Free Ride Through the Blue Ridge

Scenic Byways, Mountain Hamlets and the Best FREE Things Along The Way

The North Carolina Mountains are laced with Scenic Byways, roads so-designated by the federal and state governments for their outstanding archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities. Scenic byways take travelers through national parklands, national forests, rustic valleys and peaceful farmland to breathtaking mountain vistas, waterfalls, scenic small towns, vineyards and historic sites.

From Black Mountain to Golden Valley

Black Mountain Rag (Buncombe County, NC)

Named for an old fiddle tune, this Scenic Byway begins in the picturesque town of Black Mountain (20 minutes east of Asheville)

Free

  • Black Mountain Center for the Arts, Old City Hall, 225 West State Street - Offers a wide variety of fine art exhibits, a pottery studio, classes, workshops, concerts, theatre productions, community outreach and special events.

(In nearby Montreat, north of Black Mountain on NC Hwy 9)

  • Ben Long Fresco in Montreat College's Chapel of the Prodigal, Montreat College Campus, Montreat - "Parable of the Prodigal Son", is newest of 13 NC frescoes painted by artist Ben Long, internationally recognized as a portrait painter and rare contemporary master of the ancient art of "true fresco". You might expect to see this in Italy but not in the Blue Ridge.

Leaving Black Mountain follow NC Highway 9 south to Bat Cave. Take US 64 southeasterly past Hickory Nut Gorge and Chimney Rock Park to Lake Lure. (See free things to do below.)

Drovers Road
This Scenic Byway was once used by "drovers," early mountain settlers who herded their flocks and livestock along this route on their way to markets in the Piedmont and coastal areas. It takes travelers through the scenic Hickory Nut Gorge, near Chimney Rock Park and Lake Lure where you leave Buncombe County and enter Rutherford County from the West on Hwy 64 / 74A / 9:

Rutherford County, NC

Free

  • Rocky Broad River Walk, Main Street Chimney Rock - This natural walkway has been enhanced with stone bridges and the artistic efforts of the community, and overlooks the famous Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park. Along this riverwalk, you will find boulders and rushing water, but you will also find access to riverfront shops and restaurants along the 1/8 mile trail.

Continue on Hwy 64/74A/9 to:

  • Lake Lure Town Center Walkway and Park, Hwy 64/74A/9, Lake Lure, across from the Lake Lure Inn - This mountain lakeside walkway leads into a lush park with a gazebo and picnic tables on the water.

Cross the street to:

  • Lake Lure Inn and Spa - Built in 1927, take a walk back in time through the public rooms, halls, and lobby to experience the hundreds of antiquities and historical exhibits, including a world-class collection of upright music boxes from the 19th century. The tour is self-guided and free.

Continue on Hwy 64/74A/9, and turn right onto Hwy 9.

  • Donald Ross Nature Trail Park, Hwy 9, Lake Lure (trail head is on the left) - Time for a hike? Choose from ten new wooded mountain hiking trails.

Drive back towards Lake Lure and turn right onto 64/74A - travel 20 minutes to Rutherfordton.

  • St. Francis Episcopal Church, Main Street, Rutherfordton - Originally a plantation chapel, this stone church features Tiffany stained Glass and a labyrinth

Drive south on Main Street, approx. ¼ mile, and turn right into the Rutherford County Annex Parking Lot.

  • Rutherford County Heritage Display, Main Street, Rutherfordton - Take 15 minutes to see an overview exhibit of the most significant events in Rutherford County's history. Includes information and stories of the Bechtler Mint, Gilbert Town, Overmountain Men and the Revolutionary War, Civil War, textiles, historic photographs, and artifacts.

Travel south on Main Street, approx. ¼ mile.

• Take a stroll down this welcoming Main Street and tour the art galleries, including The Artist Guild Gallery, as well as local antique shops and the park.

Drive south on Main Street, turn left at light onto Charlotte Street (CVS Pharmacy). Go 1 ½ miles to Main Street, Spindale. Park anywhere along Main Street to:

  • Thermal Belt Rail Trails, Oakland Rd, Spindale - Walk or bike (mountain bike recommended) this Rail-Trail, 8 miles of crushed gravel from Oakland Road in Spindale north through the countryside and community of Gilkey. Ride past one of the most important Revolutionary war sites - Gilbert Town Battlefield.

From Oak Street/Main Street Spindale, turn left onto Oak Street. Go to light at Oak Street and Hwy 74BYP and turn left, continue for 2 miles on Hwy 74BYP and turn right onto ICC Loop:

  • WNCW, Isothermal Community College Campus (ICC), Spindale - Tour one of the nation's best Americana and new music venues for both recorded and live music. By reservation: 828-287-8000.

Turn right out of ICC onto Hwy 74BYP. Turn left at the light onto Oak Street Extension. (Corner of Burger King Wendy's and McDonald's.) Oak Street Extension will dead-end into Broadway. Turn left. Go to light at Main Street / Broadway and turn right. Continue on Main Street to Bostic-Sunshine Hwy, approx 1.4 miles and turn left. Continue on Bostic-Sunshine Hwy for 2 miles turn right onto Church Street to first left to:

  • Bostic Lincoln Center, 112 Depot Street, Bostic - Devoted to the exploration of the persistent theory that Abraham Lincoln was born near Bostic. The Bostic Lincoln Center collects, documents, researches and preserves generational lore through audio/visual history and exhibits that President Abraham Lincoln was born on Puzzle Creek near Bostic, NC. Open: Thursday 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.; Friday & Saturday 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Drive north on Harrill Street to Bostic-Sunshine Hwy and turn right. Continue 2.4 miles, then right into parking lot to:

  • Washburn's General Store, 2426 Bostic Sunshine Hwy, Bostic- No reproductions here and no big crowds of tourists. Established in 1831; this general store has held on to the same overalls, milk churns; farm bells; cast iron cookware; wood cook stoves and hard to find general merchandise. Listed in National Register of Historic Places.

Continue on Bostic-Sunshine Hwy to Hwy 226. Turn right to:

  • Becky's Country Store, 2259 NC Hwy 226, Golden Valley - Join the locals for live Bluegrass Music Jams every Tuesday evening. Starts at 7:00 pm. Come early - the small country store and diner fills up fast! Contact: 828-245-1733