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By Clint Hood

Upper Tellico OHV Area – A Challenging Place To Ride In Western North Carolina

The Upper Tellico OHV area consists of 8,000 acres and 40 miles of trails which are famous for some of the best 4x4 trail riding in America. The OHV area is located near the Tennessee state line and about 13 miles north of Murphy, North Carolina. It lies within the Natahala National Forest and incorporate a network of old logging roads and challenging trails. Twelve trails make up the Upper Tellico OHV area and are marked “easy” to “most difficult." All of the trails are open to all types of off-highway vehicles; aside from one trail, Round Mountain Trail, which is restricted to ATV use only. The trails are clearly numbered, named, and rated at the entrances. Trail maps can be purchased for $5 from the U.S. Forestry Department office located at 123 Woodland Drive, Murphy, North Carolina, and can be contacted via telephone at (828) 837-5152.  Update: June 3, 2008, the trail maps our out of print and therefore one should call the office to see if they have been reprinted (828-837-5152).  Also request a free brochure via mail when you call!

Trail names and details are as follows:

1. Tipton Creek Road – Rated “Easy” 5.5 miles long
2. Tipton Knob Trail – Rated “Most Difficult” 3.9 miles long
3. Bear Pen Trail – Rated “More Difficult” 4.6 miles long
4. Fain’s Ford Road – Rated “Easy” 4.2 miles long
5. Tellico River Trail – Rated “More Difficult” 1.3 miles long
6. State Line Loop – Rated “Most Difficult” 3.9 miles long
7. Peckerwood Connector – Rated “More Difficult” 0.6 miles long
8. Bob Creek Trail – Rated “Difficult” 6.5 miles long
9. Mistletoe Connector – Rated “Most Difficult” 0.8 miles long
10. Round Mountain Trail – (ATV ONLY) Rated “More Difficult” 3.7 miles long
11. Chestnut Mountain Trail – Rated “Most Difficult” 3.0 miles long
12. Hawk Knob Trail – Rated “More Difficult” 1.2 miles long

In the past, the Upper Tellico Area was owned by private timber companies who logged the area extensively between 1950 and 1969. At that time, many roads and skid trails were built to accommodate the logging. Ultimately, the roads were abandoned and left to grow over, nearly to the original condition of the land. The U.S. Forest Service purchased the Upper Tellico Area in 1980 and began restoring the land. OHV use is allowed and designed to be compatible with the environment. The trails here are considered by some to be among the most challenging in the country. It is highly recommended that you don’t forget your winch. You will definitely need it on most of the trails here.

The OHV trail system is maintained by a large non–profit 4x4 club known as the Southern Four Wheel Drive Association. In 2006, this organization contributed approximately $45,000 in the form of equipment use and man-hours to keep the trails open and in good condition for all who use them. They have regular workdays at not only the Upper Tellico area, but also other private and public areas throughout the southeast. The organization is also active in lobbying Congress, the Forest Service, and other land managers for continuing 4-wheeling access to public lands. They have also received the U.S. Forest Service Chief’s Volunteer Program National Award for their maintenance contributions.

The fee for access to the Upper Tellico OHV area is $10 per day, per vehicle, payable to the Forest Service at the entrance station. The station is operated on the honor system so have correct change (checks are accepted). The money collected is used to keep the trails open. Of course, riding off of the designated trails is not permitted. The trails are open from sunrise to sunset each day of the week. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited, and the entire county is a dry county. Bathroom facilities are available at the parking area.

To get to the OHV area from Murphy, North Carolina, proceed north Hiawassee Street and go to the first traffic light. Turn left at the light onto Tennessee St. and leave town. The road becomes Joe Brown Hwy (there are a couple of places along here to buy gas). Continue for 2.8 miles until you come to a blinking caution light. Turn right at the caution light and continue for approximately 5.5 miles and turn right onto Davis Creek Road. Pavement will end soon and the Forest Service entrance station will be on your left.

In the winter, daytime temperatures are usually around 36 to 40 degrees and in the summer, around 76 to 80 degrees. This portion of the state has a fairly wet climate with more than 52 inches of precipitation per year. Temperatures here can entail wide extremes with unpredictable thunderstorms and winter snow. It’s advised that you pack your rain gear just to be safe.

If you enjoy camping, try the Hanging Dog Recreation Area Campground located on Hiawassee Lake, 5 miles northwest of Murphy, North Carolina. The lake has 180 miles of shoreline and has excellent fishing for largemouth and small mouth bass, bream, crappie, walleye, and striped bass. Also, two nearby streams are designated as public trout waters. The Jackrabbit campground is located in nearby Hayesville, North Carolina and is located on Chatuge Lake and has 103 camping sites, swimming beach, showers, and a boat-launching ramp. If you don’t feel like “roughing it," Murphy has several great hotels and "bed 'n breakfasts."

Keep in mind, most of the trails at the Upper Tellico OHV Area are not recommended for beginners, and there is plenty of technical riding. The majority of the trails contain large rocks, tree roots, and very steep off-camber slippery areas. Also, be aware of Jeeps and other 4x4 vehicles throughout the trails.

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