Chipmunk Road. That’s what I call it. If you are one of the lucky adventurers to traverse Heintooga Ridge Road within the Great Smoky Mountains, you might agree with my name for the road!
Chipmunks are everywhere, emerging from and disappearing into expansive burrows, complete with chambers and tunnels, built into the roadbed itself.
How could it be?
First of all, if you are on a waterfall hunt or prefer fast drives along paved backroads, don’t take this route. Chipmunk Road is for folks who appreciate driving slower than they can walk in order to take in all that nature has to offer from the comfort and safety of their vehicle. So, open the car windows or put the top down, shift into the lowest gear, and enjoy the drive at 5 - 10 mph—max! Without the windows down, most of the sounds, smells, and sights are missed. Don’t worry about oncoming traffic — it is a 13-mile, one-way, unimproved, backcountry road, Subaru and dog approved. Silence is mandatory, so consider leaving the kids and talkative friends and relatives at home.
Even during the height of tourist season, several days may go by without wildlife being disturbed at all except by occasional hikers making connections to Cataloochee and Mount Sterling. On the average only a few drivers a day choose this route, and it is seasonally closed from November to late May.