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All Road Routes GPX format
RouteType: TWISTY, TECHNICAL, DESTINATION
Navigation difficulty: AVERAGE
Distance: 184 - 285 miles
Lunch Stop: Tellico Plains Bakery Restaurant, Tellico Plains, TN, other choices nearby.
Direction from STAR HQ: S, CLOCKWISE
Comments: Get out of Knoxville fast on I-140, aka Pellissippi Parkway. Ride it all the way to the end at Maryville Pike (SR33). Follow the route past Sam Houston School House. Stop if you have the time and interest. Continue the route along the Little River to Walland, cross over to US321, and take the Foothills Parkway southwest until it intersects with US129. Turn left. In just a few miles you are now on the “Dragon” or “Tail of the Dragon” and headed toward Deals Gap. This may be the most famous road in the USA. Stay in your lane and out of the way of faster bikes. Too many people treat this stretch of road like a racetrack, and many pay an extreme penalty. Don’t be one of them and don’t let one of them take you out.
Upon reaching North Carolina and the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort, stop and stretch your legs. They serve food in the restaurant and have gasoline if you need it. You have a choice to make. There are four alternative routes taking you to Santeetlah Gap and the start of the Cherohala Skyway:
Option 1: The shortest way is to continue on US129 crossing the river at the bottom of Cheoah Dam. This dam was featured in the 1993 movie The Fugitive. Continue until you turn off onto Joyce Kilmer Rd and follow it (don’t miss the right turn across the bridge) along Lake Santeetlah to Horse Cove and Joyce Kilmer Slickrock Wilderness (very sketchy pavement). Turn left and Santeetlah Gap is just a short distance.
Option 2: A slightly longer way follows the same road as above route; it just doesn’t make the turn across the bridge and takes you to Santeetlah Dam. Continue the route back to US129 and then follow it until you intersect SR143. This will take you to Santeetlah Gap.
Option 3: A longer version takes SR28 away from Deals Gap. It offers the opportunity to visit Fontana Dam. Once past Fontana Dam you will turn onto SR143, go across Stecoah Gap and on to Robbinsville. If you’ve waited for lunch, Lynn’s Place is the place to refuel your body. Continue on SR143 to Santeetlah Gap.
Option 4: Finally, the longest version takes SR28 all the way to Franklin. There are numerous restaurants there and a few are listed in the route. It would be wise to purchase fuel there if you haven’t already. The return from Franklin takes you across Wayah Gap Road. These are the most curves you’ll ride on this entire long day. Wayah Gap Road ends at the put-in for Nantahala rafters. Turn left on US19/74 and ride up and out of the Nantahala Gorge to turn right on US129 which will take you to Robbinsville and Santeetlah Gap.
Now you begin the Cherohala Skyway. It climbs up to over 5000 feet in elevation and has tremendous views. Temperatures will drop. The curves are gentle and you can generate some speed. Think twice about that. Park Rangers patrol this road and federal citations are costly. Also, there is no fuel on the Cherohala until you get to Tellico Plains.
Optional Detour: For those that cannot get enough, there is a detour to Bald River Falls. There is a narrow short cut over to River Road. After viewing Bald River Falls, return to the Skyway and continue into Tellico Plains.
There are numerous restaurants in Tellico Plains. For cheap fare try Tellico Beach. Tellico Bakery is terrific for sandwiches and baked goods. The Exxon station is the center of the universe for motorcyclists going both ways on the Cherohala. Avail yourself if fuel is needed.
The trip back to Knoxville is a series of nice quiet backroads, part of which run along the east coast of the Tellico Reservoir. The shortest version of this route will only take about 5 to 6 hours and is 184 miles. The longer version to Franklin is 285 miles and will take all day.
