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Old 07-08-2020, 11:12 AM   #1
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How difficult to get to Highlands, NC

My wife and I are considering a trip to the Highlands NC from Chicago in September. This our first year in a motorhome and we have a gasser, Class A Tiffin. We have not driven in mountains yet. My wife is concerned about driving through the Smokey Mountains, me not so much. Is this a tough drive for a relatively new driver? I'll have driven around 5,000 miles by that point. I have driven around the Nashville, TN area where there were some mild grade changes, both up and down. I did get the feel of letting the engine do the braking, but the conditions were not severe and not long in duration.

TIA
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Old 07-08-2020, 12:04 PM   #2
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I have done it in a 31'gasser. I enjoyed it but you will have to concentrate hard most of the time. DO NOT go on the Dragons Tail. Very twisty and beloved by motorcyclists who will be upset at finding you in the way. The Blue Ridge parkway does have the clearance but is narrow and twisty and has no shoulders. It is hard to stay in your lane and keep the speed up. You should stop at all of the views to let cars go by. This will be an adventure.



The RV can do the hills but you will need to use the gears both up and down. Let the gears do the work. Stay in a low enough gear that you only have to press the brakes occasionally. They can overheat and fade.



Do some research on the websites devoted to the Smokies and the roads. Do the easy parts first. If you are over 35' consider finding a campground and taking the toad for day trips.
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Old 07-09-2020, 06:02 AM   #3
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Getting to Highlands in a larger RV / mortorhome in particular isn’t going to be any fun. It’s not that you can’t by any means, it’s just that the roadways are narrow, lack of shoulders and overhanging vegetation and cliffs next to the road. Any grades are short enough to not be that big of an issue, but the worst part is tight corners / switchbacks given the narrow lanes are going to be a challenge to stay in your lane. And not many places you can pull over to let cars go by. Oh, in a sports car, these roads are a lot of fun.

US64 between Franklin, Highlands, Cashiers, and Lake Toxaway is “marginally” a US highway. Ugh.

GA106 between Dillard and Highlands has a really steep grade with tight switchbacks coming out of Dillard and the roadway in general is marginal for a larger vehicle. I’m not going to do it in my coach.

As for GA28 south of Highlands, I don’t have any particular recollection but I know I’ve driven it in a sports car, and it’s probably just as bad for a large RV as the others.

To visit Highlands (which won’t take you a day to walk around) I’d suggest you stay in either Franklin at The Great Outdoors, or Dillard at River Vista. From either location you can take your toad to all the places you would want to go in that area, and both are easy to get to from the west on US 64 or US23.

In any case, I’d suggest getting off I75 in Cleveland and taking US74 to US64 east. If those roads are too challenging for you, you can completely forget about the others noted.

Roads in that area you don’t even want to think about in a RV are:

US129 between Tapoco and Chilhowee (The Tail of the Dragon). No way, don’t do it.

US19/129 between Vogal State Park (south of Blairsville) and the US19 - US129 split at Turners Corner, which goes over Blood Mountain. The south side of that is very tight, with highly banked corners; you could have several feet of difference between the left front and right rear for instance on a larger motorhome....; it’s probably the best public road I’ve ever driven or wanted to drive in a sports car.

GA28 between Tapaco and Stecoah which goes along the lake wouldn’t be any fun either.


I’ve driven many of the big grades / passes in the west, but don’t even think about taking our 33’ coach on any of the roads I’ve noted.......... The roadways are just too narrow and tight corners / switchbacks as I noted earlier, and there is nothing in that area worth taking our RV on those roads for anyway, particularly when there are some reasonable options otherwise.

Just found this picture of my Cooper S on the Tail of the Dragon with some friends.

Good luck.
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Old 07-09-2020, 07:43 AM   #4
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I accidentally drove a previous 32ft Brave motorhome up US64 and back down 106 a few years back. No where to turn around once you leave Franklin. Never again, I was about a nervous wreck when We got back down and I consider myself a great driver. Back down at Dillard my front brakes was smoking.
Also once you get to Highlands, there won't be anywhere to park your rig, you could only drive through.
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Old 07-10-2020, 06:08 AM   #5
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It occurred to me last night, that you also have another option which actually may be preferable.

I75-I40 which takes you over the Smokies; pick up US74 near Waynesville; to US23 in Sylva which takes you to Franklin and / or Dillard.

I’ll get to “why not?” US441 through the park and “why not?” the Blue Ridge Parkway” later. It’s a long rant.

