Take the road less traveled, your key to a magical fall drive lies here.

We have made it easy to get around the High Country while taking the scenic route to your destination.

Traveling in the mountains.
One thing to remember is that some directions or maps may seem complicated or longer than they really are. The reason being is that all of the towns in the High Country Area are fairly close together, but there are mountains in between and under them, so the roads curve and wind.

There are several ways to get everywhere but the routes are often across entire mountains from one another. If you get lost or disoriented, know that this area is famous for its friendly hospitality, anyone will be happy to help you on your way. Your destination is most likely just over then next ridge. So have fun, get a map and take an Autumn Trip in the High Country.

If your destination is Blowing Rock or Banner Elk, these next sections are a must anyone taking an Autumn Trip to the High Country
Banner Elk Beech Mountain Blowing Rock
Boone Jefferson Linville
Linville Falls Little Switzerland Spruce Pine
 Todd   Valle Crucis  

Blowing Rock & Banner Elk from 421 via the Blue Ridge Parkway

If your destination is Blowing Rock or Banner Elk, and you are coming North on Hwy 421 try this route. (20 miles to Blowing Rock, 35 miles to Banner Elk) on the Blue Ridge Parkway

This route runs along the left (east) side of the mountains you see on the last stretch of open view coming up the mountain on 421.

Right as you level out at the top of this stretch of highway 421 North, you will pass under a bridge. This is the Blue Ridge Parkway, turn left to get on and then go right towards Blowing Rock.

There are lots of overlooks, picnic areas and farms that border this section of the parkway and this drive doesn’t take any longer than it would to get to Blowing Rock Via Boone.

After Passing through Aho Gap, and several overlooks, one of which, you can get out and walk through a cow field, you will cross Hwy 321 and turn left to drive into Blowing Rock.  
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*You may also continue to Linville, Spruce Pine, & Little Switzerland on this  Drive or Banner Elk from 321. via the Blue Ridge Parkway
*You may also continue to Linville, Spruce Pine, & Little Switzerland on this  Drive

Banner Elk or Linville

If your destination is Banner Elk or Linville, I suggest taking this route from either 421 as we have come thus far, or if you have come up the mountain on 321 through Blowing Rock, you also have an opportunity to get on the Parkway just North of Blowing Rock. (continuing on 321 takes you into Boone).
On 321 North, 1 mile past Blowing Rock, take a right onto the Parkway and travel South (Right Turn) to Banner Elk

 Now you may continue to, in my opinion, on the MOST beautiful section of the Parkway, passing Cone Manor, Price Lake, campgrounds, boating, fishing, hiking, overlooks, horseback riding, Linn Cove Viaduct, Price Park, and Grandfather Mountain.
All of these activities and places are located in the 15 mile section between Blowing rock and Linville/ Banner Elk and are described in detail in the overlooks section of this website.

Beautiful Bike Ride

Author Tim Murphy names this section as his favorite long bike ride, describing it like this: "It goes along U.S. 221, from Blowing Rock up toward Grandfather Mountain. It loops back across Linn Cove Viaduct on the Parkway".

Favorite Motorcycle Ride

 (5 miles or less) as named by Motorcycle enthusiast and Author Hawk Hageback, who says this about it: "The Blue Ridge Parkway, from Boone (Blowing Rock) to Grandfather Mountain, because the of scenery. Neat things to look at include Linn Cove Viaduct and Grandfather Mountain, the highest peak in the Blue Ridge. It's pretty spectacular - touristy but worth visiting. The road surface is clean asphalt; it's fun to drive."

Halloway Mountain Road Exit

Another option for the autumn traveler is to get off the parkway after mile marker 298 and merge at the Halloway Mountain road exit and proceed south to Linville on U.S. 221. this road is not any longer than the parkway, and it crosses the parkway in Linville, so just follow the below directions from 221, but it is indeed a spectacular road and might be a nice change to the parkway, if it is crowded, or you are looking for something a little different

Travel Approx 15 miles. After Mile Marker 300, look for the exit for Hwy 221 going into Linville.

Go south on 221 for a couple of miles until you get to the intersection of 221 and 105.(see directions below if going to Linville Falls, Spruce Pine or Little Switzerland)

Turn right on 105 (staying straight on 105 will take you into Boone)
A mile or so down the road is Hwy 184 on the left, turn here and you will be in Sugar Mtn/ Banner Elk. If you continue into downtown Banner Elk you Will intersect 194.  
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Turning left will take you to Beech Mountain where you could take the scenic drive to Tennessee, or turn right to take Route 194 Scenic Drive section 2 back to Boone. Most likely you need a place to relax with good food and a cozy bed. Click here for the areas finest inns, Bed and Breakfasts, Rental Cabins, and Dining/ Nightlife.

Linville Falls, Spruce Pine and Little Switzerland

Continue on the parkway, at the intersection of Parkway mile marker 305 and U.S. Hwy 221 for approx 25 miles, get off the parkway after mile marker 320, on the next intersection of the Parkway and U.S. Hwy 221.
Proceed North on 221 to go to Banner Elk, or south to get to Linville Falls, to get to Little Switzerland or Spruce Pine do not get off on U.S. 221, but stay on the Parkway and proceed south approx 25 miles to Spruce Pine, or 30 miles to Little Switzerland. The parkway borders both towns, and they have labeled exit points. Click here for accommodations in this area. 
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Scenic Highway 194- Rural Appalachia at it’s best

There are two sections of this road that I highly recommend to anyone who wants to take a cultural as well as scenic drive.

Starting at the intersection of Hwy 421 and the Blue Ridge Parkway, (at Deep Gap coming South from Boone or,
coming North on Hwy 421, at the top of the last long wide incline) go North on the Parkway.

Travel about 10 miles and take a left onto Hwy 16.

Go West Through Glendale Springs a beautiful quiet town, you will then pass over the South Fork of the Ancient New River.

After rolling along through fertile forests and farms you will intersect Hwy 221/194 Take a left Towards Jefferson. You will have driven a little less than 20 miles since leaving the Parkway.

You will now travel on Route 194 going South to Boone This is Section 1

This is a timeless section of road and surely you will be transported to a place of tranquility, beauty, and hospitality. As you pass the tractor crossings and roadside stands, be sure to stop for some boiled peanuts, a southern delicacy.
As you travel south, the road parallels the windy New River, one of the oldest, if not the oldest river in the world.
You will pass into a deep forest of tall hardwoods and giant rhododendron on either side and emerge in West Jefferson, a magnet for cultural heritage in the area. As you pass patches of woods spotted on green pastures woven onto rolling hills and buttoned with old barns and farmhouses it is hard to recall a place so timeless.

South of West Jefferson, 194 intersects 221 for a short bit, when 194 retreats again you will be in Christmas Tree country with its pumpkins, hayrides, cider, and of course, NC Fraser Firs.

The town of Todd is next if you're there on a Friday evening, stop by the Todd General Store to hear the area's best Bluegrass pickers.
On through the Meat Camp Community, named for the Buffalo hunting trade of old, and into Boone, the Heart of the High Country.   
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In Boone Route 194 turns right, Intersecting with Highway 421.
This is Boone’s historic King Street. The section of 194 that runs through Boone was part of Daniel Boone’s Wilderness Road that opened the frontier.
 Follow this road through downtown or stop for a break at the historic shops downtown.

Vilas to Banner Elk – Section 2

Favorite Motorcycle Ride (5 -15 miles)
as named by Motorcycle enthusiast and Author Hawk Hageback, who says this about it: "Boone to Banner Elk, about 15 miles. Take U.S. 321(/421)
west to NC 194; head south through the little town of Valle Crucis on NC 194, then west to Banner Elk. Locals say NC 194 is so twisty you pass the same house three times. You'll see the original Mast General Store. The Blue Ridge Parkway goes over the scenery; here you're riding through. There are no sweeping views, but you have beautiful leaves up close, and nice curves in the road."

As you pass out of Boone, 194 will run through Vilas and turn left up a steep curvy road. If you are driving an RV or vehicle over 25 ft, this is not the road for you.

Running through the Watauga River Valley the road will take you through the rolling farmland and sleepy towns of Vilas and Valle Crucis .Named for converging streams in the shape of a cross, Valle Crucis is home to the original Mast General Store where life is a little slower, so pull over and take it in.
After the Mast Store, a truck route splits left off of 194, unless you are driving a long vehicle (25 ft+) or the turns make you queasy, take the high road less traveled, (right) up through the mountains into Banner Elk North Carolina.

This section hosts some of the nicest Bed and Breakfasts in the High Country so be sure to check out local accommodations.  

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From Tennessee to Beech Mountain

If you are traveling from Tennessee to Beech Mountain NC on 321 this is always a beautiful drive on a road less traveled.

A few miles after crossing into NC on 321, look for Beech Creek Road on the right, go two miles and turn left at Buckeye Lake.

Then you will be heading up to the highest incorporated town East of the Mississippi, Beech Mountain NC.

Beech Mountain is truly a wonder with a magical climate different than its neighbors. Proceed up the “back-side of Beech Mountain to intersect with the Beech Mountain Parkway.

Turn left (Pine Road) to head into civilization in the form of a wonderful resort community. Look for accommodations on Beech or continue on the Beech Mountain Parkway, down the front side of Beech Mountain, and turn left on Highway 194 at the end of the Beech Mountain Parkway into Banner Elk NC.
You can find some of the High Country's Best Dining here or a plethora of great places to stay. Banner Elk is also home to the famous Wooly Worm Festival.

If you want to continue driving, stay on 194 and you will be at the end of Section two of the Scenic 194 drive. This will take you into Boone.
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Bibliography - quotes, material, and reference material taken from the following

Looking for more information on taking your vacation in the High Country?
For information regarding accommodations, events, Dining in the High Country and things to do, visit the High Country Vacations Guide.




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