The roads leading to Hot Springs (TN-352/NC-212, NC-208, and US-70) are fantastic. They are smooth, curvy, fairly free of gravel have little traffic and great scenery. Hot Springs is a motorcyclists’ destination and the Appalachian Trail runs right through Main St. There are plenty of motorcyclists, bicyclists, and hikers visiting the town. There is one gas station and usually three or four restaurants open for lunch. Our favorite restaurant for lunch is Smoky Mountain Diner because I can’t get enough pinto beans and cornbread. If you only feel like riding 100 to 125 mi, you can always ride into Hot Springs then turn around and go back the way you came. The route is totally different going in the opposite direction.
If you want a longer ride of ~180 mi, continue on the route described below. You will get to ride the most curvy section of the Rattler (NC-209) then ride the twisty NC-63, then ride a wonderful side road (Town Meadows Rd/ Baileys Branch Rd) into Marshall, NC. After a break for gas and drinks, you will get on Walnut Creek Rd which will turn into Big Laurel Rd. This road has just been repaved (as of April 2017). It is scenic, and curvy and so much fun. Big Laurel Rd will end at a stop sign, and you will take a left onto Old Asheville Highway that parallels I-26 for a while. Old Asheville Highway is a blast to ride and it has also been recently repaved so it is in great shape. After you pass the little town of Flag Pond, TN, the road will turn into TN-352 which will take you back to an entrance to I-26. Plan some time for this ride and take plenty of breaks so you stay fresh while riding. I really think you will like this one!
The first google map is from TN-352 through Hot Springs then on to NC-209 and NC-63, then Meadows Town Rd/Baileys Creek Rd to Marshall, NC and then to the Exon/Subway on US-25/US-70 in Marshall.
The second Google map is from the Exon/Subway in Marshall, NC to Walnut Creek Rd/Big Laurel Rd, then a left onto Old Asheville Highway through Flag Pond, TN to TN-352 and I-26 Exit 40.
The description of the detailed loop is shown below:
Hot Springs Big Laurel Rd Loop, ~180 mi
From Johnson City, TN on I-26, get off at I-26 Exit 40. Go to exit stop sign.
Left onto TN-36 S Go 0.2 mi
Go under I-26 overpass and Right onto Temple Hill Rd Go 0.2 mi to APPCO Convenience Center for gas
Continue southwest/straight on TN-36 S/ Temple Hill Rd Go 4.7 mi
Slight right onto TN-352 W (US-19W turns to left at this point)
Go 4.9 mi
Right to stay on TN-352 W Go 4.2 mi
Straight onto NC-212 S Go 14.2 mi
Left onto NC-208 S Go 3.5 mi
Right onto US-25/US-70 Go 5.1 mi into Hot Springs
Straight onto Big Laurel Rd Go 10.3 mi to stop sign
Left onto Old Asheville Hwy Go 10.5 mi
Straight onto TN-352 E Go 4.9 mi
Straight onto US-19W N Go 1.0 mi
Straight onto TN-36 N/ Temple Hill Rd Go 3.6 mi to
APPCO Convenience Center for gas, bathroom, snacks is on right.
Continue northeast on Temple Hill Rd Go 0.2 mi to stop sign
Left onto TN-36 N Go 210 ft
Right onto I-26 W Exit 40 entrance ramp
(40 mi to I-26 W Exit 40 entrance ramp from Marshall, NC Exon and Subway