Scenic Byways in Madison County, North Carolina

Madison County’s beauty is showcased in three of the state scenic byways winding through the Pisgah Forest, the Blue Ridge Mountains and along the French Broad River. The Department of Transportation designates a route scenic to give travelers an opportunity to experience the state’s history, geography and culture. A second purpose of the scenic byway program is to protect and preserve those treasures. These byways are selected to portray the diverse beauty and culture of North Carolina.

Appalachian Medley

This scenic byway takes you north along NC Highway 209 from I 40 near Waynesville through the Pisgah National Forest roads to the town of Hot Springs and then on to the community of Walnut. When the route crosses into Madison County, there are nice views of Hebo Mountain and Pug Knob at Betsey’s Gap. Next you travel through the communities of Luck and Trust where you might want to stop at the Trust General Store and Cafe. Driving through the “flats,” catch sight of Max Patch Bald to the left where the Appalachian Trail crosses the bald. Enjoy the small town of Hot Springs which has one of the few natural mineral springs east of the Mississippi River. The town is rich in history associated with the reputedly healing waters. The byway ends after going through the town (now on US Highway 25/70) and on to the small community of Walnut. You can continue south on US Highway 25/70 south to Marshall and connect with another Scenic Byway, the French Broad Overview. The Appalachian Medley tour and map

French Broad Overview

This scenic byway begins north of Asheville at the Weaverville exit from I-26. Turning onto Monticello Road from US Highway 25/70 North will take you to the road which runs along the French Broad River (River Road or NC Highway 251). Winding along the river, you may catch sight of whitewater rafters in the summer months. However, historically the land next to the river was the passage for migrating animals, American Indians and later drovers who took their stock to market. The sheer rocks on the right provide a beautiful contrast to the wide river on the left. The highway continues to the county seat of Madison County, Marshall, where you can see the 100 year old courthouse on Main Street. The architect of this Neoclassical Revival structure was the famed Richard Sharp Smith, the supervising architect of the Biltmore House in Asheville. The town of Marshall has a mix of eclectic shops, artists’ studios and music venues on the Main Street. Continuing on Main Street will bring you back to US Highway 25/70 bypass where the route ends. The French Broad Overview tour and map

I-26 Scenic Byway

This scenic byway is the only interstate section in the state to be selected as a scenic byway. The stretch begins at Exit 9 north of Asheville (traveling on I-26 West). Besides the spectacular views from the highest elevation on any interstate in North Carolina, there are some unique engineering marvels and wildlife passages which make this section exceptional. Before reaching exit 9, you will pass the exit for the town of Mars Hill which took its name from Mars Hill College which was charted in 1859. Stop by the town and wander around the beautiful campus before starting on the scenic byway. As you travel north, there is a scenic outlook offering views of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Below the overlook is one of two wildlife passages which was constructed to allow bear, deer and other wildlife to cross the highway corridor safely. A second scenic outlook will be on the return route where the NC Welcome Center is located. From it you can see Mt Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. Past the Welcome Center, Buckner Gap is the highest elevation on any interstate in North Carolina at nearly 5000 feet and a little further is the Laurel River bridge which is the tallest in the state. This sections was designed with an automatic de-icing system. The final point of outdoor interest is at Sam’s Gap where the Appalachian Trail crosses under the highway. Continue to the exit at Flag Pond in the state of Tennessee and make a U-turn to drive back to North Carolina and don’t forget to stop at the Welcome Center for the scenic outlook on the way back. The I-26 Scenic Highway tour and map