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Cherohala Skyway

Cherohala Skyway mountains in Tellico Plains TN
Cherohala Skyway (TN Hwy 165, NC Hwy 143) is a 43-mile National Scenic Byway that connects Tellico Plains, Tennessee, with Robbinsville, North Carolina. Opened and dedicated in fall of 1996, this highway starts at 800 ft. in elevation, and climbs over mountains as high as 5390 ft at Santeetlah Overlook on the state border, with 21 miles of the Skyway in southeast Tennessee and 15 miles in North Carolina. The road crosses through the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests, thus the name "Chero...hala." Travelers on the Tennessee side are treated to mile-high vistas, brilliant seasonal foliage, the magnificent splendor of the Cherokee National Forest and the Tellico River. The rugged mountains, sparse human population and diverse habitats of Tennessee's eastern border make it home to an amazing variety of wildlife. There is little evidence of civilization from views that rival - or surpass - any from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Cherohala Skyway mountain views Tellico Plains TN

The idea for a road connecting East Tennessee and Western North Carolina circled for decades. During a Kiwanis meeting in April 1958, Sam Williams suggested that club members organize a wagon train to draw attention to the need for a road, "Since our roads are only fit for covered wagons." On July 4, 1958, 67 covered wagons and 325 horseback riders made the 42-mile trek to Murphy, N.C. The wagon train attracted the attention the men hoped it would and during its 30-year history was chronicled by local and national media. It was on the 1960 wagon train, that then Robbinsville Mayor Smith Howell made the first announcement that the road connecting the two states would run from Tellico Plains to Robbinsville. Coincidentally, the 1960 wagon train remained the largest ever with 105 wagons and 776 horseback riders. By 1967, the 10th anniversary of the Wagon Train, the road was finally under construction. Construction was delayed for about 13 years while they worked with 21 environmental groups who had concerns about the road.

The Skyway winds through parts of the 640,000-acre Cherokee National Forest, the largest tract of public land in Tennessee, with more than 20,000 species of plants and animals. No gas stations, restaurants or other facilities (except restrooms and picnic benches) are available for 36 miles. From the rocky bed of the Tellico River, to the high elevation mountain forests, diverse ecosystems thrive. The average drive over the Skyway takes 2-1/2 hours to drive and enjoy the scenery. Pack a picnic, stop for photos at the overlooks, and take your time.

Driving the Cherohala Skyway Tellico Plains TN
map of Skyway
Skyway Highlights (Note: the mile markers run from Mile 43 in Tellico Plains TN to Mile 0 in Robbinsville, NC)
  • Santeetlah Gap (Mile 0) - junction with Kilmer Road, which accesses Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest
  • Hooper Cove (Mile 2) - picnic area
  • Shute Cove (Mile 3) - picnic area
  • Huckleberry Knob (Mile 9) - short trail to the summit of Huckleberry Knob (elevation 5,560ft)
  • Hooper Bald (Mile 10) - short trail to the summit of Hooper Bald (el. 5,429ft)
  • Santeetlah Overlook (Mile 11) - 5,390-foot view of the upper Santeetlah Creek watershed
  • Big Junction Overlook (Mile 12) - View south from the 5,235-foot (1,596 meters) gap between Haw Knob and Big Junction
  • Stratton Ridge (Mile 16) - picnic area; Benton MacKaye Trail access
  • Unicoi Crest (Mile 18) - Tennessee-North Carolina state line, view of the Tellico River valley
  • Falls Branch Falls Trail (Mile 21) - short trail through a patch of old growth forest to a 55-foot (17 meters) cascade waterfall
  • Lake View Overlook (Mile 25)
  • Turkey Creek Overlook (Mile 27)
  • Forest Service Road 345 (Mile 29) to Indian Boundary Lake campground
  • Forest Service Road 210 (Mile 39) to Tellico District Ranger Station and Bald River Falls
  • Cherohala Skyway Visitor Center and Charles Hall Museum (Mile 43)
From the air the Cherohala Skyway Tellico Plains Tennessee

The Cherohala Skyway Visitor Center, in Tellico Plains at the start of Hwy 165, provides friendly information, free maps, Skyway driving conditions, picnic tables, restrooms, books, and local souvenirs. View the 18 page online brochure about the Cherohala Skyway (see below).

Cherohala Skyway Visitors Center

Online Skyway Brochure & Maps:
Cherohala Online Brochure

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Tellico Plains Visitor’s Center Pick up brochures, flyers, maps, at
Cherohala Skyway Visitor Center
225 Cherohala Skyway (Route 165), Tellico Plains, TN 37385
Various photos courtesy Monroe County TN, Department of Tourism