The planning stage of the Cherohala Skyway began in 1958 and, after 30 plus years of construction and 100 million dollars, opened October 12, 1996. This paved two-lane road climbs to elevations over 5300 feet and extends over 50 miles. In April 1997, the state of North Carolina declared it a Scenic Byway and it later became one of only twenty highways deserving the distinction of “National Scenic Byway”.
Crossing through the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests from which it gets it’s name – Chero, from Cherokee, and hala, from Nantahala – this ridge route connects Robbinsville in North Carolina to Tellico Plains in Southeast Tennessee. The route through the North Carolina side looks down on the Appalachian Mountains and the Snowbird, Slickrock and Joyce Kilmer Forests and on clear days you can see as far as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On the Tennessee side you will enjoy the splendor of the Cherokee National Forest, including Bald River Falls and the Tellico River.
Take a leisurely journey on the Skyway and enjoy the spectacular scenic overlooks some of which offer picnic tables, or hike one of the many trails and view the wildlife of the forests. Backpackers, Bicyclists, Bird-watchers, Hikers, Photographers, and Sightseers all enjoy the opportunities offered while traveling on the Skyway. Listed below are several of the overlooks and their elevations:
Shute Cove, 3550 ft.
Santeetlah Overlook, 5390 feet (highest elevation)
Big Junction, 5240 feet
Haw Knob Slopes, 4890 feet
Stratton Meadows, 4320 feet
Hoopers Bald, 5290 feet
Beach Gap, 4490 feet
Between East and West Rattlesnake Rock, 4110 feet
Bushy Ridge, 3750 feet
Turkey Creek overlook, 2630 feet
The skyway has several rest area facilities, but there are no gas stations, restaurants or overnight accommodations on the Skyway. Remember the temperature is about 20 degrees cooler at the higher elevations.
Time Needed: about 2 hours depending on weather and traffic flow.