A ride down U.S. Highway 64 in North Carolina, in whatever direction you choose to go, is a delightful way to spend an hour, a couple of hours or an entire day. We often start in Brevard, a small college town with a delightful historic downtown strip. From there you can go to Franklin with its Scottish Tartan Museum or Ruby City Gem Museum in Western North Carolina all the way through to Chimney Rock and Lake Lure with a stop in Hendersonville if you choose.
You can just drive or make stops along the way to hike, visit small towns or just generally grab the flavor of life in the moutains here.
And that’s just the western North Carolina part of the drive. U.S. Highway 64 actually runs 604 miles or 972 through the state from its western border with Tennesee to North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
The drive will be slow; but that’s because there are so many places you will want to stop for a picture or just to gaze and contemplate. The most intriguing and eye-catching area goes through almost 100 miles of Western North Carolina. The heart of the drive is through Transylvania County that lays claim to being the home of more 200 waterfalls. You can also take side trips to the Pisgah National Forest, and the Natanhala National Forest.
From Hendersonville to Chimney Rock and beyond in the fall, you drive through apple country. Henderson County is where 65 percent of North Carolina apples are grown, a lot of it in orchards along U.S. 64. Stop for a moment and go apple-picking.
On the other side of U.S. 64, heading west from Brevard, this same highway is the Waterfall Byway. You could see 200 waterfalls along this route if you wanted to do so. You will also pass through some very nice small towns like Sapphire, Cashiers and then on to Highlands and Franklin, where there are three landmark waterfalls on the stretch of Highway 64 between the two towns.
The first two are Bridal Veil Falls (you can drive under it from the highway) and Dry Falls (with a parking lot and picnic area and falls you can walk behind). The third falls, Cullasaja Falls is along a very dangerous and twisty stretch of U.S. 64. Although you can see it from the road, it can be tricky. There is only a small pull-off where two or three cars can stop and you will do better stopping here if you area heading east between Franklin and Highlands. It is breathtaking and worth the stop, but do be careful.
Many visitors think it’s one of the most interesting and scenic roads in Western North Carolina.
U.S. Highway 64 can also connect you to the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway along NC 215 at Rosman if you are so inclined.
One word of caution. Do this drive in the daytime only. There are too many curves and twists to drive the road at night, and besides what’s the point of driving a scenic highway when you can’t see anything?