In addition to the Best Mountain Roads info below, you’ll find helpful information on these Blue Ridge Travel Guide pages: Blue Ridge Parkway, Fall Leaf Reports, Maps, Live Webcams, Road Closures and Weather Reports, and YouTube Videos.
The Best Mountain Roads in the Southeast
The maps and information below will help you plan your next fun ride in the Blue Ridge Mountains. These roads have beautiful views and lots of curves and elevation changes. Clicking on each map will take you to an interactive Google map of the scenic road/route so you can zoom in or out, and get distances and other details. There are many other great routes in the Blue Ridge Mountains, so we’ll continue to update this page as time allows. (If you have roads/routes you’d like us to include, please contact us.)
Blue Ridge Parkway Interactive Map (pdf)
Cherokee, NC to Waynesboro, VA
“America’s Favorite Drive” — and certainly one of its most beautiful, scenic byways — the 490-mile Blue Ridge Parkway has something for everyone. Overlooks and trails provide frequent breaks during the ride. Lodges and restaurants are sparse along the Parkway and most are only open from late April through the fall leaf-peeking season.
3 Towns, 64 Miles, 2 Hours (or 2 Days?)
This North Carolina loop is great for sight-seeing and stopping to enjoy local attractions (there are places you can take lessons on kayaking, fly fishing, or repelling; you can tube down rivers, ride zip lines, visit museums, rent a boat, water ski, golf, hike, shop, visit wineries, etc.; and when you’re hungry the dining options are terrific). Click here to see photos from my 2-hr. ride from Hendersonville to Saluda and Chimney Rock, NC.
Back of the Dragon
Virginia Route 16 from Tazewell to Marion.
In 2012 the Tazewell Virginia County Board of Supervisors designated VA Route 16 as the “Back of the Dragon” in response to the famous “Tail of the Dragon that crosses from NC into TN. The 32-mile VA Route 16 crosses three mountain ranges between Tazewell and Smyth counties, with 260 curves, beautiful scenery, and dramatic elevation changes. It’s been a terrific hit with both motorcyclists and sports car clubs. For more info visit the Back of the Dragon website here.
300-Mile Loop of Scenic Roads in Western NC and Eastern TN Mountains
US-73/23, US-441, TN-73, US-129, NC-28, US-64, NC-107, NC-281, NC-215, US 276
The interactive Google map above is approximately 300 miles long and takes about eight hours (plus stops for fuel/rest/food/photos). Starting and ending at Waynesville, North Carolina, (“K” on the map) near Maggie Valley, this route takes you on some of the most beautiful, twisty roads in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, including the infamous Tail of the Dragon (300-curves in 11 miles) and Moonshiner 28.
Cherohala (Overhill) Skyway
TN-165 & NC-143 – Tellico Plains, TN to Santeetlah Gap, NC
The Cherohala Skyway is a 43-mile National Scenic Byway through the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests with multiple vistas and overlooks. The Skyway provides access to the Unicoi Mountains and the remote interior of the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. Its highest elevation is over 5400 feet. The Skyway is approximately 165 miles (3.25 hrs.) from Atlanta, GA; 220 miles (4 hrs.) from Charlotte, NC; and 75 miles (1.25 hrs.) from Knoxville, TN.
Forest Heritage Scenic Byway
US-276 – Pisgah Forest Entrance to Cruso, NC
The Forest Heritage Scenic Highway is a 30-mile stretch of US-276 that runs through the beautiful Pisgah National Forest, with numerous mountain peaks and cascading waterfalls. It is approximately 175 miles (3.3 hrs.) from Atlanta, GA; 120 miles (2.25 hrs.) from Charlotte, NC; 135 miles (2.5 hrs.) from Knoxville, TN.
Black Mountain Rag
NC-9 & US-64 – Black Mountain to Edneyville, NC
The route from Black Mountain to Bat Cave is full of twists and turns, with the Broad River and Hickory Nut Creek flowing along side the road. As you travel this scenic drive, consider a side trip up Chimney Rock and hiking to Hickory Nut Falls (a 404 ft. drop into the Broad River). The Broad River Gorge served as a backdrop for The Last of The Mohicans movie. At the southern end of the byway is Edneyville, with some of North Carolina’s finest apple orchards.
US-74 – Fairview to Bat Cave, NC
This 10-mile portion of U.S. Rt. 74 passes through Hickory Nut Gap into Hickory Nut Gorge, with Bearwallow Mountain on the right. Hickory Nut Creek, as well as the beautiful, steep sides of the gorge, parallel portions of the roadway. It ends at NC Rt. 9 and Bat Cave at the Black Mountain Rag.
Tail of the Dragon
US-129 – Deal’s Gap, TN to Chilhowee Lake Dam
Deals Gap is a famous destination for motorcycle and sports car enthusiasts. “The Dragon” or the “Tail of the Dragon” is a two-lane, 11-mile stretch of sharp curves (over 300 of them) and dramatic elevation changes, with few pull-offs or overlooks.
The road — U.S. Rt. 129 — is named “Tapoco Road” in North Carolina and “Calderwood Highway” in Tennessee. Because The Dragon borders the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there is no development, resulting in little danger of vehicles pulling out in front of those in the right of way. The speed limit on The Dragon was 55 mph prior to 1992. More recently it has been reduced to 30 mph. Law enforcement on the Tennessee portion has dramatically increased since 2007.
SC-28 & NC-28 – Walhalla, SC to Deal’s Gap, TN
Moonshiner 28 is a 107-mile stretch of winding road with beautiful views of the Nantahala Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains. Legend has it that Rt. 28 was once a major route for moonshiners. Today it’s a road less traveled for those who like lots of curves, unsurpassed scenery, and 55 mph speed limits. There are waterfalls, mountain vistas, and beautiful lakes, with the occasional antique shop and food and lodging. If you like Tail of the Dragon, you’ll love Moonshiner 28.
NC 226A – Loop from Little Switzerland, NC (off Blue Ridge Parkway)
The Diamondback is a fun 12-mile loop off of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Little Switzerland, NC. It has 190 curves and switchbacks, steep grades, and very little traffic. Diamondback is an excellent detour off the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, and well worth the the time.
NC-215 Pisgah Forest
NC-215 From US-64 (Rosman, NC, south) to US-276 (Canton or Waynesville, NC, north).
NC-215 is a 35-mile fun ride for motorcyclists and driving ehtusiasts. It twists and turns through the Pisgah Forest next to the Pigeon River and eventually crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway and US-276 on the north end. NC-215 is listed in the National Forest Service’s list of Scenic Byways. It has nice views with a few waterfalls and reaches an altitude of 5,300-ft. along the way.
NC-281 & NC-107 Loop – Lake Toxaway, Wolf Creek Lake, and Lake Glenville, NC
NC-281 and NC-107 is a 54-mile loop with some of the best roads you’ll find — if you enjoy sharp curves and quick changes in elevation. The scenery is great, with a few places to stop and smell the roses. (Note to motorcyclists with small tanks: Fill up before you start.)
Our Secret, Okay?
There was probably a subconscious reason why the NC281-NC107 loop ended up at the bottom of the list of Best Roads. Most likely, the Publisher wanted to keep it to himself because it’s his favorite. So let’s not tell anyone else, okay? And whatever you do, don’t mention his favorite stop at Lake Toxaway — the Greystone Inn. (Oh, I almost forgot. You’ll need a jacket for dinner at the Greystone Inn — and not the motorcycle kind.)
Here are some good books to help you enjoy the mountains: