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Cherohala Skyway

LENGTH: Varied Lengths   SKILL: Novice to Advanced  

PROS: Wildlife, rare plants, waterfalls, lots of solitude  

CONS: None       WATER: Plentiful       

NOTES: Some of the most remote back-country in both Carolinas


Known as the "Other Blue Ridge Parkway" the Cherohala Skyway cuts through the most remote back-country in North Carolina. Named by combining the "Chero" from Cherokee and the "Hala" from Nantahala. The Cherokee Indians named what is now the Nantahala River Gorge, Nantahala. In the Cherokee language Nantahala means "Land of the noonday sun". Presumably this was referring to the steep walls of the gorge, which only allow direct sunlight on the river during the middle of the day. The Nantahala Gorge is nearby and some Cherokee descendants still live in the area.

  The Construction

It took 10 years and 100 million dollars to build this 40+ mile long engineering marvel. It connects the Robbinsville, North Carolina area to the Tellico Plains area in Tennessee. Prior to it's construction, the trip was made very difficult by rutted forest roads. Controversy surrounded its construction from the beginning until its opening in 1996. Environmentalists wanted its construction halted because of its disruption of migratory routes. Previous to this intrusion into this wilderness area, the mountainsides here were unscarred by major development. The local residents countered with claims of economic benefit and convenience. In the end the road and its proponents won a decisive battle. The battle is over, all that is left is a beautiful road. 

The Drive

 It winds through pristine back-country west of Robbinsville, North Carolina, crosses the Tennessee border and ends in the Tellico Plains in the Cherokee National Forest. It offers a look into a wilderness that most would not otherwise experience. Rest areas and overlooks are placed in good locations for a glimpse into the wilderness. The Skyway has not received the visitation that one would expect, the panoramic views from the parking areas are often free of tourists. Perhaps the beauty of the views and the unspoiled landscape, have not earned a reputation yet.  


Views of the Joyce Kilmer Wilderness, Snowbird and the Citico Creek Wilderness can be enjoyed from the high-points along the skyway. Often hikers will park their cars here and The views at night are just as impressive. The stars and constellations are easier to see because ther are few towns nearby. The views from the overlooks are unusual because there aren't any lights in the valleys. If you see a light, it is probably from a campers lantern!    

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Cherohala Skyway Photos

Area Map | Cherohala Skyway

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