RouteType: TWISTY, TECHNICAL, DESTINATION, OPTIONAL SHORT GRAVEL
Navigation difficulty: AVERAGE to COMPLEX
Distance: 233 miles
Lunch Stop: RM Brooks General Store & Restaurant, Rugby, TN (Closed Sunday & Wednesday)
Direction from STAR HQ: NW, CLOCKWISE
Comments: This loop takes in the Devils Triangle, much of the eastern Cumberland Plateau, and the Norris Dam. It begins by avoiding Oak Ridge except for the waterfront. This is a world class rowing facility. Afterwards you will be taking the road through Frost Bottom with the mountains towering over you. At the intersection with SR116 you turn left and start your climb over Graves Gap and descend the other side. At the New River the road makes an abrupt change of direction and continues through closed mining facilities and then up and over the mountain.
At the base of the mountain lies Brushy Mountain Prison. It’s closed now, although tours are available. There’s even a restaurant (check the hours before you go). This maximum security prison housed many felons over its 100+ year history, including James Earl Ray.
After the prison this route takes you on backroads to a local swimming hole at the base of Potters Falls. Leaving there takes you into downtown Wartburg and past the Morgan County Jail and Morgan County Courthouse. Take old 27 out of town and then Montgomery Road across the Emory River eventually reuniting with SR62. After Lancing you’ll turn north on Rome Road and go through Deer Lodge. Continue with the route until you cross SR52. RM Brooks General Store will be right in front of you on the old road through Rugby. The store is now a restaurant, CLOSED ON SUNDAY & WEDNESDAY, and on the National Register of Historic Places. Great baloney sandwich and other good eats, cheap.
Leaving RM Brooks on the loop takes you through Rugby. Rugby was founded in 1880 as an experiment for the “second sons” of English noblemen, offering them a chance to own land. The Victorian architecture and picturesque setting have since made it a popular tourist attraction. The town is also on the National Register of Historic Places. Stop at the visitors’ center and learn a bit about it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rugby,_Tennessee
Leaving Rugby, you are presented with a choice. You can go west on SR52 to follow the Honey Creek alternative route. It has 6.5 miles of smooth, hard-packed gravel and goes to a fabulous overlook of the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River Gorge. It loops back into the route at its intersection with US27.
The route turns east onto SR63 going through Huntsville, the home of the late statesman Howard H Baker. Continue until the route turns off onto old 63 and slow down. This fine but nearly abandoned road travels along Cove Creek to Caryville. You could get on the interstate here, but don’t. SR116 parallels the slab to Rocky Top (aka Lake City). Here, you will turn onto US441 and cross Norris Dam. Be sure and stop at the overlook before descending to the dam to see the Clinch River pouring out of Norris Dam. Norris Dam was the first one constructed by TVA in 1936.
Continue following the route as it brings you back to Knoxville on bucolic backroads.
RouteType: TWISTY, TECHNICAL
Navigation difficulty: COMPLEX
Lunch Stop: Wooden's Apple House, Pikeville, TN
Direction from STAR HQ: SW, CLOCKWISE
Comments: This route contains many steep, narrow roads with sketchy pavement and switchbacks. Ride accordingly.
Get out of town and past Loudon. SR72 crosses numerous ridges and valleys as it winds westward. River Road SR304 takes you south along Watts Bar Lake and you will cross the dam past Watts Bar Nuclear Plant. The route follows the old Dixie Highway for a while before coming to SR30. White Flats Rd takes you to Evensville and then you start the climb. Soon you’re on top of Walden Ridge and will travel on top for some distance. You will pass Wooden’s Apple House. It’s a great place for meat and three or to pick up some apple pie: fried or baked. Continue on the route and Pitt Mountain Rd will take you down into the Sequatchie Valley.
The route crosses the Sequatchie River and US127 and then climbs out of the valley. If you’re interested in Mennonite Goods continue past the route’s right turn to Oak Ridge Pantry on Brockdell Rd. Return to the route and it will descend back into the valley on Lee Station Mountain Rd. You’ll go north into Pikeville where food and fuel are available. You are in the Central Time Zone here.
There’s another twisty climb out of Pikeville and some more riding on top before we descend into the valley yet again on Big Springs Rd. Cross US127 again and now we’ll take the old Highway 28 all the way to Crossville. Look for the origin of the Sequatchie River and the Justin P Wilson Trail HQ as you ascend out of the valley.
