Roadway through farmlands in Ashe County. Photo by Maria Richardson
A stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway running through the High Country. Photo by Todd Bush
The road leading to the top of Grandfather Mountain. Photo by Jim Morton
A fork in the road in rural Ashe County. Photo by Maria Richardson
The road leading to the top of Grandfather Mountain. Photo by Jim Morton
Get your motor running . . . Photo by JD Dooley
Scenic Highway 221 that goes from Blowing Rock to Grandfather Mountain. Photo by Ken Ketchie
The twist and turns of Hwy. 194 outside of Valle Crucis. Photo by Ken Ketchie
Shephard hairpin turn on Hw. 194 between Valle Crucis and Banner Elk. Photo by Maria Richardson

▶ OUTDOOR ADVENTURES

High Country Scenic Drives

The N.C. Department of Transportation has designated 54 scenic byways to give visitors and residents a chance to experience a bit of North Carolina history, geography and culture while raising awareness for the protection and preservation of these treasures. The routes are carefully selected to embody the diverse beauty and culture of the Tar Heel State and provide travelers with a safe and interesting alternate route.

NC Scenic Byways

Hwy 194 & 88

From Boone to Laurel Springs.

18 miles through Watauga & Ashe Counties. It starts in Boone at the New Market Shopping Ctr. You’ll first pass the Meat Camp community. Turn left on Meat Camp Road and travel 5.5 miles to visit Elk Knob State Park. Then, retrace your route back and turn left on 194 toward Todd. The byway route temporarily ends at the intersection with Hwy 221. Head north to Jefferson and Mt. Jefferson to pick up the byway at the intersection of Hwys 16 and 88. Follow


Hwy 88 to Laurel Springs

Hwy 194 Valle Crucis Loop.

17 miles through Watauga & Avery Counties. Begin driving where Hwys 421 and 194 converge in Vilas. Follow Hwy 194 into Valle Crucis and out of the valley. You will come to a triple S curve, in front of the Sweet Retreat B&B. Continue through Matney and eventually, you’ll arrive in Banner Elk, home of Lees-McRae College. Then, continue your drive along the winding road to Elk Park - site of the 60-foot Elk Park Waterfall.


Hwy 221

From Blowing Rock to Linville.

18 miles through Watauga & Avery Counties. Take Hwy 221 south from Blowing Rock; you’ll pass a Parkway turnoff and a quaint park. Later, you’ll pass under a huge rock that hangs over the road. Look up for a view of the Linn Cove Viaduct on the face of Grandfather Mountain. Past another Parkway entrance, you’ll arrive at Grandfather Mountain. The byway ends in Linville at the intersection of Hwys 221 and 105.


The scenic drives mentioned above are shown in bright green on the map below. Click to enlarge.