Four Fantastic Fall Drives
Whether you’re behind the wheel of a fancy convertible or the family minivan, a fall driving tour of Transylvania County is an unforgettable experience. Sure, you can speed through these routes and see plenty of sights, but the ideal way is to take your foot off the gas and plan to make several stops along the way.
TRANSYLVANIA COUNTY LOOP (3 – 7 hours, depending on stops)
When it comes to driving tours, this is the Big Kahuna. It serves as both a wonderful introduction to the county and a splendid opportunity to see fall color thanks to the dramatic elevation changes along the route. To start, enter Pisgah National Forest on US 276 and begin heading north. You’ll encounter a number of great attractions and stops, including the Pisgah Ranger Station and Visitor Center, Looking Glass Falls, Sliding Rock, and the Cradle of Forestry. Once you’re on the Blue Ridge Parkway, numerous overlooks offer up stunning views of the Blue Ridge mountains and the awesome rock monolith of Looking Glass Rock. We especially recommend Pounding Mill Overlook (Milepost 413.2), Graveyard Fields (Milepost 418.8), and Devil’s Courthouse (422.4). Come off the BRP at NC 215 for a winding trip back down into the valley. This stretch also offers abundant opportunities to discover why Transylvania County is known as the Land of Waterfalls, including Courthouse, Bird Rock, Mill Shoals, and French Broad Falls. Head east on US 64 and you’ll be back in town just in time for some al fresco dining in one of Brevard’s notable restaurants. You can do this drive in about 4-5 hours. But why rush? It’s very easy to make a full day of it and see many of the natural wonders that make Transylvania County the land of pure adventure.
Directions: Start on US 276 and go north for 15 miles. Turn left onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and go 11 miles. Turn left onto NC 215 and go 17.3 miles. Turn left on US 64 and go 8.6 miles to downtown Brevard.
CAESARS HEAD CLASSIC (4-8 hours, depending on stops)
This route roughly follows the 100-kilometer course of the famous Assault on the Carolinas, a cycling event held every April. It’s also an auto or motorcycle enthusiast’s dream, full of switchbacks, s-turns, and curves. You can drive or ride this route in either direction, but we recommend you go counterclockwise. Highlights include cresting the Eastern Continental Divide, a spectacular descent of US 178 into South Carolina, a straight but hilly stretch on the Cherokee Foothills Parkway, then a memorable climb up Caesars Head on US 276. The finishing touch is a swooping, multi-curve descent into Brevard. But don’t spend all your time on the road. There are numerous opportunities for discovery, including the delightful community of Cedar Mountain.
Directions: From downtown Brevard, go west on US 64 for 8.4 miles. Turn left onto US-178 and go 11 miles. Turn left on SC-11 and go 8.5 miles. Turn left on SC-8/11 (Pumpkintown Highway) and go 1.8 miles. Turn left on US-276 and go 13.5 miles back to Brevard.
OUT AND BACK ON THE TOXAWAY TREK (5-7 hours depending on stops)
There’s no need for elaborate directions on this one – most of this lovely route is on US 64. Leaving Brevard, head southwest, where you will soon cross “Milepost 0” on the French Broad River. You’ll then begin twisting and turning upward through wooded tunnels of fall color all the way to Lake Toxaway and beyond. The communities of Toxaway and Sapphire offer plenty of reasons to stop for a casual lunch or a mini shopping excursion or even a chainsaw-carved bear. Turn left on NC 281 and you’ll be just a stone’s throw from gorgeous Gorges State Park, with its world-class visitor center and abundant opportunities for hiking and waterfall gazing. From here you can reverse course and drive back to Brevard on the same scenic roads – or you can check one more item off your waterfall bucket list: Whitewater Falls, the tallest waterfall (at 411 feet) east of the Rocky Mountains. To reach it, continue south on NC 281 for 8.9 miles. A short ¼ mile hike on a paved walkway brings you to the Upper Falls overlook. You can also descend a 155-step walkway to a second viewing platform from which you see both the upper and lower falls.
Directions: From downtown Brevard, go west on US 64 for 21.8 miles. Turn left on NC 281 and continue ¾ of a mile to Gorges State Park. For Whitewater Falls, continue on NC 281 for 8.9 miles.
A TASTE OF TRANSYLVANIA
Pressed for time? This is the drive for you. It also happens to feature one of Transylvania County’s most iconic destinations: DuPont State Recreational Forest. Head east from Pisgah Forest on US 65. Turn right on Crab Creek and you’ll soon be enjoying scenic long-range views and gently undulating roads. Before long, turn right on Staton Road and start a climb that puts you right in the heart of DuPont. Along this stretch of road are several access spots for the forest, including the Lake Imaging lot, Hooker Falls lot, and the Buck Forest lot (where you’ll also find the DuPont State Recreational Forest Visitor Center). There are plenty of opportunities for recreation here, from mountain biking to waterfall hikes. Leaving Dupont, you’ll soon reach the wonderful community of Cedar Mountain, an ideal spot for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a shopping spree. From here you’ll return to Brevard via US 276, a super scenic byway with an array of great pottery studios, art galleries, and craft co-ops that stretch all the way into the heart of Brevard.
Directions: From the intersection of NC 280 and US 64 in Pisgah Forest, go east on US 64 for 3.6 miles. Turn right on Crab Creek and continue 4.3 miles to Staton Road. Take a right and continue 5.3 miles to Cascade Lake Road. Go 2.5 miles and turn right on US 276 and go 9.9 miles to downtown Brevard.