The 4 Most Scenic Driving Routes in North Carolina
Sometimes, you have to get out of the house (or the cubicle) and hit the open road. No experience compares with the beauty of a scenic driving route in North Carolina, especially during the fall months when autumn colors dominate the landscape. If you’re feeling a little cooped up, hit the road in pursuit of these scenic drives in the Tar Heel state.
Outer Banks National Scenic Byway
Why take a scenic drive that features only water on one side? The Outer Banks National Scenic Byway offers a fairly straight route along the most beautiful portion that doesn’t suffer from its lack of curves. You’ll see the beautiful Atlantic Ocean on one side of the highway and the Pamlico Sound on the opposite bank. It stretches for 138 miles and takes you through several wildlife refuges where you’re certain to catch some bird and other animal sightings.
The Outer Banks National Scenic Byway starts at Whalebone Junction in Nags Head and terminates at U.S. 70. If you decide to traverse the entire route, you’ll take two ferry rides. If you want to enjoy the least amount of traffic possible, take the drive in the winter or early spring, preferably early in the morning.
Blue Ridge Parkway
You can’t beat North Carolina for its stunning views. The Blue Ridge Parkway takes you on a roller coaster ride through the national park in Asheville, North Carolina. You don’t have to pay any admission fees or tolls, so the only cost will be the gas in your tank. You can stop along the way to take photographs or even to hike short trails if you need to stretch your legs.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is best experienced with your significant other. An autumn drive is perfect in this part of the country because of the magical fall colors, but it’s also a beautiful drive in the spring and summer.
Newfound Gap Road
Although it’s not as dramatic as the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Newfound Gap Road won’t disappoint if you’re looking for natural eye candy. It starts in Cherokee and takes you through part of the Great Smoky Mountains. You can experience the entire drive in 18 miles, so work it in as an evening road trip with a friend or family member (or by yourself). As a bonus, you’ll see the crossing of the Appalachian Trail.
I-26 Scenic Highway
Most of the scenic byways in North Carolina are found on U.S. highways, but I-26 offers the only exception. It’s a beautiful stretch of interstate that starts at Mars Hill (exit nine) and climbs to Sam’s Gap for a stunning scenic overlook. This scenic byway is part of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Site, and there are no costs associated with the trip. Since it’s only nine miles long, you can run the drive several times to experience all of its glory.
A long (or short) drive through a scenic byway can clarify your thoughts and soothe your soul. If you don’t want to take the journey alone, invite a loved one along for the ride.