Southern Region Viewing Area
Trillium erectum (red form) arch gracefully from a road bank along the North River Road.
Spring beauties (Claytonia caroliniana) are a common sign of early spring along the upper elevations of the North River Road.
The delicate flowers of Dutchman's britches (Dicentra cucullaria) are a treat to find on rich slopes in the early spring. It's not hard to guess how these curiously shaped flowers got their name!
A lone trout lily (Erythronium umbilicatum) rises above the early spring growth along the North River Road. Within a month, this area will transition into a dense layer of lush herbaceous plants, with no sign that this harbinger of spring once dominated the landscape!
North River Road
Forest: Cherokee National Forest
District: Tellico Ranger District
Description: The North River Road (Forest Road #217) begins at over 4,000 feet elevation at Stratton Gap on the Cherohala Skyway and drops to just below 2,000 feet elevation where it meets with the Tellico River Road (Forest Road #210). Beginning in late March and extending through the month of April, this is an excellent place to view a wide array of spring ephemeral wildflowers. The large range in elevation over a relatively short distance allows the viewer to see a succession of flowering species following an elevational gradient as spring progresses up and down the mountainside. The upper elevations include rich cove forests, boulderfield forests, and northern hardwood/hemlock forests, which then transition into a variety of hardwood, pine, and hemlock types as you travel down in elevation. The wide variety of habitats, including several small streams and seeps, ensure an assortment of spring ephemerals for those who go looking!
Wildflower Viewing: The peak time to view wildflowers in this area is early spring (March-April) though the wide variety of rich habitats ensures something for the wildflower enthusiast through the summer months as well. Typical species observed in the spring include spring beauty (Claytonia caroliniana), trout lily (Erythronium umbilicatum), toothworts (Cardamine spp.), Dutchman’s britches (Dicentra cucullaria), Squirrel corn (Dicentra canadensis), giant chickweed (Stellaria pubera), violets (Viola spp.), and several species of Trillium (Trillium erectum, T. grandiflorum, T. luteum, T. cuneatum, and T. vaseyi). The best displays of wildflowers are often in the first few miles of the higher elevations just off the Cherohala Skyway.
Safety First: This is a narrow, forest road with a gravel surface. It is suitable for most passenger cars; however, care should always be taken when driving on unfamiliar forest roads. We strongly recommend that you have a full tank of gas and obtain a map before entering the National Forest. Seasonal weather conditions and natural events may render roads impassable so it is always advised to contact the local ranger station for current road conditions.
Directions: The Cherohala Skyway (TN State Route 165) connects Tellico Plains, Tennessee, to Robbinsville, North Carolina, and is a popular road with recreationists looking for scenic views and access to the National Forest. Access to the North River Road is at Stratton Gap just west of the Tennessee and North Carolina border. After leaving the Cherohala Skyway onto the gravel road, be sure and turn left back under the bridge to access the North River Road. Be sure and obtain a road map for the forest before attempting to navigate forest roads.
Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Cherokee National Forest, Tellico Ranger District.
Closest Town: Tellico Plains, Tennessee.