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Road Condition Scale Definitions

All of our Vacation Rental Cabins are privately owned and individually located throughout the Bryson City, Cherokee, and Nantahala areas of the Smoky Mountains.

Therefore the roads leading to our cabins each follow the topography of the landscape on which they are uniquely located. Because these roads are all so unique, we designed this scale to attempt to describe the terrain that may be possible along the mountain road and the minimum type of vehicles we suggest to successfully drive to each of the North Carolina rental cabins we represent.

PLEASE NOTE: This scale is only intended to indicate the minimum vehicle type suggested to successfully navigate the North Carolina Smoky Mountain access road to the vacation rental cabin that the vehicle icon is displayed. Carolina Mountain Vacations makes a proactive effort to verify that the roads to our vacation cabins are navigable by the general public. Our cleaning and maintenance staff drive these roads in their personal vehicles almost daily and report any major road issues; such as washouts, fallen trees or rocks. Carolina Mountain Vacations does not assume responsibility for or warrant the actual road conditions experienced on any specific road at any date. Nor can we accept responsibility for road conditions caused by seasonal or temporary weather conditions. If you encounter a road issue during your stay please report it to our office immediately. So we can contact the appropriate people to rectify the issue as fast as possible for you and future guest.

Please Drive Carefully and don't forget to Buckle-up! We want you to come back!


Motorcycle & Trailer Accessible :
Motorcycle & Trailer Accessible:

Smooth Paved Road all the way to cabin, Not Steep, No Sharp Switchbacks, has a large Parking area with enough room to Turn Around MOST Trailer and Vehicle combinations. (Ask the reservation specialist about your trailer)

Motorcycle Friendly Access :
Motorcycle Friendly Access :

Paved Road all the way to cabin, No Sharp Switchbacks and No more than a moderate incline, (No Mountain road is flat and level its' whole length)

Cars & most all Vehicles access :
Cars & most all Vehicles access :

Paved and hard packed gravel sections on a well maintained mountain road, Switchbacks and moderate to steep incline sections possible, no washed out section.

SUV / Truck Higher Clearance Vehicles Access :
SUV or Truck Higher Clearance Vehicles Access :
Gravel sections on steeper inclines with sharp switchbacks, possible moderate rough spots requiring higher ground clearance than most cars, 4x4 NOT required..
4x4 Vehicle suggested Access:
4x4 Vehicle suggested Access:

Loose Gravel on a Steep incline and/or sharp steep Switchbacks, possible deep ruts requiring higher ground clearance. Most Cars will not make it up the road with out bottoming out or spinning out.

Caution Experienced Riders Only
Caution Experienced Riders only:

Paved all the way to the cabin and navigable by most all vehicles but there are sharp switchbacks or steep inclines requiring cautious skilled/ experienced motorcycle riders.


Term Definitions & FAQ's

A Switchback is a type of “ U” turn or Hairpin turn making it necessary for a vehicle to turn almost 180° in either an increasing or decreasing gradient to continue traveling along the road. Switchbacks are built so a road can climb up or down a steep slope by mainly traveling back and forth across the Mountain side like a “Z” at a more traversable moderate steepness. (A road that runs straight up or down a mountain is called a ski slope ;~)

A pull-out is a wide spot in a one lane road (gravel or Paved) built so one vehicle can pull off to the side to allow another to pass by in the opposite direction. Pull-outs are only built where the topography of the landscape allows and are more common on local county and state maintained roads. Private drives generally don’t have pull-outs; as public traffic is not expected and only one vehicle at a time is expected on the dive in either direction.

Fair Question and the reason we designed this scale. Please refer to the vehicle icon on the rental info page of the cabin you are planning to vacation at and verify that your vehicle meets the minimum suggested vehicle as described by the road condition scale. If you are unsure please call and ask one of our reservation specialists.

No mountain road whether private, county or state maintained is flat and level throughout its entire length. Please refer to the vehicle icon on the rental info page of the cabin you are planning to vacation at and verify that your vehicle meets the minimum vehicle suggested by the road condition scale. If you are unsure please call and ask one of our reservation specialists..

