The Cherohala Skyway is a scenic highway running from Robbinsville North Carolina to Tellico Plains Tennessee. The 36-mile long stretch of road winds through stunning scenery and 5,400 foot high mountain ranges, and offers spectacular views on all sides.
The highway was completed in 1996 after nearly 34 years of construction, costing in the region of $100,000,000 to build. With 21 miles running through Tennessee and 15 miles in North Carolina, there are plenty of spectacular mountain-top and forest views to behold. It crosses through both Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests, lending to its name of "Chero...hala''.
Be prepared when you're traveling though, particularly in the winter months. Being so high it can be a cold and desolate place in winter, and even in the summer months it's worth being prepared for all possible weather conditions. But, the sheer experience of driving along the mile high skyway and its impressive views more than makes up for its occasional bad weather. The temperature can change by as much as 10 degrees from the lower elevations to the top, and many people simply drive up to cool off in the summer.
Its long corners and scenic views are making the Skyway famous amongst the motorcycling scene and sports car set; in fact almost anyone will be able to appreciate the views and natural beauty that surround it. Indeed, you're highly unlikely to see much in the way of civilization in the surrounding area, so you really are in the centre of nature. It's also wise to make sure you have enough gas before you set off on your journey - the only facilities along the whole 36 miles are restrooms, so don't expect to drive by a gas station any time soon.
The idea of the Skyway was first thought up in 1958 when Sam Williams, spurred on by his love of Wild West movies of the time, imagined his very own "wagon train'' from his home in Tennessee all the way to North Carolina. What he thought was a pipe dream quickly turned into a reality, and planning and construction of the highway began in late 1962.
34 years and 100 million dollars later, the Cherohala Skyway was open for business. It's North Carolina's most expensive highway project ever, and today up to 10 cars and 50 motorcycles use the route each day. A far cry from the original estimate of 10 cars every minute!
Starting in Robbinsville and Santeelah Gap in North Carolina, the highway quickly ascends up to Santeelah and its highest overlook point of 5,390 feet. A further 7 miles of twisting roads and stunning scenes leads to the Tennessee state line, and at mile 16 the descent into Tellico River Basin begins, before finally ending up in Tellico Plains for some well earned refreshment and refueling.
Around the Skyway there are a variety of vacation areas available where you can enjoy the scenery for longer, from lakes and mountain springs to forests and national parks. Try and travel in the fall if you can, when you'll really be able to appreciate the views in all their glory.
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