Autumn is the perfect time of the year for a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains via motorcycle. Shades of orange, red, yellow and purple leaves dot the landscape in September and October. The sunrise is magnificent, reflecting rays off majestic trees as well as saplings. Fireflies twinkle at twilight. US-441 is the main route through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Black bears, deer, fox and other wildlife are often spotted along the route. Pack for the cooler temperatures at higher elevations. The winding mountain roads of the park must be experienced from a motorcyclist perspective at least once in a lifetime.
Directions: Travel US-441 through Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and on into Gatlinburg. Sugarlands Visitors Center is located two miles south of Gatlinburg along US-441, also known as Newfound Gap Road. The center is a great location for a bathroom break. Free road maps of the park are available at the center and are highly recommended by the National Park Service, as GPS navigational systems are often inaccurate. The park is not a good place for a biker to get lost at night.
Places to Visit: A motorcycle is the perfect vehicle for viewing the natural scenery around Cades Cove. The five mile loop contains abundant wildlife, historic buildings and a beautiful 20-ft waterfall. The visitor’s center has public restroom facilities and a store. Chimney Tops is an overlook, trail and picnic site with a great view at 2,000-ft elevation. Clingman's Dome is the highest point in Tennessee at 6,643-ft elevation. A steep half-mile trail leads to an observation tower that is well worth the hike. Nice parking facilities and public restrooms are located at the foot of the trail. There is also a visitor’s center located at Oconaluftee.
Where to Stay: Smokemont is a great place to stay the night for tent campers. Be sure to follow precautions with food, as bears wander through the campgrounds at night. Quality Inn Creekside in Gatlinburg has reasonable rates and includes WiFi and a full hot breakfast. The Park Vista A Doubletree by Hilton Hotel is a full service hotel offering private balconies and trolley service at the door if you wish to park the bike for the evening. If a cabin better suits your lifestyle, Cabins of Gatlinburg is sure to please.
*Photo courtesy of Thanks for Posing by Ron Miguel at Flickr’s Creative Commons.