The 11 Most Stunningly Scenic Drives in The Appalachian Mountains

Written by Maura Hoff
Published: November 18, 2023
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There is nothing like a road trip to understand and appreciate America’s beauty. For travelers, the Appalachian Mountains are a must-see part of the country. The Appalachian Mountains are located on the east side of the country and are the oldest mountain range in the United States. They go back billions of years and are home to diverse wildlife and ecosystems. Many people enjoy hiking on the Appalachian Trail to experience the beauty. Still, this mountain range has some of the most scenic drives a person could witness. We compiled a list of the 11 most stunningly scenic drives in the Appalachian Mountains. As you plan your next road trip, don’t forget to add these to your itinerary!

1. Skyline Drive, Virginia

An autumn golden hour photo at Hogback Overlook on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.

Located in Virginia, Skyline Drive runs 105 miles through Shenandoah National Park.

©Michael R Brown/Shutterstock.com

If you’re driving through the Appalachian Mountains, prioritize a trip down Skyline Drive in Virginia. Running north and south along the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive is 105 miles long. It is the only public road within the park, but it spans the park’s length entirely.

There are four access points along Skyline Drive with a required entrance fee. However, don’t let the fee scare you away. Skyline Drive has some of the most spectacular views of the Shenandoah Valley. With pull-offs and parking lots dispersed throughout the road, you will have the perfect opportunity to snap a photo of your journey.

2. Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia And North Carolina

Linn Cove Viaduct - Blue Ridge parkway fall

The Blue Ridge Parkway runs through North Carolina and Virginia and is 469 miles long.

©jaredkay/iStock via Getty Images

Starting in Virginia and expanding through North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most scenic roads in the country. With 469 miles of road, drivers can drive the entire parkway or choose to journey through different sections.

The Blue Ridge Parkway allows travelers to drive through the Pisgah National Forest and see the gorgeous views of Mount Mitchell State Park. If you’re hoping for a diverse view of the Appalachian Mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway provides the best opportunity.

3. The Road to Nowhere, North Carolina

Fontana Lake is a reservoir impounded by Fontana Dam on the Little Tennessee River located in Graham and Swain counties in North Carolina. The lake borders Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Road to Nowhere, or Lakeview Drive, provides scenic views of Fontana Lake in North Carolina.

©Vladimir Grablev/Shutterstock.com

Lakeview Drive, or the Road to Nowhere, is located near Bryson City, North Carolina. While the road is only six miles long, many people enjoy the views, the history, and the famous tunnel at the end.

The road leads six miles into Great Smoky Mountains National Park but stops unfinished at the tunnel opening visitors can walk through. The drive features views of Fontana Lake and numerous hiking trails to enjoy.

4. Cherohala Skyway, North Carolina And Tennessee

Cherohala Skyway in late october at the peak of the autumn leaf color season.

Cherohala Skyway is a National Scenic Byway that runs through North Carolina and Tennessee.

©NaturalStock/Shutterstock.com

Completed in 1996, the Cherohala Skyway is a beautiful road with 360-degree views of the Appalachian Mountains. The road stretches 43 miles between Tellico Plains, TN, and Robbinsville, NC, and is known as a “best kept secret” to both locals and motorcyclists.

The drive features scenic views of the North Carolina mountains and lush green forests in Tennessee. If you drive the entire Cherohaha Skyway, you’ll venture through both the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests.

5. Kancamagus National Scenic Byway, New Hampshire

Fall colors of New Hampshire on Kancamagus Highway

The Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire is a popular scenic drive for travelers to enjoy autumn foliage.

©Wirestock/iStock via Getty Images

New Hampshire features the beautiful Kancamagus Highway throughout its section of the Appalachian Mountains. Spanning slightly below 35 miles, the scenic byway travels along Route 112 in northern New Hampshire and is a popular destination for travelers looking for autumn foliage.

Enjoy the drive through the White Mountain National Forest with stunning views of the mountains, rivers, and waterfalls. The Kancamagus Highway, often called “The Kank,” reaches its highest elevation point just below 3,000 feet.

6. Newfound Gap Road, Tennessee

Great Smoky Mountains Sunset Panorama With Winding Mountain Road In The Foreground

Newfound Gap Road is located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee.