I40 over the Smokies seems to cause anxiety for many. I think it’s “introduction to mountain driving”. If you can’t handle this, forget about the western mountain states. You get in the slow lane, you deal with the trucks that want to go faster or slower than you, and that’s it. Yes, you need to understand how to manage long downgrades without using your brakes to control your speed (that’s another topic in itself).

US74 to Sylva is easy, mostly if not all good 4 lane. You have the option to go up to Cherokee from here as well if you want to spend time exploring the south side of SMNP and that area including Bryson City. Several parks around Cherokee to stay in.

The turn off to US23 south is tricky. You go under US23 and then around to go south. It is easy to miss, and it is a VERY tight turn. VERY.

Then immediately you have a very steep but very short downgrade to a major intersection. From there you have an upgrade. It will be slow, but its nothing to worry about.

As you get near Franklin, you get a surprise. A big grade. Again, is more a surprise than it is something to worry about, but you need to drive it as any big grade.

Either stay in Franklin or go down to Dillard. If you go down to Dillard, the junction / split to take I23 south is exactly like the one in Sylva; VERY tight and VERY slow in an RV.

US19 east of Cherokee towards Maggie Valley is another road to avoid in a larger RV. Again, part of it is very narrow / winding, and just wouldn’t be any fun. Suck it up and take US74, and my bet is it takes less time even though it’s longer.

Back to US441 over SMNP and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Yes, you can, and some do, take large RVs on both routes. Keep in mind that both roads do not allow commercial traffic, so the reality is, while your not prohibited, you are not particularly welcome by other drivers trying to enjoy their time in the park or on the parkway.

There are many reasons RVers get a bad name for their driving habits, and those getting stuck behind a large RV on either of these roads will add to drivers that hate RVers; if you decide to drive these roads in a larger RV don’t complain the next time some in a car cuts you off or pulls out in front of you, it’s just payback.

You’ll also find that the trees are not “trimmed” back by passing big rigs, so you’ll either drive down the middle of these narrow roads or scratch the side of your RV.

US441 over the park is steep, and generally narrow. And my guess is the route I’ve suggested, while looking a lot longer doesn’t take that much longer to actually drive; maybe an hour.......

Again, it was not made for “trucks”, it was made for tourists in cars. The north side doesn’t have many pull outs for an RV either. The south side has more pull outs, but from what I’ve seen, many RVers don’t think they need to pull over and let the long line of cars behind them go by going up or down.

The BRP has plenty of pull outs, but good luck finding space in a large RV. Tunnels can be low clearance on the sides, and you’ll probably drive on or over the center line which of course is very dangerous, compounded given the many others (including a lot of motorcycles) won’t be paying a lot of attention to their driving; no it may not be your fault if you hit someone, but is that really how you want to do it? Again, the BRP was made specifically as a touring parkway for cars, not a route for large vehicles.

In short, if you were a tourist with your family, or a motorcyclist trying to enjoy a drive in SMNP or along the BRP, how you like being stuck behind a large RV. You wouldn’t.... you’d probably get pretty irritated, even more so when they don’t pull over when they can. It won’t be fun in a large RV to begin with, and even more importantly, just because you can drive a large RV on either roads, doesn’t mean you should. That’s my rant.

