A Day in the Rough - Tellico OHV Area

Nancy finding the best line through this boulder field.
NOTE: These photos do not do the OHV justice. The trails are much harder than they look here !!!

UPDATE OCTOBER 2009: US Forest Service announced that it permanentaly closed the Upper Tellico OHV trail system in order to correct serious erosion problems in the Upper Tellico River watershed. The main through route from TN to NC remains open for highway legal vehicles.

Nancy and I had been wanting to explore the Tellico OHV Area for years. We had passed through it on the main gravel road connecting Tellico River Road (paved) to Davis Creek Road (paved) in North Carolina, but had never ventured into the really rough stuff on the KLRs. Mark Brauning from Columbus Ohio was in town in May of 2006 and talked us into taking a day off and seeing what this OHV area was all about. He rode one of our KTMs while Nancy and I settled for the 4-wheelers. We had quite a day.

TELLICO OHV AREA

AKA Hammers of the South
Cherokee County, NC

We left Robbinsville heading west across the Cherohala Skyway with a 4-wheeler in the bed of the truck and a 4-wheeler and bike in the trailer. We opted to stay on the pavement turning at the Whiteoak Flat Road connector to get onto Tellico River Road. We then headed back east passing through the small village of Green Cove, last chance for snacks or gas.

Tellico River Road is paved all the way to the State Line and offers many places to camp. Even though the road is narrow it is easily accessible for large RVs. There is a large camping area just on the Tennessee side of the State Line where most of the jeeps and 4-wheelers stay.

We unloaded, paid our daily user fees ($5 per vehicle NOTE: 2008 it was raised to $10), and made sure all the toys were gassed and ready. This is no place to have a break-down.

We had planned to take a fairly easy-rated route to start just to see what the trails were like. We headed south on Tipton Creek Road (1) rated Easy, the main gravel road which is even suitable for passenger cars. At the southern edge of the OHV Area we turned left onto Fain Ford Road (4) also rated Easy.

For the next 3 miles we had a rather good run although it was slow going over the ever present rocks. Nancy was getting shaken pretty good and was beginning to wonder if this would be fun or not. No real challenges on this trail, but it was rough ride at slow speeds. We probably could have ridden our KTMs on this trail, but the KLRs would have been too heavy. Mark, an experienced trail rider, had no problem at all.

We stopped at the first intersection with Chestnut Mountain Trail (11) leading up and to the right. It looked pretty steep and rocky and was rated Most Difficult .... we stayed straight on Fain.

At the next intersection we took a right onto Bear Pen Trail (3) rated More Difficult. We were a little apprehensive, but found this trail to be fun with only a couple of places where we had to be careful. We also encountered a few mud holes and shallow water crossings.

Near the headwaters of the Tellico River Bear Pen Trail turns almost due north and becomes Round Mountain Trail (10) which is rated More Difficult. This presented a few additional challenges with the intersection at Bob Creek Loop Trail requiring the most counter leaning to negotiate.

We tool a right on Bob Creek Loop Trail (8), which is rated More Difficult, and continued across the northern most trail of the OHV area. This trail was perhaps the wetest that we encountered other than the river crossings still to come. Nancy has learned her lesson about gunning right into the middle of the mud bogs. Sometimes they are much deeper than you expect. She was much more cautious on this day.

After several miles we came to Misletoe Connector (9) one of the most difficult areas in Tellico OHV. It is called Hard Rock or Slick Rock depending on who you talk to. Mark took off down the deeply rutted trail before coming to a sudden stop just around the corner. The rut suddenly descends steeply over a series of large boulders that create an almost vertical challenge. Mark probably could have found a line and made this trail, but he was afraid of doing damage to Nancy's KTM 250 plus we are at the northern most point of the OHV and it is a long way out if the bike was inoperable or if someone got injured.

Hard Rock is where the locals come to watch the excitement as the big rig jeeps winch and sometimes roll over trying to negotiate the rocks. This trail is impassable for 4-wheelers unless you are ready to winch and provide counter weight to climb and descend. We are not at this level of riding so we continued counterclockwise on Bob Creek Loop.

As we neared Fain Ford we encountered some areas of mud bogs that were interesting and also some rather steep downhill solid rock trails. At the Tellico River crossing we met several jeeps, one of which had some serious drive shaft problems. It was blocking the trail so we had to find a way around it.

The river crossing is fairly wide here. The drop-off into the water is steep requiring some attention and rear leaning.

We were now traveling south on Fain Ford Road (4) rated Easy. After a short run we took a right onto Tellico River Train (5) which is rated More Difficult. At one point we had to tie our rope around the back of the 4-wheelers to provide leverage to climb down a verticle ledge of several feet. Nancy probably could have gunned the thing and got some air to clear the ledge but I am always the cautious one, especially out here hours from the hospital.

The last challenge was the second Tellico River crossing. This used to be known as Rough Crossing, but it has been modified to make crossings much easier.

We all survived and made it back to State Line in one piece. There were a couple of times that I wondered if we could get past some tough spots, but since retreating was not an option, we figured our way through.

This is not a place for novice dirt bikers or 4-wheelers. You are required to wear helmets and I work a jacket with some padding just in case.

This place can be a zoo on weekends when the jeepers invade. There are probably some big traffic jams as much of the route is single-lane. This is no place to bring the family jeep. It will not survive without some damage even on the Easy Trails.

No alcohol is allowed in the OHV Area and you can be fined if caught. There is no overnight camping inside the area. You must stay on the established trails.


Nancy going around some boulders on the Fain Ford Road rated Easy


Still more rough stuff on the Easy Trail

Fain Ford Road intersection with Bear Pen Trail

Bear Pen Trail intersection with Hawk Knob Trail

Mud bog on Bear Pen Trail

Mud bog on Round Mountain Trail.

More on Round Mountain Trail

The intersection of Round Mountain Trail and Bob Creek Loop

Bob Creek Loop boulder.

Bob Creek Loop rocks.

The rut into Hard Rock

One of the easier sections of Hard Rock

The most serious mud challenge

There just wasn't an easy line

Nancy in a tight spot

Many sections like this would shake your fillings out

Solid rock trail

Fording at Fain Ford. Note broken down jeep in background.

Fording on the way out at Rough Crossing