Explore North River Road

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Added by Mason Boring

One of the most accessible, best mountain back-roads in the Cherokee National Forest. Best free camping along the river. Great swimming holes in the year during warmer months (the river is cold all year!).

If you're looking to get off the beaten path and take the road less traveled, North River Road is your ticket to solitude.

A popular loop for the locals is starting on Tellico River Road, then getting on North River Road to make your way up the mountain all the way to the Cherohala Skyway. Take the Skyway back down the mountain toward Tellico Plains or head on over to Robbinsville, North Carolina.

On North River road, depending on the season, you'll follow the river up the mountain on a dusty gravel road. If there is snow in Tellico, do not attempt North River Road unless you are an experienced winter overlander. (I slid off the mountain back when I was high school so heads up for all you whippersnappers).

In the summer, be on the lookout to find some sweet water holes along the way. If you take the plunge, you better bring your big boy shorts because the river is cold all year.

North River also provides some of the best free camping along the river in the area. There are multiple free spots with no amenities except one campground with bathrooms and picnic tables for a small fee.

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Chillin
Camping
Photography
Swimming
Hiking
Dog Friendly
Forest
Picnic Area
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Swimming Hole

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Almost perfect, except for law enforcement

Our family absolutely adores camping all along the Tellico River corridor, which includes the North River Campground. It’s 20 miles+ to the nearest cell phone signal, but there is a campground store with pretty much anything you need, at prices far more fair than you’d think being the only game in town. The fishing is spectacular. There’s off road trails for dirt bikes and ATV. Tons of hiking trails and swimming holes. Every time we’ve gone, it’s been absolutely perfect. Even the time heavy snow forced us to pack up our tent and run! Every time, except the last time. We made the mistake of allowing our 16 year old son to place his tent off the tent pad. Some places aren’t strict about this rule, but some are. We should have known better, and after our first full day here, state forest law enforcement Officer Terry approached and asked us to move the tent onto the pad. We happily did so, and understood why. It was at this point that Officer Terry noticed my wife’s half empty bottle of wine on the picnic table. Things went south from there. He immediately began interrogating us about everything, including whether or not we even paid for our site (of course we did). He tore into our supplies and cooler to locate the illegal goods. A few cans of beers, which he demanded we poured into the North River. Again, we did so without complaining. But then he took a step that was really uncalled for. He wrote me a ticket for $130 for having alcohol. We weren’t a party of college kids. It was dark, we were quietly sitting around our campfire. No one in our decades of camping has ever needed to speak to a member of my family for bad behavior. The ticket was uncalled for. Any normal park ranger or park law enforcement officer, with any kind of halfway decent people skills and understanding of why families go camping would have explained the rules, poured out the beer, and gave a warning, while explaining that any future issues with alcohol would incur a serious fine. But not Officer Terry. This guy was on a whole different level. In the middle of a pandemic, which for a lot of people was literally a year of hell, this guy is out writing tickets to quiet families enjoying a quiet beer around a quiet campfire. Maybe a failed psych evaluation kept him out of the FBI or something, who knows. But this sector of law enforcement requires far more humanity than he will ever have. So my suggestion if you come to this great camping area, is to either not bring any alcohol, or to be very stealthy with it. Or, to stay at one of the camping areas along the river that does allow alcohol, which didn’t make sense to us. Why would the same governing body, inside the same forest, in the same camping area, have some alcohol allowed sites sprinkled among the ones where it’s banned? It’s far too confusing to have such a heavy penalty which is so easily leveled against families by a wannabe prohibition era cop.

Explorer

🥇Top Contributor

7 months ago

Great roadway

Although it is not the smoothest road in the world this is a great place to drive especially in the fall. No 4WD is needed so anyone can come here.

Great!

Great easy road trip. Thoroughly enjoyed driving through the area.

223 total saves

4.7/5

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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