There are many scenic drives in the Asheville area. Here are our top picks (also see Motorcycle Drives):
(Brevard, Highlands and Blue Ridge Parkway)
See six great 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 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 & The Devil's Whip
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. Continue north on the Blue Ridge Parkway for another 11 miles to NC Highway 80. Exit and go south to Marion, around the many turns down the ridge on what is called "The Devil's Whip" In Marion, take I-40 West back to Asheville. 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. From Graveyard Fields, return north on the Parkway to U.S. 276 and go south toward Brevard on the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway (see below). In Brevard, turn left onto N.C. 280 North return to Asheville
Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway (Copperhead Loop)
The Forest Heritage Scenic Byway makes a loop that crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway twice (at milepost 412 at U.S. Highway 276 and milepost 423 at N.C. Highway 215). At U.S. 276, go 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. N.C. 215 has many waterfalls to explore. See our Forest Heritage Scenic Byway Guide. (Photo at right, NC 215 bridge over Sunburst Falls.)
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.
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.
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.
North Asheville Ridge 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 the directions: Take I-240 east to exit 5B. Turn onto Charlotte St toward downtown. At the next traffic light, take a left onto College Street. At the next light, take a left onto Town Mountain Rd (N.C. Highway 694). You'll immediately start climbing the ridge pass beautiful homes with spectacular views. Drive about 6.3 miles to 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 Highway. Follow this winding road down the mountain ridge for 7 miles to the end. Take a right onto Beaverdam Road, and a left onto Merrimon Avenue to return to downtown. Allow one hour.
Find 190 steep, climbing curves in just 12 miles for your next motorcycle or sportscar ride. Take N.C. Highway NC 226A from at Little Switzlerland from the Blue Ridge Parkway toward Marion. The Diamondback is loaded with switchbacks looping almost 360-degrees
The Tail of the Dragon
Perhaps the most famous drive in the East is The Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap with 318 curves in 11 miles. It's called America's number one motorcycle and sports car road. Located about 90 miles from Asheville, it crosses Deals Gap at the Tennessee/North Carolina state line on U.S. 129. Read more about the Dragon and other motorcycle drives.
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.