Complete Diamondback 2010

Complete Diamondback 2010

The Diamondback is located in the area of Little Switzerland and the Blue Ridge Parkway about 50 miles north of Asheville, North Carolina. This 38 mile diamond shaped loop includes NC 226A, US 221, Toms Creek Road, NC 80 AKA the Devils Staircase and the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is a great loop for motorcycles and sportscars.

We stayed at the hundred-year-old Switzerland Inn located just a few hundred feet off the Parkway. This motorcycle friendly inn offers a variety of accommodations including cottages with two bedrooms, A-frames with sleeping loft, large inn rooms, smaller inn rooms and the new economical Diamondback Lodge with eight small bedrooms each with private baths. The Diamondback also has a common lobby which is great for groups and covered parking for motorcycles.

Nightly rates range from $69 in the Diamondback to $200 for a cottage. Rooms in the Main Lodge range from $110 to $170.

We had a second floor Main Lodge room with a beautiful view of the pool/hot tub area and the distant mountains. The room with wormy chestnut walls was clean and comfortable. After a dip in the hot tub we had a relaxing dinner on the open air Terrace Bar. The food and service was excellent.

This is a good place to stop and eat even if you aren’t staying at the inn. The owner/manager Gary Jensen is a motorcycle rider himself and welcomes all.

Monday morning after a hearty breakfast of eggs, grits, biscuit and country ham, we headed out to explore the Diamondback Loop. It begins right at the inn as NC 226A descends from 3475 feet elevation at Little Switzerland to 1390 at US 221.

These 11 miles are packed with great twisties. The first 5 miles are the steepest and tightest. Make sure you have good brakes and use your gearing on this downhill ride. There are no guard rails and the drop-offs are steep and deep with only the forest to stop you in many places. This is no place to ride fast or alone. THIS ROAD WAS REPAVED IN 2014

The pavement is good. There were a few turns with gravel and dust from driveways, but not more than you should expect anywhere. There are a few homes and other structures, so watch out for locals pulling in or out. We encountered no traffic on our run. There are no difficult switchbacks, but some curves came close. We had no trouble on the FJR riding two-up and fully loaded.

The four miles of US 221 south is a 4-lane that will get you to the next good section of the loop. There is one fuel stop before the turn-off to the right onto Toms Creek Road. The next station is a few miles farther south on 221.

Two miles on Toms Creek Road brings you to NC 80, also known as Buck Creek Road. From here, at an elevation of 1300 feet, NC 80 climbs ten-miles back up to the spine of the Blue Ridge Parkway at 3350 feet.

The roadway offers glimpses of Lake Tahoma and the haunted dam on the right. Here a unique stone building called the Casino seemingly floats on the lake. The Casino is not a gambling place, but a private recreational building used for weddings and parties with area homeowners.

NC 80 follows the winding path of Buck Creek. There are some good twisties in the lower section, but there are also residences, trailer parks and camping on both sides. Not a good place to speed. The speed limit here is 45.

Seven miles up the road takes an abrupt left turn at Singecat
Branch and there are no more residences. These last three miles to the BRP get steeper and twistier. Unlike 226A there are guard rails everywhere. These might keep you from going off the mountain, but they can do serious damage to a body. Pavement is good. Get your photo taken by Blind Kenny, the Killboy of the Devils Staircase.

There is a serious switchback just before the BRP. It’s every bit as good as the ones on the Devils Triangle. Be ready for this one and remember to use brake, clutch and throttle to control your bike on the steep uphill, 180 degree turn.

The final leg of the Diamondback Loop is northbound ten miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Returning to the Switzerland Inn we enjoyed a lunch before heading home on the BRP.

SUMMARY:

Total length of Loop – 38 miles
Travel time – about an hour and change
Fun Factor – 8 out of 10
Hazards – Steep drop-offs, metal guardrailings
Traffic – Minimal
Road conditions – Good, Excellent after repaving of 226A in 2014
Accommodations – Excellent at Switzerland Inn and Diamondback Motorcycle Lodge
Food – Excellent at Switzerland Inn Chalet Restaurant
Bar – Excellent at Switzerland Inn Fowl Play Pub, Ron’s favorite.

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