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Top 15 Scenic NC Mountain Drives Near Asheville

Also see: Waterfall Drives | Top 20 Bucket List | Outdoor Attractions | Indoor Attractions | Motorcycle Drives | Drives in the Great Smokies | Fall Foliage | Top 15 Best Free NC Mountain Views
Blue Ridge Parkway Blue Ridge Parkway
One of the most scenics roads in America (and part of the National Park Service), the Blue Ridge Parkway offers unmatched, spectacular mountain scenery. Drive north or south on the Parkway from Asheville and quickly ascend in elevation. It's all about the journey, so go slow, stop frequently and enjoy. To return from your starting point, you can often exit the Parkway onto a highway that provides a faster trip back. See our Blue Ridge Parkway Guide.
Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway
Another nationally recognized scenic drive is this winding 79-mile route that crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway twice (at milepost 412 at U.S. Highway 276 and milepost 423 at N.C. Highway 215). This Forest Heritage Scenic Byway is als named the Copperhead Loop by motorcyclists who love all the curves. Stop at waterfalls, hiking trails, Sliding Rock and Cradle of Forestry. In the photo is Sunburst Falls. See our Forest Heritage Scenic Byway Guide
Mt. Mitchell Scenic Byway 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 Burnsville. This area is a mecca for artists with many galleries and artist studios. Along the drive, pass 46 Western NC Quilt Trails blocks. See our Mt. Mitchell Scenic Byway Guide.
NC Waterfalls Byway Waterfall Byway: US Highway 64
Drive 98 miles through the Blue Ridge Mountains, through charming towns and by plenty of beautiful waterfalls. Begin in Brevard and travel west on U.S. Highway 64 by Lake Toxaway and through Cashiers and Highlands. Stop at roadside waterfalls Dry Falls and Bridal Veil as your enter the Cullasaja River Gorge. The byway continues to follow U.S. Highway 64 through Franklin and on to Murphy. A section is also called Mountain Waters Scenic Byway. See our Highway 64 Guide.
Town Mountain Scenic Drive Town Mtn / Elk Mtn Loop
If you in downtown Asheville and time is limited for a scenic drive, this is it. Drive up N.C. Highway 694 (Town Mountain Road) from College Street. Wind up the mountain and arrive at the Blue Ridge Parkway in 6.3 miles. Turn left on the Parkway (north) and take the first road on the left (sign for Weaverville). Go a short distance and turn left on Elk Mountain Scenic Highway. Drive down the mountain ridge for 7 miles. Take a right on Beaverdam Road and left on Merrimon Avenue to return. Allow one hour.
Nantahala Byway The Nantahala Byway
This North Carolina Scenic Byway travels 45 miles along U.S. Highway 19/74 from Bryson City to Marble, taking you through the beautiful Nantahala Gorge with whitewater rafting, zip line canopy tours and a beautiful riverside drive. Stop at Nantahala Outdoor Center to watch the river fun or enjoy a riverside lunch.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Newfound Gap Road
Drive the very popular U.S. Highway 441 through Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Cherokee. First stop should be the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Mountain Farm Museum. Then drive 18 miles and climb 3,000 feet to Newfound Gap on the Tennessee border. Many turn around here or you can drive up to Clingmans Dome. Another option is a hike on the Appalachian Trail.
Chimney Rock Black Mountain Rag to Chimney Rock
Take exit 64 off Interstate 40 at Black Mountain to follow N.C. Highway 9 South, named for an old fiddle tune and musical term. A "rag" is a tune with multiple twists and curves up and down the scales. In 16 miles, arrive in Bat Cave and turn left on U.S. 64 to Chimney Rock with spectacular views of Hickory Nut Gorge as you drive. Continue to Lake Lure to walk across the Flowering Bridge and along the beach before you return.
Appalachian Medley Appalachian Medley
The 45-mile North Carolina Scenic Byway is named for the rich history of local music. It begins on N.C. 209 at Exit 24 on I-40 (near Waynesville) and goes north, crossing the Pigeon River and through Pisgah National Forest. It enters Madison County at Betsey's Gap. Stop at the Trust General Store or the tiny St. Jude's Chapel of Hope in Luck. The Bluff Recreation Area has picnic area, restrooms and camping. In Hot Springs, the Byway turns onto U.S. 25/70 and goes to Walnut, a popular area for whitewater rafting.
Cherohala Skyway Cherohala Skyway
It took 34 years to build North Carolina's most expensive highway, winding up and over 5,400-foot mountains for 15 miles from Robbinsville through the Nantahala National Forest and descending another 21 miles into the Cherokee National Forest of Tennessee. This 36-mile National Scenic Byway shows little evidence of civilization. Stop at many overlooks. See our Cherohala Skyway Guide.
Marshall The French Broad Overview
This 17-mile N.C. Scenic Byway just north of Asheville starts at I-26 at Exit 19. Take U.S. 25/70 toward Marshall and turn left at the first stoplight onto Monticello Road. Go three miles to N.C. Highway 251. Turn right and drive along the French Broad River to Marshall. Stop at Ledges Whitewater River County Park and watch the kayakers while you picnic.
I-26 Scenic Byway I-26 Scenic Highway
This is the only interstate section in the state to be selected as a scenic byway. Begins on I-26 at Exit 9 at Mars Hill. As you travel north, there is a scenic outlook offering views of the Blue Ridge Parkway. A second scenic outlook will be on the return route where the NC Welcome Center is located. The highest point is Sam’s Gap (3,760 feet) where the Appalachian Trail crosses under the highway. Exit at Flag Pond in Tennessee and make a u-turn to return.
Diamondback The Diamondback
Experience 190 steep, climbing curves in just 12 miles, climbing 1,900 feet in elevation. Take N.C. Highway 226A from U.S. 221 north of Marion to Little Switzlerland at the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Diamondback is loaded with switchbacks looping almost 360-degrees, making it extra fun for motorcyclists.
Motorcycle Drive

Favorite Motorcycle & Sports Car Drives

The Tail of the Dragon: Perhaps the most famous motorcycle drive in the East, drive 318 curves in 11 miles. 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 Tail of the Dragon and other motorcycle drives.

The Rattler: Drive N.C. Highway 209 for 36 miles from Lake Junaluska (near Maggie Valley) to Hot Springs with more than 200 turns and curves. It's partially the same route as the Appalachian Medley Scenic Byway (see above).

The Devil's Whip: Drive N.C. Highway 80 from Marion to the Blue Ridge Parkway with a 2,000 foot elevation gain and 160 curves in 12 miles.

TIPS FOR MOUNTAIN SCENIC 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. Take some good road maps since your GPS can get you lost on unmapped roads. And cell phone service is spotty.

Blue Ridge Parkway
Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Thanks to Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and other mountain protection groups for preserving our views.

 

 

 

     
     

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RomanticAsheville.com Travel Guide, an insider's vacation planner for Asheville and North Carolina Mountains.
Writing & Photography By Mark File - ©2003-2015 File Investments, Inc - All Rights Reserved
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