THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Road Trip in the Blue Ridge Mountains: Hikes, Hush Puppies and a Retro-Chic Mountain Lodge
CRAVE ADVENTURE? Follow the Appalachian spring from Charlotte, N.C., to Nashville, Tenn., some 480 miles across the Blue Ridge Mountains and Cumberland Plateau via Highways US-74 W and US-64 W. It’s a less predictable itinerary than the well-hyped Blue Ridge Parkway ambling farther north through Asheville.
This journey offers more than enough temptation to stretch the trip to a week if you’re not inclined to rush. And why should you? You’ll drive along the “Blue Wall,” the Cherokees’ name for the great escarpment marching across North Carolina into South Carolina and Georgia. In the space of 2 miles, the land jounces down some 2,000 feet—one of the steepest descents east of the Rockies. The dramatic inclines feature granite cliff domes, spouting waterfalls and temperate rainforests rich in biodiversity.
The US highways conjoin and separate like snakes on a caduceus as they wriggle across the Tar Heel State and into Tennessee past hamlets like Ducktown and Hothouse, through Shelby and Hendersonville and call on Cashiers and Highlands, old-money resorts set on the high shelf of the Blue Ridge like two pieces of heirloom Spode. Hike trails searching for trillium and lady slippers. Paddle through white water in Tennessee’s Ocoee River or opt for a more serene pedal in Chattanooga along one of the country’s best urban bike paths before catching the sunset atop a summit, home to a real-life Hogwarts. It’s wizardry indeed. Here’s the itinerary.