The twists and turns of the mountain roads around Asheville in the Blue Ridge Mountains make for some fun motorcycle drives and rides.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Enjoying the views along the Parkway. Photo by Ray Ihle.
Breathtaking views. Plenty of easy curves. No stoplights, no billboards, and no commercial vehicles. The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the best motorcycle drives in America. The 469-mile long National Park snakes along the ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
There are several spots around Asheville to access the Parkway. Asheville sits in a valley, so no matter which way you go on the Parkway from town, you will climb quickly in elevation. Ride north to Craggy Gardens and Mt. Mitchell. Or drive south through a dozen tunnels toward Mt. Pisgah and on to the Great Smoky Mountains. Due to the big changes in altitude while driving (sometimes ascending 3,000 feet in less than an hour), be prepared for rapidly changing weather.
It's not the drive for speed - a 45-mph speed limit. Plus, you will encounter many slower drivers that are not in a big hurry to drive past the views. So don't be in a hurry! There are plenty of overlooks to stop. You'll need to exit the Parkway to find food, gas and lodging. We have lots of detailed information in our Blue Ridge Parkway Guide.
Be prepared for rapidly changing weather and fast temperature changes along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This group stopped at the highest point along the Parkway, south of Asheville. Photo by Ray Ihle.
Black Mountain Rag to Chimney Rock
Take exit 64 off Interstate 40 at Black Mountain to follow the Black Mountain Rag, a scenic route named for an old fiddle tune about the dark green Lauada Firs that give the Black Mountains their name. In musical terms, a "rag" is a tune with multiple twists and curves up and down the scales. This scenic route twists and turns through the mountains like the music itself. Coming from Asheville, turn right off the exit ramp at Black Mountain and follow N.C. 9 south towards Bat Cave. The road winds along the Rocky Broad River, joining Hickory Nut Creek near the intersection of U.S. 64, U.S. 74 and N.C. 9 at Bat Cave. Turn left and follow N.C. 9/ U.S. 64 east to the village of Chimney Rock. At Chimney Rock Park you can drive to the top of the Chimney overlooking Hickory Nut Gorge. Continue past Chimney Rock to see beautiful Lake Lure. Turn around at Lake Lure and head back. Instead of returning via N.C. 9 in Bat Cave, follow signs for U.S. 74 back to Asheville. Allow 2-3 hours.
Where can you find more than 190 steep, climbing curves in just 12 miles for your next motorcycle ride? The Diamondback - North Carolina's last alternate route! Sweeping curves, amazing scenery and cool mountain breezes make the Diamondback, NC 226A, one of WNC's last great mountain roadways. The Diamondback is loaded with switchbacks looping almost 360-degrees. Runs of S-curves climb and twist sharply as they snake through lush green Pisgah National Forest in route to the Blue Ridge Parkway just above Spruce Pine, North Carolina. This heavily wooded trek, from Marion in McDowell County to Switzerland Inn, on the edge of Mitchell County, NC is an exciting and challenging drive. Two-lanes of smooth, well-marked pavement are flanked by rocky outcroppings, shear drop-offs and quick, tight hairpin curves. For more, go to diamondbacknc.com.
Tail of the Dragon
Deals Gap, a popular stop for riders. Photo by Ray Ihle.
About 90 miles from Asheville are two more musts for great motorcycle rides. Perhaps the most famous drive in the East is The Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap with 318 curves in 11 miles. It's called America's number one motorcycle and sports car road. The nearby Cherohala Skyway is quickly becoming number two with its remote scenic North Carolina mountain highway.
Crossing Deals Gap at the Tennessee/North Carolina state line, the Dragon is considered by many as one of the world's best motorcycling and sports car roads. Anyone looking for an exciting highway will enjoy this stretch of US 129.
The Tail of the Dragon begins on the North Carolina side at Fugitive Bridge with a view of the Cheoah Dam where Harrison Ford jumped in the movie The Fugitive. It ends 14 miles across the mountain at the Tabcat Creek Bridge in Tennessee. US 129 climbs through The Slide, a steep series of "S" curves where one would not want to meet a tractor-trailer. The road then levels and straightens until a series of curves approaching the Crossroads of Time, one of the main hangouts for cyclists. Next comes Deals Gap and the Tennessee State Line.
The road is desolate and can be a real adventure in the winter months. Drivers deal with bears, turkeys, deer, and wild boars in the road, trees down, ice/snow, and tractor-trailers taking-up both lanes in the curves. It is not a road for the squeamish, but if you're looking for a little excitement don't miss this one. Like any public highway there is enforcement at times. The speed limit is 30 mph, so stay within reason.
On summer weekends, the Dragon may get 15,000 motorcycles and sport cars a day. It's certainly a favorite with sport car clubs. Many of the Dragon's curves have names: the Pearly Gates, Thunder Road Bend, Carousel Corner, the Whip, Brake or Bust Bend, the Wall, the Hump, Little Whip, Crud Corner, Shaw Grave Corner, Gravity Cavity, Horns of the Dragon and Hog Pen Bend.
For the latest updates on the Tail of the Dragon, go to tailofthedragon.com.
This ride follows the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway through Pisgah National Forest, starting in Brevard. The complete loop is 77 miles and goes along Davidson River by Looking Glass Falls, Sliding Rock and other scenic spots with a big elevation gain. Much of the drive is through woodlands and crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway twice. See our Forest Heritage Scenic Byway Guide.
The Cherohala Skyway was completed in the fall of 1996 after being under construction for some 34 years. It is North Carolina's most expensive highway carrying a pricetag of $100 million. Winding up and over 5,400 foot mountains for 15 miles in North Carolina and descending another 21 miles into the deeply forested backcountry of Tennessee. The road crosses through the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests thus the name "Chero...hala". The Skyway is becoming well known in motorcycling and sportscar circles for it's long, sweeping corners and scenic views.
This road enthusiast's dream connects Robbinsville, North Carolina with Tellico Plains, Tennessee. It can be desolate at night and extremely dangerous in the winter months. There are no facilities other than restrooms for the entire 36 miles so make sure you have enough gas to make the crossing. There is little evidence of civilization from views that rival or surpass any from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The elevations range from 900 feet above sea level at the Tellico River in Tennessee to over 5,400 feet above sea level at the Tennessee-North Carolina state line at Haw Knob.