Facebook Tracking Pixel

Scenic Byways

The North Carolina mountains and foothills are laced with Scenic Byways, roads designated by the federal government and state government for their outstanding archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities. Scenic byways take travelers through National Park land, National Forests, rustic valleys and peaceful farmland to breathtaking mountain vistas, waterfalls, scenic small towns, vineyards, and historic sites.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Perhaps the most famous scenic byways in the North Carolina mountains is the Blue Ridge Parkway. Built during the Depression, the road was designed from the outset to be a meandering drive through the Appalachians from Virginia to Western North Carolina. Frequent turnouts, hiking trailheads and picnic spots give travelers ample opportunity to fully enjoy the beauty of the mountains.

Cherohala Skyway

It took 30 years to construct this paved 50-mile, two-lane road that climbs to elevations of over 5,300 feet between Robbinsville, North Carolina and Tellico Plains, Tennessee. This ridge route gets its name from the two National Forests it crosses: the Cherokee National Forest and the Nantahala National Forest. In North Carolina, travelers look down on stunning views of the Appalachian Mountains, Snowbird, Slickrock, and Joyce Kilmer Forests and on clear days can see the Great Smoky Mountains in the distance. The nearby “Tail of the Dragon,” a stretch of US Highway 129, has 318 curves in 11 miles and is America’s number one motorcycle and sports car road.

Smoky mountain region (including Franklin):

Connecting with both the Cherohala Skyway and the Nantahala Byway, the Indian Lakes Scenic Byway runs between Almond and Tapoco on State Road 28, then on US 129 between Tapoco and Topton. 

Learn More

This enchanting road between Whittier and Marble on US 74 takes travelers through 43 miles of the Nantahala National Forest, with 20 miles of it passing through the deep and scenic Nantahala Gorge. 

Learn More

Not surprisingly, this Scenic Byway takes visitors through “the land of waterfalls,” some of the most beautiful scenic sights in the mountains of North Carolina.

Learn More

State Highway 281 between Sapphire and the South Carolina border is known as Whitewater Way, taking its name from Whitewater Falls, the highest waterfall east of the Rockies and one of many waterfalls in this southern region of the Nantahala National Forest.

Learn More

Central mountain region (including Asheville):

Winding northward on State Road 209 from Walnut, North Carolina, then turning south and wending through the tiny resort community of Hot Springs and terminating at Crabtree, this Scenic Byway travels past some of the most prominent peaks in the North Carolina mountains. The mountain road dips into bucolic grassy valleys and passes alongside the French Broad River near Hot Springs.

Length: 45 miles
Drive Time: 1.5 hours

For a detailed driving route and map, download the NC Department of Transportation’s Scenic Byways guide.

Named for an old fiddle tune, this Scenic Byway begins at the picturesque town of Black Mountain and has as many twists and turns as the tune itself. The route follows State Highway 9 to Bat Cave, then forks. Drivers can opt to take US 64 southeasterly past Hickory Nut Gorge and Chimney Rock State Park to Lake Lure, or travel in a southwesterly direction on US 64 west to the apple orchards of Edneyville.

Length: 31 miles
Drive Time: 45 minutes

For a detailed driving route and map, download the NC Department of Transportation’s Scenic Byways guide.

Running from Fairview to Bat Cave along US 74A, 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 State Park and Lake Lure.

Length: 16.5 miles
Drive Time: 25 minutes

For a detailed driving route and map, download the NC Department of Transportation’s Scenic Byways guide.

Travelers along the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway will pass beautiful mountain scenery and waterfalls and have the opportunity to stop in Brevard and at the Cradle of Forestry to learn about the rich history of the area, including the birth of forestry in America.

Learn More

From Weaverville, birthplace of Civil War governor Zebulon Vance, to Alexander and then north on US 251 to just past Marshall, this Scenic Byway winds through rolling hills and peaceful farmland along the French Broad River. The French Broad, which begins in Rosman and runs a northerly course into Tennessee, is one of North Carolina’s most popular waterways for rafting, fishing and other water sports.

Length: 17 miles
Drive Time: 25 minutes

For a detailed driving route and map, download the NC Department of Transportation’s Scenic Byways guide.

The Historic Flat Rock Scenic Byway consists of several roads in the Flat Rock community, near Hendersonville. The village was a popular haven for affluent Charlestonians, Europeans and plantation owners. The eight-mile byway leads past many beautiful historic homes, the St. John in the Wilderness gothic revival church, the Flat Rock Playhouse, the Historic Woodfield Inn, and the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site.

Length: 8.3 miles
Drive Time: 20 minutes

For a detailed driving route and map, download the NC Department of Transportation’s Scenic Byways guide.

