Top 10 Motorcycle Rides in the Southeast
Have you wanted to ride somewhere with endless mountain vistas? How about somewhere with beaches, waterfalls, campgrounds next to peaceful streams, and numerous National Parks? And that’s not even mentioning how good the riding is. Ribboned with roads that have hundreds of curves in ten-mile stretches, along with plenty of wide-open mountain pass sweepers and straights to just cruise, this place has everything motorcyclists dream of.
What area are we talking about? The Southeast! States like the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Virginia are all included here. All feature a wide range of offerings for those who love exploring new places on their motorcycle. One of the most compelling reasons to ride here is the relatively mellow climate, even in the winter (aside from the higher elevations). It’s possible to keep the bike out of storage and ride year-round in the majority of the Southeast, making it the perfect destination for both winter getaways as well as big summer road trips.
We’ve put together a list of the Top-10 motorcycle rides in the Southeast to get you started in one of the best regions for riding in the country. To only choose ten from the seemingly infinite number of rides you could embark on in the Southeast is no easy task, so we’ll try to provide a good mix that will satisfy a variety of riding desires. Of course, we’d always love to hear from you if there’s a ride you think other riders need to check out! Please share your rides with us on our Instagram page by tagging us @Rokform! Now, on to the list.
1. Skyline Drive – Virginia
The precursor to the Blue Ridge Parkway, Skyline Drive in Virginia offers stunning views of the unique, gentle mountainscapes that Virginia is known for. Small farms speckle the lush green hills that roll into the distance, and the mildly meandering two-lane riding is perfect for more chill rides for merely enjoying the open road.
2. Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville, NC to GSMNP
One of the best stretches of the Blue Ridge Parkway is from Asheville, NC, to Great Smoky Mountain National Park. You’ll climb up over 5000’ in elevation multiple times, giving you epic view after epic view of mountain ranges as far as the eye can see. From Spring through Fall, there’s lodging at the Pisgah Inn or the campground across from the Inn. Note, most of this section is closed in the winter, as the high elevations make much of the road impassable.
3. HWY 143, Deal’s Gap – Fontana, NC
Could the “Tail of the Dragon” be the most notoriously insane ride east of the Mississippi? If you’ve ever ridden there, you’re probably reluctant to disagree! Not for the faint of heart, there are 318 corners in only 11 miles of highway, making this one of the most technically challenging roads in the country. Beware the weekends when car clubs and crotch-rockets get wild. Weekdays are far more laid back and a much safer option now that this ride is so well-known. That said, if you’re seeking a fun (slightly crazy) motorsports-friendly environment, the weekend here is probably your scene!
4. Cherohala Skyway – Robbinsville, NC to Tellico Plains, TN
The 55-mile Cherohala Skyway is a short ride from Deal’s Gap and offers high-elevation mountain pass riding that’s like the Blue Ridge Parkway on steroids. While the BRP is more oriented toward low-speed cruising, the Skyway is more popular with sportbike riders for its massive, high-speed sweepers and straights that beg for full-throttle twists. Combine this one with the Tail of the Dragon for an entire day of hardcore two-wheel action.
5. HWY 64 from Cashiers, NC to Lake Lure, NC
The mostly two-lane Highway 64 from Cashiers, NC to Lake Lure, NC, delivers a wide range of twisties, mountain passes, technical sections, and easy-cruising straightaways. The ride is around 67 miles and takes about two hours, but it passes through numerous charming mountain towns. Cashiers itself is a destination, as well as Lake Lure, where the movie Dirty Dancing was filmed. You’ll pass the waterfall-fed Lake Toxaway and Sapphire National Golf Club, and if you want to hike to some of the area’s best waterfalls, you can take a quick detour into DuPont State Forest just past Brevard, NC. Oh, and don’t miss the “Donut Breakfast Sandwich” at Hendough Chicken and Donuts in Hendersonville, NC!
6. HWY 17 from Wilmington, NC to Charleston, SC
Ever thought it would be cool to ride your motorcycle to a castle? Well, you can in South Carolina! Atalaya Castle near Myrtle Beach doesn’t look like your traditional medieval style with huge towers, but rather, it’s a Spanish-style castle that’s more low-flung and sprawling. You can even see where the castle’s eccentric builders kept their zoo-animal collection, including lions and bears!
Just a short ride away, you can camp a stone’s throw from the beach at Huntington Beach State Park. There are a handful of sweet little tent-sites back in the scrubby-tree forest here, and walking to the beach for sunrise only takes a few minutes of walking down a pathway leading through a small wetlands area. It’s a truly unique camping experience! Reservations are required for Huntington Beach Camping, so plan ahead by booking HERE.
7. Great Smoky Mountain National Park – Tennessee/North Carolina
It’s hard to pass up one of the most stunning National Parks in the country if you’re riding your motorcycle in the Southeast. The park is expansive enough to spend an entire day cruising around and checking out all of the sights. There are dozens of hikes to go on, including a relatively strenuous paved trail to the summit of Clingman’s Dome, the second-highest mountain east of the Mississippi. Lodging can be found in Cherokee, NC, or Gatlinburg, TN, on opposite ends of the park, and there are campgrounds within the park as well. The ride through Cademan’s Cove is spectacular around late October for the fall colors.
8. HWY 209 “The Rattler” – Hot Springs, NC
Want a thrilling, curvy, hilly ride that has a relaxing soak in a hot springs-fed hot tub by the river at the end? Check out highway 209, “The Rattler!” At only 33 miles and about an hour of ride time, this isn’t a very long route, but it can be combined with numerous other fun two-lane roads in the area, most notably HWY 276 south from Waynesville to Brevard, NC.
9. HWY 276 from Travelers Rest, SC to Waynesville, NC
Love ultra-technical curvy mountain passes? Climb up HWY 276 out of Travelers Rest, SC heading north towards Waynesville, NC. The ride starts reasonably mildly down some 45 mph two-lane road. But the beginning of the climb up the mountain to the summit at Caesars Head State Park begins with hairpin switchbacks up a steep incline, dropping you down to first gear in some. If you love the rush of charging up a mountain, this one has some sweet little passing lanes heading up, offering the chance to pass slow-moving cagers before the next sharp turn.
Be sure to check out Bald Rock not too far up the steep part of the climb. There’s an impassive rock face you can walk out onto for long-range views of Greenville, SC, to the south. At Caesars Head State Park there is camping and some food. Take note––the road surface is NOT pristine––when we say ultra-technical, that’s because the road has wavy spots, cracks, dips, and rough spots in some areas, especially on the curviest part up the mountain. So be ready for a challenge!
10. HWY 181 from Morganton, NC to Pineola, NC
Sweeper shredders can spend a whole afternoon ripping up this little stretch of mountain highway that heads north from Morganton, NC, and summits at the 2,760’ Brown Mountain Overlook. Once you pass the overlook, there is still plenty of fun left before you reach your turnaround point in Pineola if you want to session the section. There are numerous wide passing lanes in high-speed sweepers, making this a favorite for the sport-bike crowd. A typical sunny Saturday afternoon is filled with the sounds of engines winding up and down from their redlines, so be ready to encounter a rowdy (fun) crowd in good weather!
Whenever you’re checking out new routes, having your phone at the ready for GPS updates and staying on top of the weather is crucial. Rokform keeps your phone secure with our motorcycle phone mounts. From bar mounts to perch mounts to 1” RAM® Socket Mounts, we’ve got your phone covered and held securely no matter how hard you charge up the mountain. Tag us on our Instagram with a picture of your motorcycle on one of these routes––we love seeing you enjoy the rides we share!
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