The Ocoee National Forest Scenic Byway winds through the Ocoee River Gorge in the Cherokee National Forest . One section climbs to the top of the Chilhowee Mountains with breath-taking views of the Tennessee Valley, the Cumberland Plateau, the Blue Ridge Province, and views of North Carolina and Georgia, on a clear day.
The Cherohala National Scenic Byway (also know as the Cherohala Skyway) is about 50 miles long with views of ancient forests where Cherokee tribes and early pioneers traveled and settled in the Appalachian Mountains along with mile-high vistas with magnificent views. The name “Cherohala” comes from the names of the two National Forests: “Chero” from the Cherokee and “hala” from the Nantahala. The Cherohala Skyway is located in southeast Tennessee and southwest North Carolina. The Skyway connects Tellico Plains, Tennessee, with Robbinsville, North Carolina.423-253-8010 800-245-5428 www.cherohala.org
The Tennessee Overhill is blessed with two Scenic Byways – the Cherohala National Scenic Byway (also know as the Cherohala Skyway) and the Ocoee National Forest Scenic Byway. The Cherohala skirts across the northern border of the Overhill and the Ocoee winds along on the southern border. These byways act as bookends for the Tennessee Overhill Region and offer two very different views of the natural beauty and culture of the area. The flora, fauna, and history of each byway is unique. Rural highways and backroads link these two National Scenic Byways and make for varied and exciting ways to explore the culture, heritage, and scenic beauty of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina. These byways are funded in part by the Federal Highway Administration and National Scenic Byways.
- Cherokee Heritage Trail
- Crafts Heritage Trail
- Furs to Factories Heritage Trail
Exploring the Ancient Path
The old trade and war path now known as the Unicoi Turnpike Trail predates written history. Covering approximately 67 miles from Vonore, TN to Murphy, NC, the Unicoi Turnpike Trail allows modern travelers to follow the footsteps of Indians, fur traders, explorers, British soldiers, and others who used this path for centuries. Along the way, historic sites and museums illustrate the role this ancient path played in our nation’s history. In 1999 the section that runs between Vonore, TN and Murphy, NC was designated one of 16 National Millennium Flagship trails and named the Unicoi Turnpike Trail.
The auto trail approximates the original route of the Unicoi Path (see map). This route was essential to many prehistoric tribes; Native American Indians, European fur traders; the French and Indian War, Revolutionary War, and Civil War; and Trail of Tears. To gain a sense of what travel was like on the Unicoi Turnpike in previous centuries, hike on the restored section that runs through the Cherokee National Forest near Coker Creek. Marked with a blue blaze, the trail is 2 ½ miles. Historical Background on the Unicoi Turnpike Trail
Scenery – Hwy 360 from Vonore to Tellico Plains and Coker Creek follows the route of the Historic Unicoi Path. Predating written history, the path was used for trade and warfare for hundreds of years. The road once linked the Cherokee capital of Chota to the coastal ports at Charleston and Savannah. This road allows you to explore the old Cherokee lands. From Tellico Plains, the road climbs to the high mountain community of Coker Creek, home to one of the nation’s first gold strikes.
Stops Along the Way (Click on Any Item to View/Print Details)
1. Fort Loudoun
2. Tellico Blockhouse
3. Sequoyah Birthplace Museum
5. Tellico Plains
6. Charles Hall Museum
7. Coker Creek
8. Unicoi Gap
9. Joe Brown Highway
11. Cherokee County Historical Museum
Options – There are several options at Coker Creek to double back to Tellico Plains or extend your ride in another direction. If you choose to double back to Tellico Plains, you can either pick up Hwy 68 North to Madisonville, or take Hwy 39/310 to Etowah. For a longer ride through the high country continue on Hwy 68 South to Ducktown and Copperhill to link up with Hwy 64.
Directions – At Vonore, turn onto Hwy 360. Follow 360 to Tellico Plains. At Tellico Plains, turn right onto Hwy 165, continue through the downtown, then turn left onto Hwy 68 South to Coker Creek, TN. Get Directions
Fishing, canoeing and hiking are good ways to enjoy the Conasauga River, but its Underwater Wildlife Viewing Area is unique to the Southeast. Visitors can see over 70 species of fish. That’s more than double what is found in the Colorado or Columbia River basins combined. Learn more
Underwater Fish Viewing on the Conasauga River
Springing from the rain-soaked slopes of the Southern Appalachians, this relatively silt-free stretch of the Conasauga State Scenic River supports over 70 fish species, including the federally listed blue shiner, amber darter, and Conasauga logperch, as well as the state-listed trispot and coldwater darters. An exceptionally diverse community of mussels is also present. Guide to River Snorkeling in the Cherokee National Forest
Conasauga River Snorkeling Hole Tours: Guided snorkeling tours are available at select times during the year by calling the Cherokee National Forest at 423-338-3331 or Travis.McDonald@usda.gov. Equipped with mask, snorkel and a field guide to freshwater fishes, identifying these secretive and colorful fish will challenge adventuresome viewers. The Conasauga River Trail offers easy walking to river access points downstream from parking area.
Directions: From junction of Hwy. 64 / 411 south of Benton, TN, travel south 6.7 miles on Hwy. 411. Turn left onto TN 313 (Ladd Springs Road, becomes Willis Springs Road). Travel 4 miles, then bear right on gravel Forest Service Road 221 (Pea Vine/Sheeds Creek Road). Continue for 4.7 miles and turn right onto parking area for Conasauga River Trail 61.
Important Reminders: Always snorkel with a partner and wear safety flotation gear. Please do not disturb or collect the sensitive fauna of this river.