©ehrlif/iStock via Getty Images

If you’re traveling to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, take time to drive Newfound Gap Road. The road travels through the Blue Ridge Mountains and is beautiful throughout the year.

At 5,046 feet in elevation, this road is the lowest driveable pass in the park. The 33-mile drive takes drivers over the Great Smoky Mountains and ends in Gatlinburg, TN. Many drivers enjoy this road for the views and the potential to see wildlife like black bears.

7. Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway, North Carolina

Beautiful waterfall by the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway in North Carolina

The Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway, also known as Highway 215, has beautiful scenery and waterfalls for viewing throughout the drive.

©Alexey Stiop/Shutterstock.com

Also known as Highway 215, the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway has 76 miles of beautiful mountain views. With an elevation range between 2,100 feet and 5,340 feet, you’ll experience numerous elements of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina.

Many travelers use this road to see Pisgah National Forest and stunning waterfalls like Looking Glass Falls. Many drivers enjoy exploring Asheville, NC, to experience the infamous arts and brewery culture within the city.

8. Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway, Georgia

Autumn Landscape View from Brasstown Bald Mountain in Georgia

The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway is surrounded by the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia.

©Laura Clay-Ballard/iStock via Getty Images

Surrounded by the Chattahoochee National Forest, the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway is over 40 miles of Appalachian scenery. The popular road dips through valleys and up over the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia.

Drivers enjoy the scenic vistas from Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia at 4,784 feet above sea level. Waterfalls, wildlife, and scenic overlooks are accessible throughout the entire drive as well.

9. Route 100, Vermont

Aerial view of the town of Stowe in the fall

Route 100 runs directly through the historic town of Stowe, VT.

©BackyardProduction/iStock via Getty Images

Driving through New England during autumn is a bucket list item for many travelers, especially during peak foliage. Stretching 216 miles, Route 100 is the ideal road to travel and enjoy the gorgeous views of New England.

Route 100 boasts beautiful views of waterfalls and lush forests as you drive through Green Mountain National Forest. Many history buffs enjoy stopping in the numerous towns along the way including Stowe, VT. At the end of the road, enjoy a tasty dessert from the Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury, VT.

10. Tail of the Dragon, North Carolina

Cheoah Dam

The Cheoah Dam is located near US 129 and is now officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

©Zachary Thomas/iStock via Getty Images

The Tail of the Dragon, or US 129, is a dream road for any driver looking for a fun, yet scenic drive. Famous for its 318 curves in 11 miles, Tail of the Dragon is one of the best motorcycle and sports car roads in the country.

Surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains and Cherokee National Forest, the Tail of the Dragon isn’t the road to your destination — it is the destination. Motorists flock to this road during the spring, summer, and fall to conquer the tight, twisting turns and enjoy the views along the way.

11. Daughter of the Stars Loop, Virginia

Shenandoah River State Park

The Daughter of the Stars Loop in Virginia follows the iconic Shenandoah River.

©zrfphoto/iStock via Getty Images

Drive along the iconic Shenandoah River with the Daughter of the Stars Loop in Virginia. At 42 miles long, this drive starts in Front Royal, VA, and travels along the edge of Shenandoah National Park. Drivers enjoy the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the river, and Virginia wildlife.

The Daughter of the Stars Loop is part of the Virginia Bird and Wildlife Trail (VBWT). Bird-watching enthusiasts use this road to view native birds like bald eagles.

Summary of the 11 Most Stunningly Scenic Drives in the Appalachian Mountains

Scenic DriveState
1Skyline DriveVirginia
2Blue Ridge ParkwayVirginia and North Carolina
3The Road to NowhereNorth Carolina
4Cherohala SkywayNorth Carolina And Tennessee
5Kancamagus National Scenic BywayNew Hampshire
6Newfound Gap RoadTennessee
7Forest Heritage National Scenic BywayNorth Carolina
8Russell-Brasstown Scenic BywayGeorgia
9Route 100Vermont
10Tail of the DragonNorth Carolina
11Daughter of the Stars LoopVirginia

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Jon Bilous/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Maura Hoff is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is dogs, travel, and hiking. She has been writing for over 10 years and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Pennsylvania State University in 2016. When Maura isn't writing, she spends time with her husband and two Golden Retrievers, Basil and Sunny, in the Colorado mountains. Her passions are cooking, reading, music, and quoting her favorite show, The Office.

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