For experienced rock hoppers looking for a good time, Tellico is the place. Most trails are particularly rocky and treacherous-crisscrossed by tree roots with lots of very steep, off-camber slippery sections. There are mud holes to whomp through, stream crossings to cool you off, rock gardens to bounce around in and oncoming four-wheel-drive traffic to dodge.
The Upper Tellico OHV Area is located within the Nantahala National Forest, a short drive from Murphy, North Carolina, in the southwestern part of the state where it meets Tennessee and Georgia. The area gets its name from the Indian word meaning "land of the midday sun." And this is quite appropriate, because the forest has deep mountain gorges and valleys that are fully illuminated only when the sun is directly overhead. The land was heavily logged during the 1950s and '60s and later purchased by the USDA Forest Service.
After a period of rehabilitation, Tellico was opened to OHV use and is now considered by many to offer some of the most challenging off-road riding in the country.
With more than 40 miles of technical trails to cover, you'll be hard pressed to ride the entire system in a single weekend. Tellico is made up of 12 numbered trails, ranging in difficulty from easy to "don't try this without a winch." Experienced 4x4ers might want to test their winch skills on Trails 2 and 11 (each less than four miles). Definitely not for the faint of heart, they require ultralow speeds and feature nearly impossible terrain. While the Forest Service rates Trail 2 as moderately difficult, it is considered by locals to be the wildest ride in the area. Sprinkled with rocks, the upper part is known as the Bobsled Run and the tail end is called the Rock Garden. The trail includes some nasty drop-offs that are guaranteed to produce wide eyes and white knuckles upon initial descent. In order to keep vehicles from launching off its many rock faces, Trail 11 sprouts guardrails affixed to trees along its treacherous route. If you've made it this far traveling uphill, continue on to Halfway Rock, another local landmark that sends chills down the spines of ordinary folks.
Looking for something a little more mellow? Try Trails 3 (4.6 miles), 4 (4.2 miles), 8 (6.5 miles) and 10 (4 miles). These paths offer plenty of excitement and variety without risking life and limb. Beginners should warm up on Trail 1. This 5.8-mile dirt road runs across the park from North Carolina to Tennessee. Riders are encouraged to keep speeds below 20 mph here as there are many sections with steep cliffs.
While camping is not permitted within the OHV area, several campgrounds are located nearby. For those who require more creature comforts, try one of the fine hotels or cozy bed-and-breakfasts in town, but be forewarned: Murphy is in a dry county. Alcohol is not sold and it's illegal to have it in your vehicle within the OHV area.
The Southern Four-Wheel-Drive Association maintains Tellico's trails. Of course, with such wonderful off-roading, you have to pay to play. It's just $5 for a daily permit or $30 for an annual pass. The revenue generated by these fees is used for additional trail maintenance. Tellico is open year-round from sunrise to sunset; however, the forest service is considering seasonal closures. For maps or additional information, contact the Tusquitee Ranger District.