The Long and Winding Road

The Long and Winding Road

U.S. Highway 221 is a road that will wind its way around your heart. It's twists and turns are not the quickest way to get from place to place, but some would argue it's one of the best. This is truly a road for drivers who enjoy moving at a slow pace as they soak in the scenery, culture and charm the journey has to offer.


Around Linville, visitors can explore Linville Caverns and Linville Falls. As you venture north on 221 from Linville, you will come across Bill Brown Ironworks and it's magnificent sculpture garden that grows right up to the side of the road. The modern sculptures look amazingly at home against the rural landscape and seem comfortable to live surrounded by a wonderland of Christmas tree farms. The sculpture garden is a rarity in an area that has maintained the charming qualities of a past era.

Spread out like a patchwork quilt covering the earth, the farmland along 221 is loosely patterned with beautiful barns. Some are freshly painted bright red, while others are weather-beaten, natural-wood monuments to the labor of love that family farmers have put into their land for generations. 221.

imageAs 221 moves through the town of Crossnore and Joseph A. Gill State Forest, signs will direct those interested to The Weaving Room at Crossnore School. The only one of its kind in North Carolina, the Weaving Room is an educational resource with demonstrations in traditional weaving techniques and a beautiful store filled with fine gifts for every budget.

Grandfather Mountain's entrance is well marked on 221. Grandfather Mountain is a must see attraction in the High Country as it is a U.N. International Biosphere Reserve and home to 47 rare and endangered species. The park is also home to the famous mile-high swinging bridge. The $12 adult admission allows visitors to utilize all of the park's amenities and enjoy the private trail system it maintains. The cost of admission helps the reserve protect its unique ecology for future generations.

Between the entrance to Grandfather Mountain and the next Parkway opening, from which visitors can gain easy access to the Linn Cove Viaduct, you may be lucky enough to catch some impromptu bluegrass music at the occasionally opened fruit stand that is known to have honey, jam, and cider.image

Family-owned fruit stands are a staple along 221. Sprinkled along the roadside, venders line their stalls with brilliant rainbows of locally grown produce and crafts, such as corn-husk dolls. At 7696 Emerald Drive, just off the side of the highway, there is an old log cabin that sporadically opens its doors to provide down-home treats, as well as rocking chairs and the like. It's also a great place to look out over the beautiful valleys and rolling hillsides below.

Just after passing the Eastern Continental Divide at 3900 ft, you will find the Grandfather Mountain Market. Owned and operated by the Lee family, the market provides consistent charm to those who venture inside. The building that houses the market has been in continuous operation for almost a century. For years, it was called the Blue Moon and some locals still refer to it as such. Rumor has it that the Blue Moon was a major moonshine honky-tonk during Prohibition. Locals still gather here to share their daily experiences, but these days the beverage of choice is Coca-Cola in a glass bottle. The best way to get a feel for these mountains is to talk with the people who live here, so pull up a rocking chair and join the conversation!

Soon the highway enters the town of Blowing Rock, where a wealth of upscale restaurants and accommodations are offered. Downtown, visitors can walk along streets lined with galleries showcasing the works of various local artisans. The nearby Blowing Rock Park provides a nice in-town atmosphere for strolling and eating ice cream cones from the road-side stand or local candy store.

Following 221 towards Boone, travelers will pass the Tanger Shoppes. A favorite destination for some, the outlets offer brand name products at a discount. Tweetsie Railroad, where visitors can travel back in time by train, and Mystery Hill are also along this stretch of road. Once in Boone, a wealth of large hotels, restaurants, grocery stores and other amenities will appear, along with the campus of Appalachian State University.

Driving out of Boone and north towards Jefferson, at a junction with N.C. 163 on Beaver Creek Road, visitors can marvel at Ben Long's famous religious frescoes that fill St. Mary's Episcopal Church. Painted in the mid-1970s through the 1980s by Long and his students, the frescoes are spectacular, filling the small church with artistic grace. Visitors to St. Mary's can listen to educational recordings about Long and his work.

Highway 221 is a journey for the curious. The road is extremely curvy, but around every bend (and there are a lot of them) there is something new to explore. It is a road that celebrates farmland and traditional rural culture while inviting in the new, and that includes you! Take your time and enjoy the ride.

Sights To See:

From Sparta To West Jefferson:

  • Christmas Tree Farms Throughout Alleghany County
  • South Fork Of The New River & New River State Park In Ashe & Alleghany County
  • Mount Jefferson State Park, Between West Jefferson & Jefferson On NC 221Church of the Frescoes
  • Frescoes, St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Just Off NC 221 At Junction With NC 163 On Beaver Creek Road, West Jefferson
  • Ashe County Cheese Company, Downtown West Jefferson

From West Jefferson To Blowing Rock Via Boone:

  • Appalachian State University, Boone
  • Horn In The West & Hickory Ridge Homestead, Off NC 221-321 Near Intersection Of NC 105, Boone
  • Tweetsie Railroad & Mystery Hill, On NC 221-321 Between Boone & Blowing Rock

From Blowing Rock To Linville:image

  • Downtown Blowing Rock
  • Blowing Rock Memorial Park
  • Bass Lake & Moses Cone Manor House, Between NC 221 & Blue Ridge Parkway, Just South Of Blowing RockPrice Lake
  • Blue Ridge Parkway, Price Park & Price Lake
  • Tate Horse Show Grounds, On NC 221 Just South Of Blowing Rock
  • Grandfather Mountain Country Store
  • Westglow Spa
  • Linn Cove Viaduct, On Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Grandfather Mountain

From Linville To Marion:

  • Eseeola Lodge, Stay On NC 221 (Not Bypass) Going Through Light At Linville
  • Weaving Room Of Crossnore School, Downtown Crossnore
  • Linville Falls
  • Linville Caverns

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