Motorcycle Rides

Best Motorcycle Roads & Destinations in Tennessee, United States

Best Motorcycle Roads & Destinations in Tennessee, United States

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

If you are hoping to enjoy a short vacation and looking for a state popular among riders, then it is highly recommended you take a motorcycle trip to Tennessee. There are various routes that carve through or pass by this state’s forests, valleys, mountains, plateaus, and bodies of water. There is also no shortage of towns and cities hosting plenty of interesting activities for you to take part in.

Aside from all the sights you get to see, the roads in Tennessee are relatively clear of hazards yet constantly change in shape to keep your adrenaline pumping. This article will provide a preview of the best roads and destinations in the state of Tennessee.

2. Best Roads and Destinations in Tennessee

2.1 Deal’s Gap AKA “Tail of the Dragon”

Distance: 11 miles
Time: 23 minutes
Start: State Highway 115, Tallassee, TN
End: The Tail of the Dragon, Deal’s Gap, NC

Arguably the most notable motorcycle route in Tennessee, you will travel close to the outer edges of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park while following alongside the coast of the Calderwood Lake. Most of the scenery will be evergreen forests and mountain tops lining along the sides of the narrow road.

The reason for this route’s popularity is the 318 curves, sharp turns, and steep drop-offs that make up the length of this road. It is an exhilarating challenge as you must stay low to the pavement when clearing turns and you have to be wary of larger vehicles hidden around the corners.

This short route interchanges between State Highways 115 and 129 until you eventually cross over the Tennessee-North Carolina border. At Deal’s Gap, you will be greeted by a metallic statue of a terrifying dragon. The Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Gap is a good rest stop to meet other riders, fill up on gas, or get a quick meal.

2.2 Cherohala Skyway

Distance: 51 miles
Time: 1 hour 19 minutes
Start: Tellico Plains, TN
End: Robbinsville, NC

As you depart from Tellico Plains, you may be able to catch a glimpse of the roaring Wildcat Falls, Bald River Falls, and Baby Falls within close proximity. As you delve deeper into the Cherokee National Forest, the road will begin to wind around and swerve frequently which will require complete concentration.

When you reach the halfway point, you will cross over into North Carolina and begin to head in the direction of the Nantahala National Forest. Along the route, you can admire the natural scenery at the Huckleberry Knob and the Spirit Ridge Observation Deck.

As you draw closer to the end, you will pass by Santeetlah Lake and intersect with a section of the “Tail of the Dragon.” Getting closer to Robbinsville, you can sample sweets at Wehrloom Honey or check out the orchards at Stoney Hollow Farm.

2.3 Great Smoky - US 441

Distance: 35 miles
Time: 1 hour 2 minutes
Start: Cherokee, NC
End: Gatlinburg, TN

Starting out in Cherokee, you will have the opportunity to explore the culture and history of Native Americans by checking out the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and the Oconaluftee Indian Village.

Passing through the Cherokee National Forest, you will be able to admire the beauty of the Mingo Falls and Cliff Branch Falls. As you approach the North Carolina-Tennessee border, the wide swerves in the route will pass by the Swinging Bridge Quiet Walkway Trailhead and Deep Creek Trail Trailhead.

As you enter Tennessee, you will travel into the Morton Mountain Tunnel as you transition into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There is no shortage of hiking trails for you to stretch your legs including Alum Cave Bluffs Trailhead, Chimney Tops Trail Trailhead, Balsom Point Quiet Walkway Trailhead, etc.

2.4 “The Snake” - Highway 421 & 34

Distance: 23 miles
Time: 42 minutes
Start: Mountain City
End: Holston Valley

Within close proximity of Mountain City, you can spend time enjoying the peace and quiet of Ralph Stout Park. Traveling northwest, you will cross the Cherokee National Forest.

As you pass by Shady Valley, you will be able to catch sight of Backbone Rock and Backbone Rock Waterfall. Continuing past the halfway point, you can check out the natural scenery by taking slight detours to the Appalachian Trail - Low Gap or Jacob’s Creek Range.

Approaching the final leg of your journey, you will cross over the South Holston Lake Bridge which will carry you over the shining surface of South Holston Lake.

2.5 Devil’s Triangle

Distance: 44 miles
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Start: Petros
End: Petros

Embarking from Petros, you can explore the territory within Frozen Head State Park. Even if you only ride your motorcycle during the warmer months, the tops of the high peaks look like they are snowcapped. You can also see the interior of the Historic Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary if you consider yourself a history enthusiast.

As you head to the northern portion of the loop, you will pass through many abandoned towns that used to be coal mining communities. The signs of lonely coal mine entrances, coal tipples, and railroad yards make for an unsettling atmosphere.

While looping back around, you can spend time at Wind rock Park and the Wind rock Shooting Range & Training Center which is in close proximity to Oliver Springs. This road switches back and forth between gentle sweepers and sudden switchbacks which forces you to stay at attention.