Good luck!
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Old 07-10-2020, 07:37 AM   #6
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Betr2trvl mentioned 74 to 64 from Cleveland TN. That would be my recommendation also. Last time we were in Highlands a couple years ago, We asked about RV parking at the police department. They directed us to the recreation center just north of town. Still would be tight for a big bus and a toad.
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Old 07-10-2020, 12:58 PM   #7
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Thanks for the word of caution from everyone. My wife is right again! We were considering staying at the Wildflower Motorcoach Resort which I understand is very close to the Highlands. I was told itís an easy drive, all 4 lane highway. Iím so glad for this forum. The last time we were in the Smokey Mountains I was in a car and white knuckled it due to torrential rain and fog where my visibility was close to zero. I guess my brain doesnít remember pain too well. Might save this trip for another year or if I get diesel.
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Old 07-10-2020, 01:06 PM   #8
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We live within a couple of hours of Highlands and it really is NOT a place to drive a motorhome of any size. The streets and narrow and the traffic is heavy most of the time. Headed back down the mountain toward Dillard, Ga is a very curvy and steep drive. Suggest you not take the RV there, but maybe toad your way there.
Just inside Georgia on the Highlands Rd is River Vista RV Park. Good place to stay when you tour the area.
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Old 07-10-2020, 01:29 PM   #9
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Do you have an RV GPS? I use that and compare it to truck routing software that I have on my computer. If trucks are not allowed, then I question my route and needs. I have driven 100+ miles out of the way to avoid twisty switch back roads in my RAM 2500 diesel pulling a 33th 5th wheel. My rig is about 50 feet long now, and I could not stay in my lane on the curves with in 30 miles of my destination. My trailer was inches away from the side of the mountain and I was over the centerline. I cannot imagine doing that with a gasser.
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Old 07-11-2020, 06:07 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EcoRick View Post
Thanks for the word of caution from everyone. My wife is right again! We were considering staying at the Wildflower Motorcoach Resort which I understand is very close to the Highlands. I was told it’s an easy drive, all 4 lane highway. I’m so glad for this forum. The last time we were in the Smokey Mountains I was in a car and white knuckled it due to torrential rain and fog where my visibility was close to zero. I guess my brain doesn’t remember pain too well. Might save this trip for another year or if I get diesel.
The routes I’ve suggested to drive or not to drive, have absolutely nothing to do with having a gas or diesel coach. In fact, the bigger the coach / RV the more difficult the drive is on the non interstate roads discussed. It’s about length, width, and height, and being courteous to others.

The reality is your Tiffin gasser can go anywhere any 600HP tag axle monstrosity can go, and in some cases it’s even easier in a smaller / shorter coach. You just have to understand how to drive it to maximize its capabilities, and in some cases be patient, but you’ll get there. Unfortunately, some seem to think that it’s too loud, or too scary to drive in the upper RPM ranges of the V10 Ford engine, and think driving means setting the cruise control and steering with as little little thought / effort as possible, kinda like driving a Buick.

I think mountain driving is fun, and it gets to you many of the most beautiful and fun places to see.

The linked thread below (contrary to the title) is about driving significant grades, and I go in to great detail in several posts how I have driven many significant grades, including some that seem to even scare many DP drivers, in my gasser with absolute no drama whatsoever. As I note in my first post, mountain driving is about understanding your equipment and having confidence in it and your ability. If you don’t, then it’s safer to stay in the flatlands.

Just as a side note, I drove the Dillard / Asheville / I40 over the smokies route as well as the I77 / Fancy Gap grade the first year we had our coach.



For those that won’t read the linked thread:

Some of the roads with significant grades we have taken in our gasser, always pulling the toad, include:

I40 over the Smokies in both directions
I77 over Fancy Gap in in VA both directions
I90 westbound in WA, Snoqualmie Pass (the road surface on the downgrade / west side was horrendous summer ‘19)

And then there are the “real” mountain roads, grades, passes:
I70 eastbound in eastern UT
I70, Vail Pass eastbound
CO9 southbound from Breckinridge
Up US36 and down US24 to / from Estes Park, CO
UT12 Bryce to Torrey UT
US160 / Wolf Creek Pass CO southbound
CO149 / Slumgullion Pass southbound; ‪https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slumgullion_Pass‬
Slumgullion Pass, elevation 11,530 ft (3,510 m), is a mountain pass in Colorado traversed by State Highway 149 east of Lake City. The north side has the steepest grade of any continuously paved road in Colorado (9%)
US89 eastbound into Garden City, UT
US191 southbound from I80 to Vernal, UT
US50 eastbound, Monarch Pass, CO

As well as some some fun grades in Quebec along the St. Lawrence, and across New Brunswick.



Good luck and be careful.

https://www.irv2.com/forums/f84/dall...er-486027.html
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Old 07-30-2020, 10:39 AM   #11
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Why go all the way to Highlands in the RV, when you can rent our site (Lot 7 on the lake ) at Mountain Falls RV resort? www.mtn-falls.com

Stay here, and drive your toad anywhere you'd like.. Then you don't have to worry about the twisty roads in the RV.
Lots to do in the area..
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Old 07-31-2020, 04:03 PM   #12
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Your drive shouldn't be a problem until you get near Highlands. I suggest staying somewhere close and doing the final few miles in your car. The Great Outdoors RV Resort, just north of Franklin on US 441 is a nice place to stay. The River Vista Mountain Village is a very nice upscale RV park in Dillard, NC.

Coming from the north (Knoxville), I'd take I-40 east over the mountains to US 74/19/23 (Smokey Mountains Expressway), US 74 to US 441, then south on 441 to Franklin (or Dillard).
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