It begins with the long incline from Tellico Plains. The slopes and peaks are up above and all around you then, but they won't stay that way for long.
Through the remoteness of the Appalachian wilds the road climbs and swoops and switchbacks and climbs again until it crests, literally straddling the ridges, capping the summits, until vistas, the mountains and valleys from where you just emerged literally stand beneath you, at your feet. Here, you look down at them, instead of up. Here, on the Cherohala Skyway, you ride along the very top.
The name "Cherohala" is a combination of two Cherokee words, including the name Cherokee itself. The other word is Nantahala; hence the name, Chero-hala. And those two Cherokee names were chosen and combined because the route of the skyway carves a path through the Cherokee National Forest on the western, Tennessee half of its course, and the Nantahala National Forest on the eastern, North Carolina half. All told, this National Scenic Byway runs an incredible 43 miles of mostly mountain ridges in Tellico Plains, Tennessee, cresting near the state line on the slopes of Haw Knob at approx. 5,400 ft. Completed in 1996, a full 25 miles of the drive is completely within the state of Tennessee.
Aside from the undeniably spectacular and near endless mountain views, the Cherohala Skyway provides visitors with access to the protected recreational areas of the Unicoi Mountains, including Citico Creek Wilderness and Bald River Gorge. And except for the road itself, there is very little evidence of mankind along the way. Unobstructed mountaintop views pale off into the distance as far as you can see.
For those making the relatively full journey, remember to fill the gas tank before setting off, and leave yourself several hours to stop and appreciate all that the skyway has to offer, which means you ought to bring plenty of water (even if you aren't hiking and especially in the warm, summer months) and something to snack on. There are no real exits - only stops - until you reach the other side or turn around, so plan accordingly.