As you approach Crossville you can depart the route and eat at Cumberland Mountain State Park or visit the Homestead Museum. The route takes you past many homes built with Crab Orchard stone during the homesteading. Eventually you reach US70 and start east toward Knoxville. Stop at Ozone Falls and walk out to the falls (very short walk). Watch your step here.
Turn on SR299 and go toward Oakdale. There you will get on SR328 and descend to US27. Go south on US27 and onto SR61 toward Oliver Springs. Turn right on Blair Rd SR327 which will take you past the K25 site, one of the DOE sites that has been demolished. There is a museum there about the history of the site and its role in the Manhattan Project.
From here you simply go south on SR95 and east on I-40 to take you back to Knoxville.
RouteType: TWISTY, TECHNICAL
Navigation difficulty: AVERAGE
Lunch Stop: Michael's Familt Diner, Sneedville, TN
Direction from STAR HQ: NE, COUNTERCLOCKWISE
Comments: The Sneedville ride shows off some of East Tennessee’s most rugged country. This delightful ride starts by getting through town as quickly as possible on I-40. Take exit 398 and turn left on Strawberry Plains Pike. Continue on US25W/70 until the turnoff at Piedmont. Now we start onto the backroads that will avoid Morristown and take you across the Holston River near Rogersville. Choptack Road takes us over to SR66 which makes its first climb across the many ridges in this area. The switchbacks will keep you busy until you get to SR94 in the valley. Take it toward the Pressmens’ Home ghost town: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pressmen%27s_Home,_Tennessee
After passing this huge, eerie and overgrown facility you will come to SR70. Turn north and get ready to rail. Follow SR70 as it crosses ridges and the Clinch River into Virginia. As you descend one ridge the road will go around a huge mansion. Slow down because you have to turn onto Lower Wallens Creek Road. This delightful little road winds along parallel with the Powell River for many miles until it joins Mulberry Gap Road right at the state line with Tennessee. Follow SR63 through Mulberry Gap and over Powell Mountain to Sneedville. The place to eat is Michaels Diner. Order the chicken. Trust us on this. Also, better gas up while in Sneedville.
Option 1: Leave Michaels Diner on Back Valley Road until it joins SR33. After a short distance along SR33, turn and go through the gap to Caney Valley Road. You will occasionally see the Clinch River on your left as you ride toward US25E. Turn left and go a short distance to Bullen Valley Rd. The route will take you over to SR131 where you will turn onto Joppa Mountain Rd and go over Clinch Mountain (again) and drop to US11W. Go left and turn onto Owl Gap Rd and follow the route back to Knoxville on a network of backroads near the Holston River.
Option 2: Return to SR63 across Powell Mountain and follow it all the way to Harrogate where the route will take you into the historic town of Cumberland Gap. This is where the states of Tennessee, Virginia, and Tennessee converge. Ride through the Cumberland Gap Tunnel and return, then south to SR63 and some local roads will take you to Helms Ferry. Prior to accessing the ferry, call the Union County dispatch to ensure that the ferry is operating: (865) 992-5286. It’s a long ride out of there if the ferry isn’t running (and sometimes it’s not). Once across the ferry the backroads of the area between the two rivers will take you out to SR33. There you will head south and use a variety of backroads to return to Knoxville.
What about the Melungeons? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melungeon You are amongst them today in Hancock County.
Navigation difficulty: COMPLEX
Distance: 223 miles
Lunch Stop: Trish's Mountain Diner
Direction from STAR HQ: SE, CLOCKWISE
Comments: This route covers numerous backroads in Blount and Sevier counties. Local riders refer to this type of route as a “driveway tour.” Many roads are only one lane wide and wander the counties just a few miles from the busiest and most tourist infested places in the whole state. You’ll encounter few cars, see a covered bridge, and top some of the highest elevations in the valley. Don’t be fooled by the relatively short mileage. This ride takes all day.
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