Highway 64... a great drive for fall color!
U.S. Route 64 is the longest numbered route North Carolina, running 604 miles from the Tennessee state line to the Outer Banks. The route is often referenced "from Murphy to Manteo," referring to the expanse on of the state. It dates back to the era of the Model T and snakes through the North Carolina mountains, through gorges, by waterfalls and some wonderful small towns.
Discover many artistic and cultural treasures along a 100-mile section of Highway 64, running from Lake Lure to Franklin. Most of this route is a winding, two-lane road. So allow more than 2.5 hours of driving time with no stops. So this could easily fill up a day (or two). If you begin in Franklin, the first 40 miles is part of the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway, with many waterfalls along the way.
Mile 0: Franklin is called the "Gem Capital of the World" with plenty of spots to pan for precious stones. Their quaint downtown is home to the Scotish Tartans Museum, Gem and Mineral Museum, shops, galleries and restaurants. Between Franklin and Highlands, walk behind Dry Falls and drive behind Bridal Veil Falls.
Mile 20: Highlands is one of the highest towns east of the Mississippi River, with an elevation at 4,118 feet. This popular summer mountain resort town is known for the many upscale shops and galleries downtown. A shoppers dream!
Mile 25: Whiteside Mountain is seen from Highway 64 in a dramatic fashion. Its cliffs look like sheets of ice draped across the mountain. Just off the highway, you'll find a "moderate" two mile loop hiking trail on top of sheer 750-foot high cliffs. Enjoy a drive through Jackson County.
Mile 30: Cashiers is another summer resort town, centered at the intersection of NC Highway 107 and US Highway 64. Here you will find many quaint shops, nice restaurants and the Village Green, a 12-acre park in the middle of town. The park features great outdoor sculpture, walking paths, boardwalks over wetlands and beautiful gardens. Four miles to the south is Silver Run Falls.
Mile 32: Turn here for Panthertown Valley with 30 miles of hiking and several waterfalls.
Mile 40: Gorges State Park (and Rainbow Falls) is just a mile south on NC Highway 281.
Mile 42: Lake Toxaway is a beautiful lake and home to the wonderful Greystone Inn. Stop on the bridge to see Toxaway Falls.
Mile 60: Brevard has a great downtown with lots of interesting shops, good restaurants and the White Squirrel Festival! It's also home to the stellar Brevard Music Center Summer Festival. Just off Highway 64 between Brevard and Hendersonville, hike to the waterfalls at DuPont State Forest.
Mile 80: Hendersonville's downtown is larger than Brevards with many top-notch restaurants and some great galleries. It's home to the NC Apple Festival. Just past Hendersonville, you will drive by many Apple Orchards that are open in the late summer and fall.
Mile 98: Chimney Rock Park features the famous rock outcropping, waterfall, hiking and many events throughout the year. The entrance to Chimney Rock is in the middle of the village of Chimney Rock with tourist shops.
Mile 100: Lake Lure sits in the Hickory Nut Gorge, surrounded by lush mountain tops and granite cliffs. Rent a boat or splash around the water on their beach!
View from Highway 64 of Whiteside Mountain (on right side of photo)
Highway 64 snakes through Hickory Nut Gorge to Lake Lure, seen from the famous Chimney Rock.