Beyond spending a week in the Smoky Mountains, enjoying some of the best roads east of the Mississippi River, staying at the Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge is also one of the highlights of my annual vacation. Nestled in the Stecoah Valley off North Carolina State Route 28 (NC-28), the Iron Horse sits just off one of the prime twisty roads, right in the heart of Appalachia. Waking up each morning I was blessed with a beautiful view of mountains, just as the fog lifted off the valley floor.
The Iron Horse provides a variety of lodging options depending on your preference. For last minute arrivals, camping accommodations are almost always available. Primitive camping, at just $15 a night, offers outdoorsy guests various tent locations adjacent to the creek that runs down the center of the property. Camping guest have full access to the lodge’s clean and well stocked shower house, connected to lodge’s main building. When Uncle Sam was signing my paychecks, I certainly spent a fair amount of time sleeping on the ground, camping at the Iron Horse is far from bivouacking for folks that aren’t in touch with their outdoorsy side. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty confident that the tent camping “pads” are actually planted with Bermuda grass; I felt like I was camping on the golf course last year. For campers not looking to completely “rough it” camp sites with 110 volt electric hookups are available with reservation. Guests looking for budget reservations but prefer hard walls can book a stay in one of the two bunk houses. As the name would imply, the bunk houses have Spartan accommodations, twin beds, linens, towels, and full access to the shower houses at the main lodge. At just $30 a night, I had originally planned on staying in the bunk house for several nights this year until cabin slot opened up.
Folks looking for more plush accommodations can choose from various cabins on the property, ranging from semi-private, 2 bedroom – shared bathroom, to larger private cabins with bedrooms including full bath and common area. Cabin accommodations range from ~$80 a night, $1,300 weekly, or $2,300 weekly rates depending upon size and location. This year I spent the week in the downstairs space of the Lone Star cabin ($1,300 weekly + taxes & fees). The Lone Star shares the same rustic theme as the rest of the Iron Horse grounds, but well adorned with comfortable furniture in the common area, and large balcony outfitted with rocking chairs to enjoy the morning mountain air. Without a cliché description about the softness of the towels and the hints of cedar, take my word for it, the cabin arrangements are affordable and relaxing. Having been waterlogged the year prior, this year it was reassuring to come back to a dry cabin and unwind after riding each day.
The main lodge includes a gift shop for folks looking for various stickers, t-shirts, bottle openers, and other Smoky Mountain keepsakes. The downstairs section of the common room of the main lodge is outfitted with numerous tables and chairs for breakfast and dinner meals, or just socializing throughout the day. As I just mentioned, the lodge also has a full service kitchen serving breakfast and dinner. Meals are affordable, under $10 depending upon your choices, and typically served daily (the kitchen staff was given a day off during the week for labor day this year). The kitchen staff is extremely friendly, knowing my name by the second meal, and the food is well worth the price you pay. The upstairs portion of the common room is an activity area, including board games, playing cards, oversized Jenga, shuffle board, puzzles, and probably more than I’ve noticed. The activity area is a nice place to get away and read, or hang out with friends on a rainy day. Stepping through another door from the activity area is home theater outfitted with projection screen, plush sofas, and recliners. Admittedly, I’ve not watched a movie in the theater, but I have soaked up some of the air conditioning while my phone charged and I tried to dry out after a wet ride. Rumor has it that the theater is a good escape when you’re tent is being barraged by an overnight thunderstorm. The main lodge provides significant covered motorcycle parking for folks worried about waking up to a wet seat from the morning dew; as do most of the cabins. The far end of the main lodge also has a motorcycle ramp available for folks that decide to load their bikes into the back of the truck for the long ride down. Adjacent for the ramp, compressed air is also available; this year I actually witnessed a tire being plugged right at the lodge. Towels or rags for wiping down your bike can also be provided on request. Passing through the common area, out back there is a fire pit, and a veranda well stocked with rocking chairs for visitors to lounge after supper. The fire pit area is lined with gravel and fenced along the creek’s edge, outfitted with tables and chairs for overflow seating at dinner time, or just a place for folks to have beers.
Tactically positioned between the Tail of the Dragon, the Cherohala Skyway, and the Blue Ridge Parkway, visitors to the lodge have the ability to spend all day riding without concern for groceries and whatnot. Beyond the excellent location and the friendly staff, for me, the best part of staying at the lodge is that I can feasibly pack everything I need for a week on the bike, once at the lodge all I need to worry about it stopping for gas and where to ride next.
more at www.ironhorsenc.com
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(YouTube Video from Killboy.com)