Cruising in the Carolinas: 10 Scenic Drives, Campgrounds and Boating Getaways

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Blue Ridge Parkway:

The quintessential scenic drive of North Carolina, No list can begin without mentioning this gorgeous drive. Originating in Rockfish Gap, Virginia, and stretching down the picturesque spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains culminating in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and earning it the distinction of being America’s Longest Linear Park. It is a winding road encapsulated by dense forestry and a variety of valleys and peaks for spectacular views and scenic overlooks available alongside it.


Travel Tip: There are no gas stations on the Parkway, be sure to fuel up before you go.


Must-Do: Visit the Parkway in the fall for breathtaking views of the color-changing foliage.



Black Mountain

A gorgeous Mountainside town well-known for its artistic history, the main drive-through is filled with stunning vistas and a charming small-town feel. Close to the Pisgah National Forest and the Blueridge Parkway, this quaint drive is worth the detours. With other nearby adventure areas such as the Land of Waterfalls, Black Mountain should not be left off your itinerary.


CTFCU Insider Review: “I went to college at WCU and the drive-through Black Mountain in Asheville, when I would go home and back to college, I loved looking at the mountain and the beautiful views—that was my favorite part about my drive”- Haley E., Gastonia Branch


Travel Tip: Set aside extra time to visit nearby Asheville, with no shortage of cuisine, cultural or historical attractions.



Old Cullowhee Road ( NC 107) between Sylva and Cashiers, NC

This hidden gem of a winding mountain road may be one of the lower-profile routes on this list, but it is not behind its beauty or attractions. Beginning in Sylva, this scenic road continues all the way to the South Carolina border. Perfect for unplugging and reconnecting with nature, this road will go through Cashiers, NC, otherwise known as the “Heart of the Blue Ridge.” We recommend stopping by Lake Glenville for beautiful views and waterfall hikes.


CTFCU Insider Review:  You go through so many curves it isn’t good if you get motion sick, but the view is fantastic. I used to sit by the lake when I was needing some time to myself, just to enjoy the peace of nature for a little bit.”- Haley E., Gastonia Branch.



Jordan Lake

Located near Raleigh, Jordan Lake is a 14000-Acre Reservoir that is perfect for family camping. With an abundance of swimming beaches, boating ramps and campground experiences, and a focus on ecology, this is natural oasis has a little bit of something for everybody.


Must-Do: Visit the Bald Eagle Observatory and take note of the wildlife that abounds!


Travel Tip: Learning to Sail? This is the destination for you, with popular areas like vista point and Ebenezer Church for sailing and Windsurfing.



Dreher Island State Park

Recommended by April S., in our Columbia, SC branch, Dreher Island State Park is a popular choice for camping and boating in the Midlands. Spanning three islands for a total area of 348 acres and ample access to Lake Murray, there is excellent fishing, nature trails, and a variety of campgrounds.


Travel Tip:  Forget to pack the fishing gear in the RV? No problem, stop by the park store where you can borrow equipment from their Fishing Tackle Loaner Program. Don’t forget that a South Carolina fishing license is required.



McDowell Nature Preserve:

For a quick getaway close to urban comforts, look no further than McDowell Nature Preserve. Located just 30 minutes outside of Uptown Charlotte, this sanctuary offers great forested trails to experience the flora and fauna you can’t enjoy in the city. RV Camping Hookups and public boat ramps are available onsite as well for enjoying the best of Lake Wylie.


Must-Do: Visit the Nature Center with the kids for a natural play area to burn energy as well as educational activities for the whole family



High Rock Lake

The second largest lake in North Carolina, High Rock Lake, is just outside of Lexington and is an excellent destination for powerboating and in-land sailing and fishing. Named after the nearby High Rock Mountain, this overlooked destination offers many accessible public boat ramps and recreation areas.


Must-Do:  Paddle through the Yadkin River Daniel Boone Heritage Canoe Trail for your dose of outdoor activity and history.



Savannah River Scenic By-Way

Meandering past three different state parks, this scenic byway combines a beautiful drive with options for boating and watersports. Our Recommended route starts at Thurmond Lake, the drive down from Clarks hill to through Sumter National Forest, stops at Richard B. Russell Lake in Calhoun Falls State Park, and finishes by Hartwell Lake in Saddler’s Creek State Park.


Travel Tip: Each Park has its own admission, so plan accordingly.


Perfect For: The adventurer that prefers options



Paris Mountain State Park

Located five miles north of Greenville, Paris Mountain State Park is a state park in the U.S. state of South Carolina. Activities available in the 1,540-acre park include hiking, biking, swimming, and picnicking. The 13-acre Lake Placid offers swimming and fishing. Trailside Campsites are also available for those that like to be close to the action.


Travel Tip: Bring the bikes to take advantage of the 15 miles of biking trails this park has to offer.



Mountain Waters Scenic Byway

In far western North Carolina winding through Nantahala National Forest’s two river gorges, you will find this 61.3-mile scenic road. It passes along hardwood forests, meadows, waterfalls, lakes, creeks, and rivers. At about four hours, it’s the longest drive from Charlotte on this list, but it’s well worth the experience. This Park offers a campground, fishing, and hiking and is an excellent destination for the outdoor enthusiast.


Must-Do: Take a side-trip to the historic Wayah Bald Fire Tower to view the Appalachian Mountains in Georgia, Tennessee, and both Carolinas.





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