A Slice of Moto Heaven In The North Carolina Highlands
Nestled among the ancient, sublime Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina, down a winding, narrow road through a verdant valley, lies a secluded, 40+ acre motorcycle resort that attracts riders from across the continent and around the world. Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge & Resort, first established in 2003 “by riders for riders,” resides along a meandering, burbling creek fed by chilly mountain waters, and serves as the perfect base camp for some of the best motorcycle riding in North America.
I’ve stayed here several times over the years, most recently back in 2011 with my late friend Aaron Smith, and every trip here I leave with memories, new friends, and stories that I cherish. On this trip, the Road Dirt crew was invited to come spend a week in mid-October with the good folks at Iron Horse, now under new management, and we jumped at the chance. The crisp, cool temps of Fall in the high country, the sunny, clear days, the brilliant colors of changing leaves bathing the southern Appalachians in hues of gold, orange, red and maroon, and the chance to ride some of the most spectacular roads in America found us eager to pack our bags and bikes and roll out for a road trip.
After our June road trip to the Pacific Northwest, we pressed Ted Edwards to come join us for the excursion, so he could experience the “Appalachian Playground” many of us Easterners know and love so much. It didn’t take much arm-twisting to convince him. The Road Dirt crew consisted of myself, Ted, associate editor/media specialist Phil Gauthier, and my childhood chum (and occasional fodder for stories) Lyle Branton. Hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico had pushed heavy showers across the Southeast, but by the Monday morning we met up to roll toward Iron Horse, the rains were gone, the clouds parting, and the roads drying. The forecast predicted sunshine and low 70s all week up in Robbinsville, and for once, a weatherman was proven right. Not a drop of rain, hardly a cloud, for 5 days.
No place like the Appalachians in Autumn.
Pulling into Iron Horse after a stunningly beautiful ride to arrive, we quickly met up with Jerry Goss, the proprietor/manager of Iron Horse and their motorcycle leasing company, Wolf Creek Motorsport Rentals. With a Carolina Southern drawl and country hospitality, Jerry welcomed the crew and invited us to hop in his side-by-side for a “nickel tour.” While riding, we learned that Jerry has ridden motorcycles most of his life, and been a patron himself of Iron Horse for years. He long dreamed of purchasing one of the several Thunder Mountain cabins up the hill behind the lodge as a retirement home for he and his wife. When the previous owners offered Iron Horse up for sale, Jerry and family jumped at the chance, and bought the establishment. Jerry soon had opportunity to purchase Wolf Creek Rentals up the street and link them to each other, and two well-established, already highly respected companies exploded with new customers, new additions, and new inventory under his visionary leadership.
As we bounced around the property in his “mule,” Jerry pointed out the well groomed tent camping sites (I’ve camped in these over the years), the long-popular Creekside Cabins and Creek House, a rustic “Bunkhouse”, the new Conestoga Wagons along the creek (fully equipped for those who enjoy “glamping”), and abundant RV sites out in front of the main Lodge. Up the hill, Iron Horse manages the large, spacious Western styled cabins, with more being built, several able to sleep upwards of 20 or more, with ample covered parking for motorcycles. In fact, I noticed ample covered bike parking in places across the property, most added since Jerry took over.
Iron Horse also owns a 2-acre stocked pond, which Jerry declares, “Whatever you catch, in the pond or in the creek, you’re welcome to grill ‘em up, or we’ll be happy to cook ‘em for ya!” Catch, cook, and eat- It doesn’t get any more Carolina than that. They recently purchased more nearby acreage, with plans for cabin, tent, and RV site expansion.
Iron Horse adorned in the colors of Fall.
The main Lodge is the centerpiece of the establishment, built with large, rustic hardwood like an old hunting clubhouse. With a full kitchen, plenty of seating, a giant screen TV and a fireplace, the dining area is also a popular gathering place for ride planning and fellowship. The good folks at Iron Horse serve up delicious, local farm-fresh meals, not merely “road chow” many of us have eaten while out riding. The building also holds the front office, a gift shop, a bathhouse for tent campers, and a large outdoor fire pit by the stream, logs burning daily. This is where we spent our evenings, chatting with other guests from across the country, and even a couple down from Canada, swapping road tales and sipping adult beverages.
I’ve stayed at numerous motorcycle lodges over the years, and many of them tend to appeal to one specific demographic or another. Every time I’ve stayed at Iron Horse however, I see and meet a wide assortment of riders- young and old, men and women, all ethnicities, all persuasions, from all over this land. They are sport tourers, ADV riders, sport bikers, vintage wrists, and of course, heavy cruiser bikers. And they all eat together, ride together, share a beer and story together, and make room for each other around the nightly campfire. Funny how motorcycling does that- breaks down what otherwise might be barriers between us, and unites us via a common bond and passion. The world needs more of what we riders share and enjoy together.
Iron Horse is the perfect mountain destination and launchpad for exploring the Southern Smokies.
The Road Dirt crew rode so many scenic and famous routes while up here, which are chronicled in Ted’s story, “Appalachian Playground.” Be sure to give that a read when published. We even rode several fascinating motorcycles from their Wolf Creek Rentals fleet, including a 2014 Honda F6C Valkyrie and the intriguing three-wheeled Yamaha Niken, which pleasantly surprised me with its power, performance, and handling. Check out our review soon of this motorcycle as well- and let me declare, it’s truly a motorcycle, and some of the most fun I’ve had on a bike in a long time.
Honestly, I’ve found no better place to experience all this than at Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge, and no better people than Jerry and his dedicated, friendly team. Huge thanks to Jerry, Carrie Repp (marketing), and the super staff at Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge, plus JJ and the crew at Wolf Creek Motorsport Rentals, for a splendid week in the North Carolina high country. We’ll be back, no doubt. Hope to see you there next time.
For more info on Iron Horse, click here-
For info on their rental fleet (really, you should try the Niken!), click here-
*Check out our interview and facilities tour with Jerry!