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.*
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
This trip gives you the opportunity to take in the beautiful scenery from the peaks of North Carolina's majestic mountains. Pick up the BRP off of Hendersonville Road in South Asheville and take a leisurely drive headed north. Along the way, you'll wind up on the highest peak on the Parkway - an elevation of 6,053 feet - near Mount Pisgah at milepost 431. Grandfather Mountain, where you can experience the breathtaking mile-high swinging bridge, is just a mile off the BRP at milepost 305. This drive will leave you with no doubt that the Blue Ridge Parkway truly deserves the title of America's Favorite Drive. Note that high elevation sections are often closed from November to April.Back to Top
2. Highway 19E to Three Mile Highway to Linville Highway Loop (120 miles RT)
Driving through Burnsville and Spruce Pine, along with the charming Three Mile Highway in Avery County, and passing by the Linville Caverns, this trip allows you to embrace the rich tapestry of the North Carolina mountains as you travel back in time and through the woods. From Asheville, take Interstate-26 West to Exit 9. After 10 miles on US Highway 19 North, the road changes to Highway 19E and leads you through the countryside to Burnsville. (Skyway Cottage is one of many great Carolina Morning properties in Burnsville, known as the "Heart of the Blue Ridge.") Further on, you'll pass through the tiny town of Micaville, where you can take a side trip along Highway 80/The Devil's Whip - see number 4 on our list. In Spruce Pine, stretch your legs at the Sunny Brook Store on the left-hand side of Highway 19. The childhood home of acclaimed North Carolina author Gloria Houston, it is now operated by her mother as a museum and bookstore. About five miles past Spruce Pine, take Three Mile Highway to enjoy a short stretch of serious curves. Head south on Highway 221 to discover Linville Caverns. These limestone caverns are the only caverns in North Carolina to offer a tour of the inside of a mountain! Continue on Highway 221 South towards Marion for 18 miles, where you can pick up Highway 70 West and travel through Black Mountain and Swannanoa to find yourself back in Asheville. In Burnsville, two great places to rest your head after a day of driving are Pie in the Sky and Sleepy Bear.Back to Top
3. Asheville to Lake Lure Loop (75 miles RT)
This picturesque drive takes you through Hickory Nut Gorge past Chimney Rock to Lake Lure, and back through Apple Country. From Asheville, head east on I-40 or I-240and take the exit for Highway 74A towards Bat Cave. Past Fairview's rolling pastures, the landscape begins to change dramatically - the trees seem taller as the road begins to twist and turn and the elevation drops. Along the way, somewhere near Gerton, you will hopefully spot one of the greatest roadside attractions of all time: Sam, the Original Carolina Hillbilly. He often sits on his porch awaiting visitors to stop by, say hi, and snap some photos. Continue on 74A all the way to Chimney Rock and Lake Lure. Chimney Rock is a picturesque tiny mountain town, the perfect place to stop for lunch. A stroll through Morse Park in Lake Lure, just down the road, provides a backdrop worthy of the big screen... as a matter of fact, the popular 80s movie Dirty Dancing was filmed here! For your return trip to Asheville, take Highway 64 West (Chimney Rock Road), drive past Edneyville, home of numerous apple orchards, among them Coston Farm and Apple House. Just before Hendersonville, you'll wind up at I-26, take the westbound to return back to Asheville.Back to Top
4. Highway 80/The Devil's Whip
Adventure drivers will find an absolute thrill along WNC's infamous stretch of road known as The Devil's Whip. When a road has its own Facebook page, you know it has to be pretty amazing. From Micaville (see number 2 on our list), Highway 80 South drops 2,000 feet in elevation in just 12 miles, then ends at Highway 70 in Old Fort. Highway 70 West leads to Interstate 40 West, which will take you back to Asheville. This journey is a beautiful, relatively empty, stretch of steep drops, tight, twisty roads, and amazing views. Your passengers can get great vistas of Mt. Mitchell while you keep your eyes on the road.
Map of Route
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5. I-26 to East Tennessee (70 miles RT)
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!Back to Top
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.Back to Top
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.Back to Top
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.
Map of Route
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.