October! Join us and Drink Pink to fight breast cancer! There’s a Wine & Paint Party on the Patio on October 18, 2016 and then on October 22, 2016 it’s the 8th Annual STOMP OUT Breast Cancer Winery Walk with the Rocky Top Wine Trail.

Drink Pink and Fight Breast Cancer

Rocky Top Wine Trail’s 2016 Limited Edition “Pink” Wines are now available!

Join local artist Pinkie Mistry for a fun, fall evening at Hillside Winery for a Wine & Paint Party on the Patio from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 18th. This is the second year that Pinkie’s designed the special series of PINK wine labels for Rocky Top Wine Trail’s wineries. As the creative force behind Designs by Pinkie, she’s created a special butterfly painting for this inaugural Wine & Paint Party and will share techniques for you to paint your own fabulous creation. Tickets for the Wine & Paint Party are $35 per person; includes all paints and supplies along with a pink sparkling wine and small bites. Seating is limited so reserve your spot today! Register online at Wine & Paint Party with Pinkie. Bottles of Hillside Winery’s new, limited edition 2016 Pink Sparkling Cranberry Wine will be available for purchase; for each bottle purchased, $5 will benefit American Cancer Society (ACS). Proceeds from the Wine & Paint Party benefit ACS’ Sevier County Relay for Life.

The 8th Annual STOMP OUT Breast Cancer Winery Walk will be held on Saturday, October 22, 2016 beginning at 9:00 a.m. with registration at Hillside Winery. Walkers will depart at 9:30 a.m. for a scenic walk to Apple Barn Winery to enjoy apple cider, apple doughnuts, and some good old-fashioned apple bobbing! Here you’ll be able to enjoy Apple Barn Winery’s new, limited edition 2016 Pink Muscadine Blend along with other vinos found on their tasting menu.

From there, the next stop on trail is is Mountain Valley Winery in Pigeon Forge for some good ol’ stomp-out-cancer-logo-hillside-winery-heysmokiesfashioned grape stompin’ just like Lucy and Ethel used to do! Here you’ll also enjoy snacks and Mountain Valley Winery’s new, limited edition 2016 Pink Strawberry Wine among others.

The final leg of the trail leads back to Hillside Winery for a mouth-watering lunch from Corky’s BBQ and more wine. Local cloggers will entertain while you shop for great items at a silent auction. Each registered walker will receive a back pack full of goodies, STOMP wine glass, water bottle, and wine trail passport. With door prizes and more, this is a great event to gather your friends and enjoy the day STOMPing OUT breast cancer!

Registration for the STOMP OUT Breast Cancer Wine Trail Walk is $25 per person. Register online at Hillside Winery. For more information, call 865-389-9490.