Gravel roads allow water to pass through resulting in better traction year round. In the winter months a puddle or a damp shady section of paved road can become an ice skating rink where as the water will pass through the gravel road. During the spring and summer months run off from heavy rains can deposit sand or loose gravel across a section of road. This can be slippery on a paved road but has little effect on a gravel road. Besides the traction benefits, a well maintained gravel road is better for the ecology. Gravel is a naturally occurring stone and therefore nontoxic to the environment. Gravel roads can be rougher than paved roads and should be traveled at a slower speed.

No, historically there are significantly more accidents on the major highways and city streets than on the back mountain roads. Generally the worst that has happened to a guest is driving into the shallow drainage ditch along side the road and getting a wheel stuck. Most of the private drives up the mountains are wooded on both sides for most of their length and would not allow a car to travel more than a couple of feet off the road before being stopped by a tree (Kind of a natural guardrail).


Smoky Mountain road driving tips

Though we have some of the most beautiful scenic drives in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina; Watch how the road unfolds in font of you. Mountain roads are commonly very curvy and not always marked by road signs. A hidden or unexpectedly sharp turn will catch you distracted; causing you to enter the turn at an unsafe rate of speed or drifting into the oncoming lane possibly ending your vacation. Try taking turns behind the wheel and share the exhilaration of driving a curvy mountain road and the passenger seat where the serene beauty of the North Carolina Mountains will surround you. Another suggestion is to take advantage of the scenic overlook pull offs found along a few state and county roads.

Sorry; we love them too, but the mountain terrain and dense forests themselves so often obscures the satellite signals of GPS systems making them extremely inaccurate on smokey mountain roads. Also many of the private roads are not in their mapping systems. We have had numerous guest attempt to locate their cabin by their GPS rather than follow the printed directions handed them upon check-in, only to end up severely lost. Please note: Our road scale only reflects the conditions of the private drives to the cabins we rent and a GPS system with a weak signal can misdirect you on to roads that may not be safe for your vehicle. For written directions to our office visit our Directions page.

The back mountain roads can appear intimidating at night. The ambient light in the Smokey Mountains is almost nonexistent which makes our nights not just dark but black. Drop offs that only go a few feet can appear to go for miles at night and the fog common in the Smokey Mountains can hide turns. Street lights are very rare on Mountain roads. Road signs are only dimly illuminated by your vehicles head lights and landmarks are harder to see.

Most roads in the Smoky Mountains of NC follow the topography of the mountain they are on; which means they are often very curvy. The state and county roads are generally marked by speed limit signs indicating the speed at which a local resident who knows the road may safely travel. The mountains are definitely not the place to speed. No, it is not a ticket that will be you biggest concern at higher than posted speeds; it is the sudden sharp turn or wild life darting across the road that are increasingly dangerous at high speeds. Never drive more than 20mph on a private mountain road whether paved or gravel. These roads are often more curvy and not marked by road signs. Try to maintain a consistent controllable safe speed when driving up a gravel Smokey Mountain road. Take a lesson from the turtle who won the race; slow and steady climbs the mountain.

If your tire slips or spins on loose gravel or dirt just let off the gas slightly; Do Not Punch-it!! And Do Not Slam on the Breaks either! (Unless you are in danger of hitting a tree or driving into a ditch). This will allow the spinning tire to regain traction while the other powered wheel keeps your vehicle traveling forward. Giving it a lot of gas or “punching-it” only increases the spin and prevents the tire from regaining traction. If/when the spinning tire finally grabs traction your vehicle could jump forward unexpectedly. Spinning your tires also further loosens and damages the structure of the road making it progressively more difficult for yourself and future vacationing guest to get up the cabin’s road. Though it takes more gas pedal to climb a steeper incline than a flat road, the objective is to maintain a safe controllable and steady speed; not to generate/use momentum to throw a vehicle up a mountain road at a higher rate of speed. This is not safe or as effective as relying on the torque of a lower gear and the traction of the other tires. Stop only when your forward progress is completely halted and the tires are still spinning even though you are still applying a moderate gas pedal. In a sever case like this it may be necessary to carefully back a short distance down the road. Then switch into a lower gear and steer around the loose/ soft spot as if avoiding a pot hole and continue up the road. The only roads at cabins represented by Carolina Mountain Vacations where this is most likely to happen will be labeled by a minimum of SUV/ TRUCK or 4X4.