Our Favorite Scenic Drives Near Asheville
*Note that GPS does not provide accurate directions to many places in Western North Carolina. Welcome to the mountains, where finding your way is often a scenic adventure! To ensure that your first trip to the property goes as smoothly as possible, please use these written driving directions, which include helpful tips such as milage distances and landmarks.*
Here are Ten of Our Most Favorite Drives In and Around Asheville:
1. Asheville to Grandfather Mountain (via the Blue Ridge Parkway)
2. Highway 19E to Three Mile Highway to Linville Highway Loop
3. Asheville to Lake Lure Loop
4. Highway 80/The Devil's Whip
5. I-26 to East Tennessee
6. Black Mountain Rag to South Asheville Loop
7. Cold Mountain to Pisgah Forest Loop
8. Marshall and Hot Springs Loop
9. Diamond Back Loop
10. Asheville Loop
Rarely would an interstate be mentioned on a list of the best roads. I-26, a state scenic byway, is an exception. The I-26 West takes you north out of Buncombe County (where Asheville is located), passing Weaverville and Mars Hill. Along the highway, there are amazing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Walnut Mountains, and the Bald Mountains of the Appalachian Range. The Madison County landscape surrounds the road, like a hug from nature, as you travel further. Continuing on, you reach the highest point on any interstate in North Carolina - Buckner's Gap. Just past Buckner's Gap is Scenic Wolf Resort where Carolina Mornings offers two dozen mountaintop log homes as vacation rentals. If you are looking for a beautiful place to stay in the area, consider one of these wonderful properties, each with a private hot tub. Near Scenic Wolf Resort at Mile Marker 3 is Laurel River Bridge, North Carolina's tallest bridge with a height of 235 feet. A few miles later, you reach Sam's Gap in Tennessee. Five miles into Tennessee, exit at Flag Pond to turn around for your return trip on I-26 East. On the way back, stop off at the NC Visitor Center to check out the scenic overview with views of Grandfather Mountain, Mount Mitchell, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is possibly the best view you'll ever see from a rest area!
Black Mountain Rag, aka Highway 9 South, is as melodic in its twists and beauty as the bluegrass song for which it's named. From Black Mountain, take Highway 9 South on a scenic journey to Chimney Rock State Park, where you can climb 500 stairs to the top of the ancient monolith before hitting the road again. Follow Highway 64 West/Chimney Rock Road for six miles through the apple orchards of Edneyville, then turn right onto South Mills Gap Road. As it winds through scenic South Asheville, the road will change names to Terry's Gap Road, then Hooper's Creek, and run back into Mills Gap Road at a left-hand turn, then change once more to Old Airport Road, which ends at Highway 25/Hendersonville Road. Despite the name changes, this is a fairly seamless drive and well worth the pastoral mountain views. Hendersonville Road leads up to Asheville, where I-40 East will return you full circle to Black Mountain. Carolina Mornings has several properties both Black Mountain and South Asheville. Black Bear Cabin is a creek-side log home just outside of Black Mountain; if South Asheville is more to your liking, consider staying at A Mountain Escapade.
Cold Mountain, which rose in fame with the publication of the namesake book by Charles Frazier, is located in the Shining Rock Wilderness of the Pisgah National Forest. The ten-mile summit hike is pretty strenuous, but traveling the road offers a much easier way to enjoy the magnificent views of Pisgah National Forest. Comprised of 500,000 acres of lush forests, waterfalls, and vast wilderness areas, the protected land includes some beautiful roadways. From Asheville, take I-40 West to exit 37 (East Canton) and follow Smokey Park Highway/US 19S/US 23S for five miles to NC Highway 110 South/Pisgah Drive (keep an eye out for Highway 110 South signs as you wind through Canton). The residential area will begin to thin out as the elevation rises. After five miles, turn left onto NC Highway 276 (Cruso Road) and continue up the mountainside for 14 miles. Cold Mountain rises up to your right as you drive south on Highway 276, which meets up with the Blue Ridge Parkway. Take the BRP North for 19 miles back to Asheville, where it exits onto Highway 191/Brevard Road at the Arboretum. With 50-mile vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the deck and its ideal location near Cold Mountain and the Pisgah National Forest, Starry Night is a favorite cabin for taking in the beauty and serenity of nature.
The quaint towns of Marshall and Hot Springs are less than an hour away but will transport you to another era. The drive takes you along the French Broad River to Marshall and on into Hot Springs. The return trip takes you through the country hills of Leicester. From I-26/US 19/US 23 take exit 24 for Elk Mountain Road. Turn left onto Elk Mountain Road and then right on NC 251, which becomes Old Marshall Highway and will lead you into Marshall. Continuing on the same road, NC 251 turns into NC 70 toward beautiful Hot Springs. Take a moment to plant your feet on the Appalachian Trail before hitting the open road once again and heading south on NC 209 to NC 63. This route travels through Truth, Leicester, and the community of Erwin. Get back to downtown Asheville by heading east on Patton Avenue. In Marshall, Still Rock Farms is a wonderful place to stay. If you prefer to stay near the Hot Springs Resort and the Appalachian Trail, check out Skyway Cottage.
Highway 80 has already been mentioned on this list (see 4) as a road to adventure, but you're a fan of challenging, twisty, turny roads then Diamond Back Loop is also a must. A 20-mile loop with over 90 curves, some of which double back almost 360 degrees, it's sure to have you gripping the wheel at ten and two the whole way. Stop off in Little Switzerland and experience the Swiss Alps North Carolina Style. From Asheville take I-40 east to exit 72 for NC 70/Old Fort and head up to NC 221 North. Turn left onto NC 226 and get ready for a wild ride. It will loop around (and around and around) and turn into NC 226A as you approach Little Switzerland, and will eventually bring you back to NC 221.
See the best parts of Asheville - North, South, East, and West. From downtown, take Merrimon Avenue north which turns into Weaverville Highway through North Asheville and Woodfin. Take the Old Marshall Highway across I-26 to Riverside Road. Head south on Riverside Road, traveling along the scenic French Broad River. Nearing downtown, turn left on W Haywood St/Craven Street, and take your first immediate right on Roberts, which takes you into the River Arts District. Turn right on Haywood and follow the road up through West Asheville. At Brevard Road, take a left and go through residential West Asheville. You will pass I-240 and I-40. Stop in at the WNC Farmer's Market just past the I-40 intersection and treat yourself to some local treats. Continue south down Brevard Road. You may want to stop and check out the North Carolina Arboretum before Brevard Road merges onto Clayton Road. Take Clayton Road to Long Shoals Road, which takes you to the South Asheville/Arden area. Stop off for a stretch (and maybe a picnic) at Lake Julian. At Hendersonville Road, turn left and head north until you reach the Blue Ridge Parkway. Go east on the parkway, enjoying the awesome views until you reach 74A West - the Charlotte Highway in East Asheville. Follow 74A West as it turns into I-240W. Right before reaching Downtown Asheville, I-240 goes through a cutout section of Beaucatcher Mountain, where you can see the layers of rock formations. Staying in the center of all the action is easy when booking with Carolina Mornings. Make your home downtown at the hip Ellington Loft. In South Asheville, Sunset Peaks is a great place to call home away from home. Perhaps being close to the Biltmore Estate appeals to you. If so, the luxurious Biltmore Villa Hideaway, located in Biltmore Village, only blocks away.