2.6 Skyway to the Dragon - TN 360

Distance: 23 miles
Time: 34 minutes
Start: Tellico Plains
End: Vonore

Heading northward, you travel along the western edge of the Cherokee National Forest. While you are still near Tellico Plains, you can pick up extra supplies at the Indian Boundary General Store. If you wish to engage in hiking, you can travel up to the Conasauga Falls Trail.

After leaving the valley behind, most of your journey will be flat farmlands on the left-hand side and dense mountain forests on the right hand side. Right before you reach Toqua, you will catch sight of the Notchy Creek Recreation Area.

Approaching Vonore, you will cross over the Little Tennessee River several times before reaching your final destination. You can enjoy the peaceful environments of the McGee Carson Peninsula Recreation Area and Fort Loudon State Historic Park.

2.7 Cades Cove Run

Distance: 34 miles
Time: 1 hour 21 minutes
Start: Gatlinburg
End: Cades Cove

While you are still in Gatlinburg, you can observe the aquatic wildlife swimming around at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. It is also possible to check out old automobiles on display at the Hollywood Star Cars Museum.

Traveling along the northern edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, your surroundings will be rolling hills with dense forests atop, rocky overhanging, and small bridges. Keep an eye out for local wildlife including bears, deer, and wild turkeys.

There is no shortage of natural wonders and hiking trails as you make your way to Cades Cove. You can take pictures of the Cataract Falls, Laurel Falls, Mannis Branch Falls, etc. The Sinks is a popular waterfall that serves as both a picnic site and swimming area.

2.8 The Center Hill Dam Run

Distance: 12 miles
Time: 19 minutes
Start: Moss Hollow
End: 5600 Nashville Highway

Heading southwest away from Moss Hollow, you will pass through Edgar Evins State Park and along the coast of Center Hill Lake. Within the vicinity of the park, you can enjoy stretching your legs at either the Buffalo Valley Recreation Area, the Center Hill Recreation Area, or the Cove Hollow Recreation Area.

You have a decent view of the Center Hill Dam shortly after heading out on your trip. This is the perfect route for those looking for a leisurely ride as the first half of the journey involves climbing uphill while the remainder of the trip has you descending carefully.

Because of how close you are to Center Hill Lake, much of your surroundings will be dense forests atop of rolling hills with occasional breaks in the foliage. The road should be smooth, with lots of sweeping curves, and elevation changes.

2.9 The Spivey Loop

Distance: 37 miles
Time: 1 hour 11 minutes
Start: US-19W, Erwin
End: Erwin

This loop circles around a section of the Nolichucky River and passes through both Tennessee and North Carolina. As you travel along Highway 19W on the southern bend, you have the opportunity to go hiking on the Lower Higgins Creek Trail. You can also enjoy the cool mist coming off of the Big Creek Falls.

When you are on the North Carolina side of this loop, you can take a slight detour and venture towards the Lost Cove Cave. If you have the nerve for spelunking, you can explore the interior with a headlamp and even step into the underground lakes.

Heading back towards the northern bend of this loop, you can check out the Rock Creek Recreation Area. As you draw closer to Erwin, you can check out the falls at the Rock Creek Park.

2.10 Old Hickory Road

Distance: 28 miles
Time: 48 minutes
Start: Hermitage, Nashville
End: Scottsboro, Nashville

Staying within the northern perimeter of Nashville, this route takes you through an urban, suburban, and rural environment. Depending on the time of day, you should be able to avoid the heavier traffic while traversing the gentle and easy curves of the road.

As you head northward from Hermitage, you will pass by the Stones River Bend Park, EN Peeler Park, and Crooked Branch Park. When you get to Hickory, you should be right beside the Cumberland River.

Continuing to head westward and bending down to complete the route, you will pass by Cedar Hill Park, Whites Creek Park, Beaman Park Nature Center, and Proctor Barn.

2.11 Brushy Mountain Run

Distance: 24 miles
Time: 38 minutes
Start: Oak Ridge
End: Rocky Top

Within the vicinity of Oak Ridge, you can check out the exhibits at the American Museum of Science & Energy and the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. When you leave Oak Ridge behind, the road should be relatively smooth but you should keep an eye out for gravel or coal on the surface that could cause you to lose traction.

As you head northeast, there are plenty of notable attractions that may be worth taking a detour for including the Brown Flats, Wind Rock - Panther Rock, or Miner’s Circle Cemetery.

Upon getting close to Rocky Top, you should be able to make out the Norris Dam State Park in the distance. If you have an appreciation for history, you may want to visit the Coal Creek Miners Museum.

2.12 Genesis Road

Distance: 32 miles
Time: 43 minutes
Start: Crossville
End: Wartburg

If you decide to explore Crossville, you can check out artifacts dating from the Civil War to the Gulf War at the Military Memorial Museum. If you are lucky enough to arrive when races are going on, you should find a seat at the Crossville Speedway. If you are looking to sample drinks, you can go to the Stonehaus Winery.

