North Carolina’s Cherohala Skyway Is One of America’s Best Winding Drives

Cherohala skyway
 Jerry Whaley/Getty Images

Winding its way through Cherokee and Nantahala national forests, the Cherohala Skyway, a 43-mile ribbon of tarmac that regularly cuts along hillsides at treetop level, is no less a marvel than California’s Highway 1.

With big, sweeping bends and vistas studded with grassy balds and weathered peaks, you’ll no doubt arrive at the conclusion that this $100-million, 34-year project—one of the region’s most expensive roads ever, opened in 1996—was worth every penny. It’s possible to complete the route from Tellico Plains, Tennessee, to Robbinsville, North Carolina in 90 minutes, but you’d be missing out by gunning it straight through.

There’s fly-fishing for trout in the forests’ streams, kayaking on the Class III and IV rapids of the Upper Tellico, and hiking on the nearby Slickrock Creek Trail, arguably the Southeast’s toughest day hike. Plus, with more than 4,000 feet of elevation gain on the Cherohala, your car might need the breather.