The Cherohala Skyway is a 43 mile National Forest Scenic Byway that connects Robbinsville, N.C., (Hwy. 143), to Tellico Plains, TN., (Hwy. 165). Often referred to as “A Drive Among The Clouds”; the Cherohala is named for the two national forests that it crosses; the Cherokee in Tennessee and the Nantahala in North Carolina.
Before starting your journey; make sure to fill your gas tank and get needed supplies as there are no stores in this remote area. With many twists and turns, take extreme caution on your speed, including warning of fog can be very thick due to elevations. It can be desolate at night and extremely dangerous in the winter months. Temperatures can drop as much as 20 degrees during the first eleven miles of your drive from the North Carolina side as you climb from 2660 ft. to 5,390 ft. at the Santeetlah Overlook which is the highest point on the Skyway.
The best times to drive the Skyway are spring through fall as there are numerous overlooks and picnic areas along the route. If coming from the North Carolina side you will pass the remote interior of the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest including Santeetlah Gap, Hooper and Shoot Cove. As the elevations continue to climb at 4,000 + ft. at Wright Cove, a popular hiking trail starts at the Cheoah Ranger District at 5,500+ ft. called Huckleberry Knob. Many people enjoy the view of the Unicoi Mountains in the Nantahala National Forest.
As the decent starts down from the NC./ TN. Line at Unicoi Crest, more hiking trails from the main Parkway including East & West Rattlesnake Rock, Brushy Ridge, and Lake View are scenic walks. Indian Boundary Campground is a popular spot for camping with 85 sites including some with electrical hookups and amenities to rustic sites w/fire rings. Campers also enjoy a large lake perfect for kayaking, canoeing, swimming and fishing.
A detour from the main Cherohala Parkway on Forest Service Road 210 is well worth the short trip to Bald River Falls with water cascades over 100 feet onto the rocks below that can be seen from the comfort of your vehicle.
As you get closer to the Tellico Plains you will travel along the Tellico River, which is popular with fishermen and white-water enthusiasts. The river leads you into this sleepy little town that has a Visitor’s Center and The Charles Hall Museum. Just north in the nearby town of Venore visitors can see the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum and Fort Loudoun State Historical Area.
This magnificent highway of the Cherohala Skyway took over three decades to build at a cost of one hundred million dollars. Although the trip can be made in a few hours, take your time for sightseeing some of the best mountain scenery in the world.