Cherokee National Forest
Scenic driving is a popular activity on Cherokee National Forest. Spectacular stands of tall timbers, cascades of spring wildflowers and rhododendron, heritage resources from the region's diverse past, wildlife viewing areas, swiftly moving rivers, and calm lakes await the visitor along miles of state, county, and Forest Service roads. Overlook pulloffs provide opportunities for viewing and photographing the surrounding countryside.
The Northern Districts
The most popular scenic routes in the northern districts include the Flatwoods Road near South Holston Lake, the Unaka Mountain Auto Tour near Erwin, the Roan Mountain area, and scenic recreation corridors along Watauga Lake and State Highway 107 in Greene and Cocke Counties. Other popular routes are Big Cliffy Road (FDR #404), Brush Creek Road (FDR #209), Hall Top Road, (FDR #207), Paint Creek Road (FDR #41), and Hurricane Gap Road, (FDR #32). All of these are low-speed, gravel roads.
The Southern Districts
Cherohala Skyway: The Skyway crosses through the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forest along a former Cherokee Indian trade route. This 40-plus-mile, two-lane road connects Tellico Plains in southeast Tennessee to Robbinsville, North Carolina.
The Skyway parallels the Tellico River in Tennessee, offering canoeing and fishing opportunities between Milepost 2 and 4. As you pass Milepost 14 you will see spectacular views of mountain tops and deep valleys. Stop at Turkey Creek Overlook, between Milepost 15 and 16, which offers picnic tables. You'll pass overlooks, trailheads, and more picnic areas before reaching the end of the Skyway. Trailheads include Eagle Gap, Grassy Gap, West Rattlesnake Rock, Mud Gap, and Hooper Bald.
Allowing for stops, it takes about one and a half to two hours to travel the length of the Skyway.
Ocoee Scenic Byway: This route, U.S. Highway 64/FS 77, is the first National Forest scenic byway in the United States. Its 26 miles follow the Ocoee River in Polk County, passing through scenic areas with rock bluffs, mountain peaks, and historic sites such as the Ocoee Flume Line and Powerhouses. The Chilhowee Overlooks and Boyd Gap offer unparalleled photo opportunities.
Other beautiful drives are the Tellico River Road, the Tellico-Robbinsville Road, and the Hiwassee River Road.
Some Forest Service roads are closed seasonally or permanently, while others are open year-round to motor vehicles. Closed roads remain available for foot travel and may be open for horses and bicycles as well. For more information on specific road closures, scenic routes, or recreational activities along forest roads, contact the nearest district ranger's office.
Special thanks to the Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association for some of the above information.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication