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10Trips: This is how to spend a day in Tellico Plains

When a mom & pop drive-thru across the street from a Harley Davidson is a town’s best restaurant, you can guess this is a place best explored on two wheels. The folks in Tellico Plains know you’re on your way, but are more than fine if you stay for a spell.  Here’s how to enjoy your time in this rugged motorcycle country.

6:00 AM or earlier - Fishing on Tellico River & Tellico Fish Hatchery 

Early bird gets one of the thousands of trout swimming along the twenty mile stretch of Tellico River. This river is nationally recognized as a premier trout stream, and heavily stocked by the state.  One of the big fish you’re sure to reel in even in the off-season is thanks in part to the work at Tellico Fish Hatchery. Trout are reared there from the egg stage until they're big enough to fish.

12:00 - Grab a milkshake at Tellico Beach Drive - In: 

You’re doubling back a little bit here, but it’s necessary. Tellico Beach is a mom & pop that doesn’t take credit cards, and they’ll probably never need to. In the summertime, people drive up, grab an ice cream, and hang out by the river. When I stopped by on one of the coldest days in February, people were still making their way up to this drive-in to get one of their Beach Burgers or foot-long hot dogs. 

This place isn’t just special to locals. It’s a sentimental spot for anyone who ventures onto Cherohala Skyway year after year.

1:00 PM - Set off on the Cherohala Skyway

The double yellows of the Cherohala Skyway suck you into the Cherokee National Forest, urging you into North Carolina faster than you think. The  Skyway crosses through the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests, thus “Chero-hala” Skyway. This 41 mile road is popular in the motorcycling and sports car world for its sweeping vistas and fantastic views. If you’d rather explore on foot, there are several convenient hikes just off the road. Some of the best ones include: Bald River Falls (5.6 miles), Indian Boundary (3.2 miles), Benton MacKaye Trail (6.7 miles)

5:00 PM - Pick out prosciutto at Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams

When it comes to smoking hams “the hillbilly way”, Allan Benton knows what he’s doing.  Born into an Appalachian family who raised everything they ate, he started curing hams the way his papaw used to after taking a look at the paycheck he would make as a school counselor.  That was back in the 60s and, since then, Benton’s bacon has been beloved by high-end restaurants around the world. Most of the bacon he makes is smoked with a little brown sugar. It's aged for ten days and the result is an intense hickory flavor that works perfectly as a post-hike snack.