These days, travel is usually about getting where you’re going in the quickest and most efficient way possible. Our travel landscapes are all too often airports and interstates. Yet there was a time when folks would just head out for a drive. No real destination, no particular direction, just – going for a drive. Those scenic highways and byways haven’t really gone anywhere, either, most of us have just forgotten that they are there. Western North Carolina in fall is a place that makes you want to rediscover those old routes on two-lane surface roads that rise and fall, twist and turn with the land rather than just plowing straight through or over it. The best place to begin and end your drive? Rumbling Bald Resort.
Take Buffalo Shoals Rd. (State Road 1306) south from the resort and wind your way down the eastern shore of Lake Lure where changing leaves and evergreens part to reveal sudden, magnificent views of the lake and the Blue Ridge Mountains beyond until you cross over Hickory Nut Gap and into the town of Lake Lure proper. From there, take old US 74 around the southern portion of the lake and watch the landscape change as you meander your way higher and higher, through Chimney Rock and up to Bat Cave.
From here, you might consider State Highway 9 to lift you on up into the mountains proper as you enjoy the dappled sunlight as the blacktop crosses over creeks and streams, the hills and trees wrapping you close for a time, then opening up to views that will take your breath away. Sooner than you might think you’ll be in Black Mountain, and (maybe after stopping for a bite to eat) from there you can hit US 70 through Swannanoa, and you’ll empty right out onto the ultimate road for a drive like this: the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Heading northeast on the famous Parkway will take you into the Pisgah National Forest, and make sure you brought your car-charger, because you’ll be snapping photos at every turn in the road, particularly when Mt. Mitchell comes into view. By the time you hit Highway 80, it might be time to start thinking about heading back, so enjoy the ride down the mountain and out of the forest as you head south-east. You’ll hit 70 again, and head south west along the edge of the forest, and by the time you hit Old Fort, it might just be time for dinner. From there, wind your way down Bat Cave Road until you hit Cedar Creek Rd. (State Rd. 1314), and wend your lazy way back south and right back home again to Rumbling Bald Resort to watch the sunset over the lake.
There aren’t much better ways to spend a day in Western North Carolina.