Top 5 Motorcycle Stops between New York and Atlanta on the Appalachian Trail

Dec 27, 2021

Tags:rentertravelnew york cityatlanta

Harley-Davidson motorcycles ridden on the Appalachian Trail.

The longest hiking trail in the country, the Appalachian Trail, parallels a collection of highways by the same name. This second Appalachian Trail runs between, and beyond, New York City and Atlanta, providing motorcycle riders with an uninterrupted survey of the East Coast’s inland forest, mountains, and rivers. The Appalachian Mountains themselves feature America’s wealthiest and ruralist communities, providing travelers with slices of life from both ends of the spectrum.

Explore the haunts of Edgar Allan Poe, Thomas Jefferson, and the wealthy Vanderbilt Family, featured in classic American novels and movies. Explore the state and national parks around important military locations such as West Point and Camp David before visiting architectural wonders like Monticello, the University of Virginia, and the Biltmore Estate. End your Appalachian excursion with a pilgrimage to the Chattooga River in northern Georgia, the setting of John Dickey’s novel Deliverance and John Boorman’s blockbuster movie of the same name.

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1. West Point Military Academy — West Point, New York

Old US Route 6 runs along the hiker’s version of the Appalachian Trail and gives riders a chance to visit America’s most prestigious military academy, West Point. Enthusiasts of military history, fans of Edgar Allan Poe (who once attended the academy), and lovers of roadside art installations will all find something in or near the town of West Point, New York worth a stop.

Visit the fortress which infamous traitor Benedict Arnold once offered to the British during the American Revolutionary War and visit its small museum. Next, take a short walk up to Trophy Point and check out a few cannons captured during several US wars. Trophy Point also provides a stunning view of the Hudson River Off of Highway 32, you’ll find the Storm King Art Center, home to 500 acres of sculptures from artists like David Smith, Alexander Calder, Louise Nevelson, and Henry Moore. In nearby Beacon, New York, you’ll find the Dia Beacon art installation, which houses the work of Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Louise Bourgeois, and Robert Irwin. Top off your West Point exploration with a hike in Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks—the hiker’s Appalachian Trail runs through both of them.

As noted above, US-6 runs close to the town of West Point, so it’s only a 10-minute drive from the highway. To reach West Point from US-6, take the 2nd exit onto Route 9W North when you hit the first traffic circle after crossing the Hudson River. Next, take the exit toward Highland Falls/West Point before merging onto NY-218 North/Main Street. Make a slight right onto West Point Highway and continue onto Thayer Road. Continue onto Cullum Road until you reach West Point. Please note: the fortress is open daily and entry is free. You can get a guided bus tour of the fortress grounds too. Admission to the Storm King Art Center and Dia Beacon costs $18 and $15, respectively.

2. Camp David — Thurmont, Maryland

Unlike West Point, Camp David is a military-related location you can’t visit. Instead, it’s a fantastic location for nature-lovers to stretch their legs in the unbridled hardwood forests and domineering mountains of the northeast. Camp David is hidden away in the forests of the Catoctin Mountain Park, 5,810 acres of reclaimed logging land that boasts 1,500-foot mountains and fully-restored forests. To begin, ride to the Catoctin Park Visitors Center on Highway 77. 

The visitors center is two miles west of US-15 and has all the information and maps you could want. It’s your ticket to finding the best cabins, camping locations, and hiking trails in the park. Start off with the lovely hiking trail from the visitors center to the remains of the Blue Blazes whiskey still! If that’s not enough for you, consider a visit to Cunningham Falls State Park, which stretches along the south side of Highway 77. 

Here you’ll get access to more forests and a swimming area at Hunting Creek Lake. You can access the latter by taking a short half-mile hike past the boat rental area. Catoctin Mountain Park lies five minutes from US-15 in the town of Thurmond, Maryland. Hungry hikers are encouraged to grab some food and refreshments at the snack bar at Hunting Creek Lake.

3. Monticello — Charlottesville, Virgina

It’s not every day that you get to visit the home of a Founding Father. Don’t miss your chance the next time you pass Charlottesville, Virginia on the I-64 portion of the Appalachian Trail. 

Thomas Jefferson’s resplendent estate Monticello is the chief attraction in this historic college town dominated by Jefferson’s influence and beautiful neoclassical architecture. Monticello’s domed and pillared visage is found on the back of the nickel in your pocket and it’s hard to miss off I-64 via exit 121.

Built and designed by Jefferson, over a period of 40 years, you’ll get to see his completed architectural masterwork, along with the various gadgets he invented and other items he collected. He died in 1826 and his remains are buried in the tomb beyond Monticello’s vegetable gardens. After you’ve toured Jefferson’s hillside home, ride to the University of Virginia, founded by Jefferson in 1819 and briefly attended by Edgar Allan Poe in 1826. Visit Poe’s room, No. 13, in the West Range, to get an idea of what it would have felt like to have been a student at the university almost 200 years ago. While Monticello and the university make up the bulk of Charlottesville’s attractions, consider stopping by Michie Tavern. This charming 18th-century inn features remarkably-preserved parlors, bars, and upstairs rooms.

