Back Roads and Scenic Drives

The more hidden scenery of the area can be accessed through several back roads providing scenic drives through Avery, Watauga and Ashe counties. Feel free to try a few of these or explore our mountains on your own.

Southern Loop from Banner Elk to Blowing Rock

The Southern Loop from Banner Elk to Blowing Rock is 50 miles long and takes about two hours to drive, passing through farmlands and the smaller communities of Vilas, Valle Crucis, and Matney. Take US 321 to SR 194 and then onto SR 184.

Northern loop from West Jefferson through Helton

The Northern Loop from West Jefferson through Warrensville, Lansing and Helton, is 34 miles and takes about 1 hour to drive. Discover several charming communities along the way in Ashe County which provide shopping, restaurants, galleries, and local attractions.

Sugar Grove to Beech Mountain

Sugar Grove to Beech Mountain. This 24 mile drive winds through the valley of Sugar Grove and farmlands along the Watauga River. It ends at Banner Elk, “the highest town on the east coast.” DIRECTIONS: Take Hwy 421 to Hwy 321N, turn left on Buckeye Road, take right on Pinnacle Ridge Road.

Blowing Rock to Crossnore

Blowing Rock to Crossnore: This 27 mile route will take you through the mountains below the Blue Ridge Parkway, continuing through “large view” sections before getting off on another scenic byway. Be sure to stop at the Crossnore School to view the Ben Long Fresco and Crossnore Weaving Room. DIRECTIONS: From Blowing Rock take Yonahlossee Road/Blowing Rock Hwy 221 to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Get off the Parkway at NC-181/Jonas Ridge Hwy. Turn onto Linville Falls Hwy US 221/ NC-194. Take this highway into Crossnore.

Valle Crucis to Banner Elk

Valle Crucis to Banner Elk. This 12 mile route takes you through historic Valle Crucis and the original Mast General Store before heading through Matney. It ends in Banner Elk, where you will find shops, galleries and dining. DIRECTIONS: Take Hwy 105, turn right on Broadstone Road, turn left on Hwy 194. Turn left on Main Street in Banner Elk.

Boone to Todd and West Jefferson

Boone to Todd and West Jefferson. This 35 mile route along SR 194 travels through the mountain community of Todd, located along the former railroad route and then winds along the New River. Continue on to West Jefferson, a small picturesque town known for its arts community, unique dining, micro- brewery, and the Ashe County Cheese Factory Store. DIRECTIONS: From US Hwy 421, turn onto NC-194. Turn left onto US Hwy 221, then turn left onto Jefferson Avenue to enter downtown West Jefferson.


Sparta. This 15 mile route winds through the Little River Valley and passes historic farmhouses, churches and beautiful scenery. DIRECTIONS: From Main Street in Sparta take US-21 to Chestnut Grove Church Road. Turn right on NC-18 and then right on Little Pine Road. Turn right onto Fox Ridge Road and follow back to US-21.