North Carolina Highway 143

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NC Highway 143 marker

NC Highway 143
Route information
Maintained by NCDOT
Length: 38.3 mi[1] (61.6 km)
Existed: 1979 – present
Cherohala Skyway
Major junctions
West end: SR 165 at the TN line
  US 129 in Robbinsville
East end: NC 28 near Stecoah
Counties: Graham
Highway system
NC 142 NC 144

North Carolina Highway 143 (NC 143) is a primary state highway in the U.S. state of North Carolina. It runs from the Tennessee state line to NC 28, near the community of Stecoah. It is best known for its 18-mile (29 km) section of the Cherohala Skyway, shared with Tennessee State Route 165.

Route description[edit]

NC 143 begins at the Tennessee state line at Beech Gap, along the Unicoi Crest. For the next 18 miles (29 km), known as the Cherohala Skyway, the highway stays along mostly the north-side of the Johns Knob, Little Haw Knob, Haw Knob, Hooper Bald, and Cedar Top, before descending at the Santeetlah Gap. The overall driving experience is similar to the Blue Ridge Parkway; it has the same max speed of 45 mph (72 km/h), and during winter the road is not maintained against snow and ice.

The next 11 miles (18 km) of highway is completely different, as NC 143 goes around south of Lake Santeetlah to Robbinsville. It has a lot of twist and turns, though (luckily) not much on elevation changes. In Robbinsville, it is overlapped with US 129 for a few miles before continuing east to Stecoah.

The last 3.6 miles (5.8 km) of NC 143 feature steep elevation changes. From Orr Branch Road (elevation 2,300 feet (700 m)), the road climbs ups the southwestern side of the Cheoah Mountains. At Stechoah Gap, the NC 143 peaks at an elevation of 3,165 feet (965 m) (this is also where the Appalachian Trail meets). The highway goes north along the eastern side of the Cheoah Mountains, reaching NC 28 at Johnson Gap (elevation 2,523 feet (769 m)).

Cherohala Skyway in early autumn

Scenic byways[edit]

Cherohala Skyway is an 18 miles (29 km) byway and National Scenic Byway in western Graham County. It is known as a connector between the Cherokee National Forest and the Nantahala National Forest, thus the name Cherohala. The entire route offers scenic views of unspoiled forested mountains in Western North Carolina.[2]

Alternate names[edit]

Though the highway is commonly known as "NC 143" or the "Cherohala Skyway" throughout the state, the highway does have other known names it uses locally in areas.

  • Rodney Orr Bypass - official North Carolina name of the Robbinsville Bypass, named in honor of NASCAR driver Rodney Orr (approved on April 7, 1995).[3]
  • Sweetwater Road - road name between Robbinsville to Stecoah.
  • Tapaco Road - road name when overlapped with US 129, except in Robbinsville.


In 1979, NC 143 was established as a new primary route between Robbinsville and Stecoah, on already existing roads. Topography maps of Graham County in the early 1990s show an incomplete Cherohala Skyway already numbered as NC 143; however, this was not official until October 12, 1996, when NC 147 was extended to a completed Cherohala Skyway and its current western terminus at the Tennessee state line.[4][5]

The Cherohala Skyway segment dates earlier than NC 143 (1962), but was not completed until 1996 with a total cost of $100 million over the whole 34 years of construction.[6]


NCDOT plans various safety improvements along NC 143, between West Buffalo Creek to NC 143 Business. The estimated cost for the entire project is $15.4 million with Property acquisition starting August, 2013 and construction to begin December, 2014.[7]

Junction list[edit]

The entire route is in Graham County.

Location mi[1] km Destinations Notes
  18 29 Santeetlah Road East end of Cherohala Skyway
  28 45 US 129 north (Tapoco Road) – Tapoco, Maryville North end of US 129 overlap
Robbinsville 29 47
NC 143 Bus. east (Main Street)
29.5 47.5
US 129 south / NC 143 Bus. west (Rodney Orr Bypass)
South end of US 129 overlap
Stecoah 38.3 61.6 NC 28 (Fontana Road) – Fontana, Bryson City
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

Bannered routes[edit]

NC Highway 143 Business
Location: Robbinsville
Length: 1 mi[8] (1.6 km)
Existed: 1997[4]–present

Robbinsville business loop[edit]

Established in February, 1997, the 1 mile (1.6 km) route goes through downtown Robbinsville via North and East Main Streets. It meets back with NC 143 (unsigned) on Rodney Orr Bypass. Historically, NC 143 has never been routed through Robbinsville; though US 129 did before the bypass.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Google (December 29, 2011). "North Carolina Highway 143" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved December 29, 2011. 
  2. ^ "NCDOT: Scenic Byways". Retrieved January 7, 2011. 
  3. ^ "North Carolina Memorial Highways and other Named Facilities" (PDF). Retrieved December 29, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c " N.C. 143". Retrieved January 7, 2011. 
  5. ^ "NC State Highway 143 Ends". Retrieved January 7, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Cherohala Skyway". Retrieved January 7, 2011. 
  7. ^ Staff. "NCDOT Project R-2822". North Carolina Department of Transportation. Retrieved December 29, 2011. 
  8. ^ Google (December 29, 2011). "NC 143 Business - Robbinsville" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved December 29, 2011. 

External links[edit]