Continuing on your way, you will eventually enter the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area. There is plenty of natural scenery within this area to admire including the Catoosa Canyon, Obed River, and Clear Creek.

Despite most of your surroundings being full of rolling hills, the road is relatively smooth and curves through the dense forests within the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area.

3. Motorcycle Laws in Tennessee

3.1 Tennessee Motorcycle Helmet Laws

You are required to wear a motorcycle helmet no matter how old you are whenever you are riding your motorcycle.

You must own a motorcycle helmet that has been manufactured by the Snell Memorial Foundation and has been approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The two models that meet the criteria stated above plus provide the best protection, visibility, and comfort are three-quarter and full-face helmets. As you select your motorcycle helmet, check that they meet the following requirements and are designed with the proper features:

  • Has a Department of Transportation (DOT) sticker
  • Can be fitted around your head snugly
  • No visible signs of damage
  • Has a face shield with no scratches (Full-face helmet only)
  • Requires separate eye protection with no scratches (Three-quarter helmet only)
  • Has a hard and durable outer shell that is shatter-resistant
  • Gives you a clear, peripheral view
  • Can be fastened with a neck- or chin-strap
  • Allows airflow without fogging up
  • Can allow you to wear sunglasses or goggles underneath

3.2 Tennessee Motorcycle Passenger Laws

In Tennessee, there is no minimum age requirement for motorcycle passengers. Just like you, motorcycle passengers must wear a motorcycle helmet regardless of how old they are.

It is only legal to transport another person on your motorcycle if it is equipped with a designated passenger seat, footrests, and handholds. You can only carry a minimum of two people on your motorcycle including yourself.

The passenger seat can either be fixed to the side as a sidecar, at the rear as a separate saddle, or at the back of a large driver’s seat.

Criteria to look for in motorcycle passengers are individuals who listen to directions, follow your movements, cannot be carrying packages in their arms, are wearing protective attire, and can reach the footrests.

3.3 Tennessee Motorcycle Equipment Requirements

Every time before you decide to head out, take the opportunity to examine the current state of your motorcycle. You never know when you may find damage to the tires, controls, wheels, etc. that had previously gone unnoticed. Since it could be dangerous if your motorcycle experiences mechanical failure, be preemptive and apply repairs where needed.

Your motorcycle must be outfitted with the minimum safety features so that your vehicle will function properly as you travel through Tennessee. They must be working at optimal capacity to help you quickly avoid obstacles, improve your visibility to other drivers, and increase awareness of your surroundings:

  • Horn
  • Wheels
  • Tires
  • Handlebars
  • Front and Rear Brakes
  • Controls
  • Headlight
  • Taillight
  • Stop Light
  • Exhaust system
  • Muffler
  • Rearview mirrors
  • Windshield

3.4 Tennessee Lane Splitting Laws

Lane splitting is explicitly declared as an illegal practice in Tennessee.

Motorcyclists are forbidden from riding on top of the dividing lines between traffic lanes, riding between adjacent rows of stopped vehicles, or attempting to overtake a larger vehicle in front of you,

You are entitled to make full use of the space within your current lane. You can only lane share with another motorcycle if you keep apart at least two abreast and both riders consent beforehand.

4. Motorcycle Luggage for Tennessee Motorcycle Tour

Most of your Tennessee motorcycle trip will be spent navigating miles of winding roads and enjoying the scenery that passes by. But depending on how much distance you travel, you will not be able to stay on your motorcycle at all times. Besides having to stop for fuel, you may also want to visit roadside attractions, natural sites, or celebratory events. For these occasions, it is best to have access to belongings that help enhance your experience while you spend time off of your vehicle. But you first need a reliable means of storage to help carry all of your items on your motorcycle.

Listed below are the Motorcycle luggage options you can choose from. All of them have zippered and/or mesh pockets, are made of durable and weather-resistant materials, and come with an installation guide for easy mounting. They differ in terms of design, color, size, and placement position to offer you diverse choices:

5. Parting Words

If you want your Tennessee motorcycle trip to be a success, you should never stop at just researching the more well-known motorcycle roads and destinations. You should spend an extensive amount of time when completing each part of the planning process. Making sure that you cover all of your bases from the directions of your intended route to your checklist of belongings will ensure that your motorcycle trip will go as smoothly as possible.

As Tennessee’s motorcycle laws have been updated in recent years, it would be best to become familiar with them whether you are an out-of-state tourist or a Tennessee resident. You never know when memorizing the regulations for motorcycle helmets, passenger, equipment requirements, and rules of the road will come in handy.

When picking out motorcycle luggage, you should select the option with the maximum storage capacity capable of carrying the number of items you plan to bring along. Never bring too many belongings and try to only take what you need. Any excess weight could affect your motorcycle’s balance and increase the risk of getting into an accident.

Though the motorcycle roads and destinations suggested in this article are viable choices for how you can spend your Tennessee motorcycle trip, you can continue to look into other routes and locations if these do not satisfy your interests.

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