Getting from the Appalachian Trail to Charlottesville takes all of half an hour. Entrance into Monticello will cost adults $28. The University of Virginia offers free guided tours three times a day whenever school is in session. Admission and a guided tour of  Michie Tavern cost $6 in total. Charlottesville is rife with amenities. The hungry should get a taste of some “old world” cuisine at Michie Tavern. Order a “colonial buffet” lunch there, or grab a “Gas Burger”—a hamburger with an egg on top—at the White Spot across from the university campus. In the downtown area, upscale Bizo and Miller’s Downtown also provide satisfying meals. For $110 a night, you can stay at the English Inn near the US-250 freeway.

4. Biltmore Estate — Asheville, North Carolina

Transport yourself into the American world of European-inspired aristocracy with a stop at the Biltmore Estate. It is likely the most opulent historic site you’ll encounter on the East Coast. Located in Asheville, North Carolina, the Biltmore Estate is the world’s largest vacation home at 8,000 acres (although it once covered 125,000). 

Built by the wealthy Vanderbilt family at the turn of the 20th century, this gargantuan mansion served as a film set for the 1956 film, The Swan, starring actress Grace Kelly in her last role before becoming Princess consort of Monaco. This Renaissance-style estate includes 250 rooms and flower gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. The rooms themselves hold Napoleon’s chess set and dozens of priceless paintings by artists as renowned as Jean Renoir, John Singer Sargent, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler.

Across the road from the estate lies the historic Biltmore Village, designed in the Gothic style by Richard Morris Hunt. The village once held the estate’s large staff and their workshops. After exploring this grand home, pay a visit to Asheville itself, where you’ll find storefronts dating from the 1930s, thrift stores, art galleries, and the childhood home of author Thomas Wolfe. 

The Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic Site contains a museum and various mementos. It also served as the basis for the fictional home “Dixieland” in Wolfe’s novel Look Homeward, Angel. Pack Square Park in the center of Asheville features the county courthouse, city hall, an art museum, and the public library.

Regardless of where you rent a motorcycle along the Appalachian Trail, getting to Asheville is a piece of cake and only a few minutes from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Admission to the Biltmore Estate will set you back around $65 to $75 in the summer, but it’s worth every penny. In comparison, entry to the Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic Site only costs $5. You’ll find plenty of shops and restaurants in Historic Biltmore Village. Cafés and bakeries line Biltmore Avenue south of Pack Square, and you can find more shops in the Grove shopping arcade to Park Square’s west. We recommend trying Tupelo Honey Café and The Orange Peel for great dining, and the Asheville Pizza and Brewing Co. for mouthwatering microbrews. 

5. Chattooga River — Clayton, Georgia

Devotees of John Boorman’s 1972 classic film, Deliverance, will be excited by the prospect of visiting the location where the legendary movie was filmed. The white water of the Chattooga River is one of the Top 10 river runs in the United States and is featured prominently in both the movie and the James Dickey novel on which it’s based. Believe it or not, some 100,000 tourists wander through this remote wilderness area on the Georgia-South Carolina border every year… but not because they want to recreate the “dueling banjos” scene from the film. Instead, they come for the top-notch kayaking, tubing, canoeing, swimming, fishing, and riverside hiking northern Georgia offers. 

Experience all this, and more, if you make your way to the region’s largest town, Clayton. At a population of just over 2,000, Clayton is home-base for any and all excursions into the Chattooga River wilderness area. Otherwise, you can explore the small, old-time mountain towns, diaries, and car graveyards characteristic of the region. 

Clayton is easy enough to reach, regardless of whether you’re heading up the Appalachian Trail from Atlanta or down from New York City. As long as you stick to US-441 you can’t miss it, since the town sits directly on the highway. If you’re in need of food or gas, feel free to stop somewhere along US-441 or on Main Street in Clayton. On the former, you’ll find the typical exurban amenities; on the latter, quaint wooden and brick storefronts west of the highway.

As you’ve now seen, the Appalachian Trail is a far cry from the typical boredom offered by rural highways. If all this natural beauty and gorgeous architecture still haven’t satisfied your need to put rubber to the road, consider the motorcycle routes around New York City and Atlanta for more concentrated bouts of riding.

The only thing stopping you from your next Appalachian adventure is the perfect motorcycle rental. Riders Share can help you find the ride you need with all the ease and convenience that comes with an online riders-to-renters platform. Rent a motorcycle at the ideal location and start your journey through the ancient forests and mountains of colonial America.