Located in some of North Carolina’s highest terrain, the Interstate 26 Scenic Highway in Madison County takes motorists straight through the heart of the Appalachian Mountains and offers stunning views, as well as engineering and environmental wonders.

Learn More

The Pacolet River Byway runs along US 176 between Tryon and Saluda, in the southwestern part of North Carolina. This Scenic Byway passes a number of historic structures along the way, including old railroad depots, log cabins, and the Saluda Grade, the steepest mainline railroad grade in the country. Pearson’s Falls, near Tryon, and the Polk County Historical Museum are other highlights in the area.

Length: 10 miles
Drive Time: 20 minutes

For a detailed driving route and map, download the NC Department of Transportation’s Scenic Byways guide.

High Country and foothills (including Boone):

The historic Yonahlossee Trail, now part of US 221 called the Little Parkway, was constructed in 1889 to link the then-new resort of Linville to the train service at Blowing Rock. It was a toll road until 1987 when the Linn Cove Viaduct was completed on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This Scenic Byway passes the natural wonders of the Linville Gorge and Falls, Linville Caverns, and Grandfather Mountain, as well as the back entrance to the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park.

Length: 18 miles
Drive Time: 45 minutes
Note: The route is not recommended for recreational vehicles or buses.

For a detailed driving route and map, download the NC Department of Transportation’s Scenic Byways guide.

Winding through the high mountains on State Road 194 between Cranberry and Vila, this Scenic Byway is well-traveled in the winter ski season, as it gives access to the largest concentration of ski resorts in North Carolina. The route also passes numerous spots of historical interest, including the old mission in Valle Crucis, the 19th century Mast Farm Inn and the original Mast General Store, founded in 1882.

Length: 17 miles
Drive Time: 45 minutes

For a detailed driving route and map, download the NC Department of Transportation’s Scenic Byways guide.

Stunning and varied scenery awaits travelers along this scenic byway. Stretching from the high country of Boone to Laurel Springs, the Byway follows State Roads 194 and 88 on what once was the “Old Buffalo Trail.” Along the way, visitors will see one of the oldest rivers in the world, ironically named the “New River,” and pass the largest concentration of Christmas tree farms in the country.

Length: 35 miles
Drive Time: 75 minutes
Note: The route is not recommended for recreational vehicles or buses.

For a detailed driving route and map, download the NC Department of Transportation’s Scenic Byways guide.

The Pisgah Loop Scenic Byway gives motorists an opportunity to view some of North Carolina’s most beautiful and remote landscapes. The byway begins north of Morganton at the intersection of N.C. 181 and Fish Hatchery Road (S.R. 1240). Following N.C. 181 north for 17 miles along Steele Creek, the byway traces the route of Kirk’s Raiders in the Civil War. It rises and winds up into the Pisgah National Forest with views of Table Rock and Hawksbill Mountain.

Learn More

With the steep Black Mountain Range reflected in the rearview mirror at Marion, drivers ease into an equally beautiful though very different countryside while traveling south on the South Mountain Scenery Scenic Byway. This country route, State Road 226, meanders through cornfields and apple orchards, past significant Civil War and Revolutionary War sites en route to its conclusion in Metcalf. It skirts the South Mountains State Park, giving access to wandering trails and abundant camping spots.

Length: 33 miles
Drive Time: 45 minutes

For a detailed driving route and map, download the NC Department of Transportation’s Scenic Byways guide.

The U.S. 421 Scenic Byway travels through Watauga County’s portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The byway offers sweeping views of the valleys, woodlands, and mountains between Deep Gap and Boone. The byway begins on U.S. 421 North at the intersection with the Blue Ridge Parkway. Just after passing the Blue Ridge Parkway, the byway enters Watauga County near the town of Deep Gap, home of master traditional musician and cultural icon Doc Watson.

Learn More

From Patterson near Grandfather Mountain to Goshen just outside the Wilkesboro Reservoir, this rural route follows NC 268 along the Upper Yadkin River from the mountains to gently rolling foothills of the Piedmont. Historically a farming region, today the traveler will see acres of vineyards, horticultural nurseries and turf farms alongside more traditional crops. With a climate and soils ideal for the cultivation of grapes, the region has received a federal designation as the Yadkin Valley Viticultural Area.

Length: 25 miles
Drive Time: 40 minutes

For a detailed driving route and map, download the NC Department of Transportation’s Scenic Byways guide.

 

 

For detailed driving routes and maps, download the NC Department of Transportation’s Scenic Byways guide.

In light of COVID-19 precautions, some sites may be closed or events canceled. Please check directly with the sites listed for the latest information.