photograph by C2 Photography

blue ridge parkway

What? The Blue Ridge Parkway

Where? Though the Parkway begins at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, it stretches across hundreds of mountainous miles in scenic western North Carolina before ending at the border of the Great Smoky Mountains National and Cherokee Indian Reservation.

Enjoy the ride. Sure the Parkway passes by dozens of popular natural attractions like Mount Mitchell State Park and Linville Falls, but the road’s overlooks offer spectacular vistas in their own right. Some of our favorites include Waterrock Knob (MP 451.2) and the Looking Glass Rock Overlook (MP 417). Give yourself a couple hours of extra travel time so you can pull over along the Parkway and enjoy the fresh air and fantastic views.


What? U.S. Highway 276

Where? The highway enters North Carolina about 13 miles southeast of Brevard and twists and turns through towns and forests until its end in Cove Creek.

Don’t miss the produce stands. On either side of the highway, mom-and-pop stores brim with apples, pumpkins, gourds, mums, pottery, boiled peanuts, jars of golden honey and the like. As writer Bryan Mims puts it, “To bite into a mountain-grown apple is to taste the essence of autumn, the crispness and tang of the season.” Your mountain cruise just won’t be complete without one.


What? The Cherohala Skyway

Where? Robbinsville at N.C. Highway 143.

These are some of the prettiest miles you’ll drive anywhere. Often, the best places are the hardest to reach. The prettiest views are rewards for the hardest slogs. When you round the last bend on N.C. Highway 143, pushing out of a long tunnel of leaves, ears popping from the dramatic ups and downs, the skyway officially begins with a flash of light you haven’t seen for 10 miles. Suddenly, after miles of squinting under a dark canopy, you can see enough mountain air to fill five stadiums. Some warnings: You might see a bear. You won’t see a gas station. You’ll need lunch, or at least a snack. But most important, you won’t see many people. Stop at any of the overlooks, and often, you’ll have the view to yourself. – Josh Shaffer in the article North Carolina’s High Road, October 2011

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Erin Reitz is a former digital content specialist at Our State.