Maggie Valley is a popular riders traveling through the area so it’s as good a place to start as any. Even better, make a morning visit to the Wheels Through Time Motorcycle Museum to peruse a great collection of vintage motorbikes. Leave Maggie Valley on US-19 and then turn left onto US-276. Proceed for about 10 km and then merge onto the I-40 W (really north at this stretch). Stay on the I-40 for 22 km and then take Exit 7, or Cold Springs Creek Rd, into the Harmon Den Wildlife Management Area.
From here it’s 10 km until State Rte 1182, or Max Patch Rd. Shortly the tarmac will disappear. After just a couple of kilometers veer hard left at Gulf Rd. Here the route gets just a bit rougher. Enjoy a couple of creek crossings and then snake along for about 11 km until eventually you reach the town of Hartford along the I-40.
There are a lot of opportunities to make a wrong turn so keep an eye on the map (here). And, if you’d like more of a challenge, avoid the I-40 out of Maggie Valley by taking Hwy 209 up to Fines Creek and from there a series of country lanes to meet up with Max Patch Rd. Additionally, there are lots of spurs and alternative routes through the national forest so if this route still isn’t tough enough, go exploring!