There are many scenic drives in the Asheville area. Here are our top picks (also see Motorcycle Drives):
Asheville NC Waterfall Tour (Brevard, Highlands and Blue Ridge Parkway)
See our three Waterfall Drives near Asheville in the North Carolina Mountains.
Blue Ridge Parkway
One of the most scenics roads in America, the Blue Ridge Parkway offers spectacular scenery (see panoramics) no matter if you drive north or south on it from Asheville. See our Blue Ridge Parkway Guide.
North on the Blue Ridge Parkway: Craggy Gardens & Mount Mitchell
A short drive north from Asheville (24 miles from downtown) will take you up about 3,000 feet in elevation to Craggy Gardens and their Visitor Center with great views to the east and to the west. There is a large picnic area and a short hike to the top of Craggy Pinnacle. Continue north on the Parkway for nine miles and turn left onto N.C. 128 to Mount Mitchell State Park. This peak, the highest east of the Mississippi River, provides sweeping views. In addition to expansive views, the Park offers an observation tower, hiking trails, picnic areas, a natural history museum and a restaurant. Return to Asheville via the same route. Allow 3-4 hours.
South on the Blue Ridge Parkway: Mount Pisgah and Graveyard Fields
Drive south on the Parkway for a gradual climb with lots of tunnels and beautiful vistas. About 15 miles from Asheville is Mount Pisgah, a favorite hiking and picnic spot. The Pisgah Inn there offers good food and views from 5,000 feet in their restaurant that is open from April-October. Continue another 10 miles to Graveyard Fields (another popular hiking spot). Just before Graveyard Fields are great views of Looking Glass Rock. Return the same route back to Asheville.
US Highway 64
Drive 100 miles through the Blue Ridge Mountains, through charming towns and by plenty of beautiful scenery. See our Highway 64 Guide.
Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway
For an extended tour from the Blue Ridge Parkway south, take the exit for US 276 Forest Heritage Scenic Byway (at milepost 412 on the Parkway) north to Waynesville via Maggie Valley or south to Brevard (with Looking Glass Falls, Sliding Rock, Cradle of Forestry and the hike to Looking Glass Rock). Return to Asheville via U.S. 74 from Waynesville or N.C. 280 from Brevard. See our Forest Heritage Scenic Byway Guide.
Mt. Mitchell Scenic Byway
Starting at the top of Mt. Mitchell, drive 52 miles among the peaks and valleys of Yancey and Madison counties, through the Toe River Valley and through Burnsville. See our Mt. Mitchell Scenic Byway Guide.
Cold Mountain Loop
This approximately 85-mile loop drive is a beautiful, hilly, curvy drive through a very rural area around Cold Mountain, made famous by the novel and major motion picture. From Asheville, travel south on the Blue Ridge Parkway. To view of the famous peak, stop at Cold Mountain overlook at Milepost 411.9. (The views from the overlook are spotty with overgrown trees blocking most of the view. For the best view, go to the Wagon Gap Road Parking area at Milepost 412.2. Then walk back north on the Parkway a short distance.) At Milepost 423.2, take N.C. Highway 215 north for 13 miles. If you want to drive an extra 8 miles roundtrip to go to the base of the hiking trail, turn right onto Little East Fork Road. Views of the mountain here are very limited. Back at N.C. 215, continue for 5 miles. N.C. 215 will turn into Highway 110. Continue 5.3 miles. In Canton, turn right onto U.S. Highway 19/23 north. Turn left onto Church Street, and right on Newfound Road. Go 1.6 miles to I-40 East to return to Asheville. Allow 3-4 hours.
Black Mountain Rag to Chimney Rock
Take exit 64 off Interstate 40 at Black Mountain to follow the Black Mountain Rag, a scenic route named for an old fiddle tune about the dark green Lauada Firs that give the Black Mountains their name. In musical terms, a "rag" is a tune with multiple twists and curves up and down the scales. This scenic route twists and turns through the mountains like the music itself. Coming from Asheville, turn right off the exit ramp at Black Mountain and follow N.C. 9 south towards Bat Cave. The road winds along the Rocky Broad River, joining Hickory Nut Creek near the intersection of U.S. 64, U.S. 74 and N.C. 9 at Bat Cave. Turn left and follow N.C. 9/ U.S. 64 east to the village of Chimney Rock. At Chimney Rock Park you can drive to the top of the Chimney overlooking Hickory Nut Gorge. Continue past Chimney Rock to see beautiful Lake Lure. Turn around at Lake Lure and head back. Instead of returning via N.C. 9 in Bat Cave, follow signs for U.S. 74 back to Asheville. Allow 2-3 hours.
Small Town Ramble
From Asheville, take I-26 to exit 40/Highway 280/Airport exit toward Brevard. This road will take you into downtown Brevard where you can stop for browsing and lunch. From downtown, follow the same road back out to U.S. 64 (at the Wal-Mart shopping center). Turn right onto U.S. 64 East to Hendersonville. For a waterfall detour, follow signs to Dupont State Forest. U.S. 64 takes you into downtown Hendersonville with many stops for browsing. Continue on U.S. 64 East to I-26 West and head back to Asheville. Allow 2-3 hours.
North City Loop
If you only have time for a short drive and plenty of fun curves and beautiful scenery, drive up Town Mountain Road to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Return via Elk Mountain Scenic Highway. Here are detail directions: Take I-240 east to exit 5B. Turn onto Charlotte St TOWARD downtown. At the next traffic light, take a left onto College St. At the next light, take a left onto Town Mountain Rd. Follow this for about 6.3 miles, until you reach a crossroads with the Blue Ridge Parkway. Take a left, heading north on the Parkway. Turn at the first road to the left (sign for Weaverville). Go a short distance to a stop sign, and take a left onto Elk Mountain Scenic Hwy. Follow this to the end, then take a right onto Beaverdam Rd. Take a left onto Merrimon Ave., which will bring you back downtown. Allow one hour.
If you are in the Fontana Lake and Nantahala National Forest area, ride the Cherohala Skyway National Scenic Byway.
I-26 Scenic Highway: Read more on our Mars Hill Page
|TIPS FOR MOUNTAIN DRIVING
1. Go slowly and enjoy the scenery on the curvy mountain roads. Allow plenty of travel time.
2. Stop only at overlooks to soak in the views. Don't make sudden stops to get that perfect picture. The sharp curves create limited visibility.
3. Take a jacket. With the elevation changes as you drive, the temperature may vary as much as 20 to 30 degrees. At the highest elevations, the hottest summer days only reach into the 70s. Many of the higher sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway are closed in the winter months for snow and ice.
4. Watch for hikers and bicyclists.
5. Gas up before you begin your journey. There is only one gas station on the Blue Ridge Parkway (at Mt. Pisgah) and they can be a rare site when you are in rural areas.
6. Restrooms and restaurants can also be a rare site. Plan ahead!
7. Please do not disturb wildlife or plant life. Bear sightings are rare.
8. Get some good road maps. See our area map for an overview. Stop at the Asheville Visitors' Center for detailed maps.