Of all the great things about living in Western North Carolina (and there are many!), the best is being surrounded by scenic mountains! Even in rainy winter months, it’s easy to get out and enjoy the Blue Ridge Mountains from the safety of your cozy car.
Western North Carolina is famous for its scenic roadways. We even have a national park dedicated to driving, the Blue Ridge Parkway. We’ve written about the best selfie overlooks from the Parkway before. But there are several other local scenic drives that rival the Parkway’s beauty.
Whether new to the area or a WNC native, you’re sure to enjoy the tug of the open road. Plan lunch at a roadside eatery, explore a hidden artist studio, or just absorb the expansive views from both sides of the car. Here are a few of our favorite mountain drives.
The Black Mountain Rag
Black Mountain to Edneyville via NC-9 and US-64. Estimated drive time 1.5 hours.
You’ll enjoy taking this route slowly. The road from Black Mountain to Bat Cave is full of twists and turns, with the Broad River flowing alongside the road. In fact, the Broad River Gorge served as a backdrop for the movie Last of The Mohicans. As you travel southward on this scenic drive, consider a side trip to Chimney Rock State Park, or a hike to Hickory Nut Falls (a 404-foot drop into the Broad River). At the southern end of the byway is Edneyville, a great mountain town with some of North Carolina’s finest apple orchards.
The French Broad
Asheville to Marshall via NC-251 N. Bypass toward Marshall. Estimated drive time 45 minutes.
Did you know that the French Broad River is the third oldest in the world, older than the ancient Appalachian Mountains? In the 20th century, NC-251 was built along old drovers paths, which farmers used to drive livestock south to Asheville and points further on. Travel along the same path and look for mountain laurel and other wildflowers as you drive towards historic Marshall.
In Marshall, you’ll encounter a county courthouse designed by Richard Sharp Smith, art galleries, and farm-to-table restaurants. On an island in the middle of the river, you’ll find a fine collection of artists studios in the renovated classrooms of the old Marshall High School.
Tellico Plains, TN to Santeetlah Gap, NC via TN-165 and NC-143. Estimated drive time 1.25 hours.
Opened in 1996, the Cherohala Skyway is a 43-mile National Scenic Byway through the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests with multiple vistas and overlooks. The byway’s scenic overlooks and tight turns make it one of the area’s “best kept secrets” for motorcycle rides. However, it’s important to stay safe in the winter months! The Skyway provides access to the Unicoi Mountains and the remote interior of the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, home to some of the largest yellow poplar trees in the Southeast. Its highest elevation is over 5,400 feet.