The Smokies are the perfect place for you to bring your cruiser, touring bike, motorcycle, or sport bike to explore the beautiful mountain views, lush forests, and cascading rivers that surround Gatlinburg.
With hundreds of miles of prime motorcycle roads, it's no wonder why so many riders visit the Smoky Mountains every year.
With incredible views, long graceful turns, exciting twists, and gorgeous forest scenery, there's something for every level of rider. To help you get the most out of your motorcycle trip, we've made a list of the 6 best Motorcycle Roads in the Smoky Mountains!
1. The Tail of the Dragon
Only a short trip from Gatlinburg, you can find a route that's been called the most famous motorcycle road in the country. The Tail of the Dragon on US-129 passes through the state line Deals Gap through some of the wildest parts of the mountains.
This 11-mile section of road features 318 curves and poses a formidable challenge. Better yet, this road borders the Great Smoky Mountains and the Cherokee National Forest and offers some beautiful scenery to experience.
Although the Dragon has a posted speed limit of 30 MPH, the twisting turns and steep descents makes it hard to resist turning up the throttle. Along the route, you'll encounter famous curves like Gravity Cavity, Wheelie Hell, The Whip, Beginner's End, and more!
Do note that this road is aggressively patrolled by law enforcement watching for speeders.
While you'll need to pay attention to officers and other vehicles, you won't have to worry about getting stuck behind large commercial vehicles. Thankfully, the Tennessee Department of Transportation has banned trucks longer than 30 feet from taking this road. Additionally, there are no intersecting roads or driveways on the dragon, so you won't have to keep an eye out for merging vehicles.
Riding the Tail of the Dragon is definitely a rush, you'll want to take care on this road. Accidents occur every year and the nearest emergency rooms in Maryville, TN are over an hour away.
2. Newfound Gap US 441
This historic route begins in Gatlinburg, TN and passes through the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on its way to Cherokee, NC.
As you climb higher into the mountains from Gatlinburg, you'll pass through the "loop," a unique turn on the road which first passes through a tunnel and then makes a tight turn uphill until it passes over the tunnel again.
Along the way, you can stop at one of several pull offs that feature spectacular views of the Smokies. Once you reach Newfound Gap, you would have climbed over 3,500 feet in elevation to the Tennessee/North Carolina border. At about 31 miles in length, the Newfound Gap Road is a perfect way to explore the dramatic landscapes of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Another excellent route inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Little River Gorge Road. This road connects Gatlinburg to Cades Cove in the Southwest portion of the park. This route follows the Little River and offers excellent scenery and several views of waterfalls.
When enjoying motorcycle routes inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, pay attention to posted speed limits as the park service strictly enforces them.
Keep in mind that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the country. As a result, this popular park can often have heavy traffic. All the same, by planning your adventure in the offseason or by starting your ride early in the day, you can avoid running into traffic.
3. The Blue Ridge Parkway
Cherokee, NC is only a short drive from Gatlinburg. Here, you can start a trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway, a scenic road that runs 469 miles through some of the most dramatic landscapes in Southern Appalachia.
While you might not have time to drive the whole route, the Cherokee portion of the parkway is an excellent place for a relaxing ride through the mountains.
4. Cherohala Skyway
This road is rarely congested and doesn't receive nearly as much attention from law enforcement.
Twists and turns through the mountainous backcountry of western north Carolina and Eastern Tennessee. It stretches 23 miles from Tellico Plains, TN to Robinsville, NC.
As the name Skyway suggests, this road is high elevation. Along the way, you'll climb 5,400 feet above sea level and enjoy terrific views of the Cherokee National Forest and the Nantahala National Forest.
The road is about 2 hours from Gatlinburg, but you could incorporate other scenic routes on your way to the Skyway.
5. Tennessee 32 From Cosby
This lesser-known route passes through the Cherokee National Forest south of I-40 in the Great Smoky Mountains.
On this secluded route, you'll find plenty of curves and altitude changes through some incredible stretches of forest. Tennessee 32 is about 14 miles in length doesn't have much traffic. This ride begins in Cosby and although it doesn't offer many views, it does offer exciting thrills and verdant forest surroundings.
This road is not recommended for beginner riders and is very technically challenging. Once you hit the North Carolina line, the road becomes unpaved for several miles before it connects to I-40, so you may want to return the same way rather than making a loop. Luckily, this ride is very close to Gatlinburg and lots of other beautiful mountain roads to explore.
6. Foothills Parkway
This national parkway, if it's completed, will be a grand road that traverses the entire foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains from US-129 to I-40. However, this road remains unfinished and has run into funding shortfalls.
On the other hand, there is a beautiful section that's open and ready to be explored. This southern section of the parkway passes through Blount County and it's ideal for riding. This 16.5 mile section of road begins in Walland, TN and can be used to access the Tail of the Dragon.
The completed parts of the Foothills Parkway is certainly a destination unto itself. With wide lanes, sweeping turns, and beautiful views of the Great Smoky Mountains, Foothills Parkway is well worth a stop on your motorcycle adventure.
Currently, work is underway on a section of the parkway that will connect Wears Valley to Townsend, so riders will have even more miles of this road to enjoy in the near future!
Please take the utmost caution while enjoying your ride in the Smoky Mountains. The national park service provides these excellent motorcycle safety guidelines that detail necessary precautions for your trip.
Did we miss your favorite motorcycle or driving route? Please let us know in the comments section!
Written by Hayden Brown