10 Essential Road Trip Experiences

When visiting Mitchell County, there are many places that may be off the beaten trail, but are well worth the drive. One of the best ways to get the full local experience is to road trip through the county. With so many gorgeous scenic byways and charming rural towns to stop in along the way, the journey can be as much of a draw as the destinations themselves.

Through the winding curves and lush hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, many locally known secrets and experiences lie in the shadows, just waiting to be brought to light. Most of these places are ones that only locals know and have been passed down through generations. From nationally recognized historic places to beautiful photo spots that locals love, there are many road trip experiences that are off the beaten path that will make your time in Mitchell County one that you will never forget.

We compiled a road trip itinerary that features some of the best authentic and unique activities our county has to offer. Now remember, these are just the first 10 for your list! We have so many more places to add to your list when you check these off!


1. Penland Post Office – Penland (Bakersville/Spruce Pine)

This charming antique building looks like a picture you would see on a Christmas card. Located on the winding curvy Penland Road, The Penland Post Office is a must stop for visitors. Located in the Penland portion of Bakersville, this rustic post office sits just beside the railroad tracks. Constructed before the 1900’s, this site has been used from 1900 to 1920 as the Bailey Lumber Company Office, from 1902 to 1974 as a general store, and from 1934 to today as a fully functioning Post Office. Penland Post Office was listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Be sure to stop by and be transported back in time, as the post office still has the original fixtures that it was stocked with in the early 1900’s. Go in, purchase some stamps, and pay Postmaster Rebecca Davis a visit. She has some great stories to tell about the Penland area and is the great-great-granddaughter of the postmistress in 1887!

2.  Loafer’s Glory Sign – Loafers Glory (Bakersville)

A destination for every visitor in Mitchell County should be having your picture made with the Loafers Glory sign. This very small township of Bakersville has a lot of character. Home to the well-known Bonnie & Clyde’s Drive In, as well as Loafers Glory Rafting and Tubing, this iconic sign puts a spotlight on Loafer’s Glory and their businesses. While you’re here, grab a delicious hamburger and milkshake at Bonnie and Clyde’s, sit outside and enjoy the sounds of the Toe River and “loafer” a little.

3. Dellinger’s Grist Mill – Cane Creek (Bakersville)

Through the hills and valleys of the Cane Creek area of Bakersville, the Dellinger Grist Mill is the last one of its kind in North Carolina. The mill is on the national register of historic places and was established in 1867 by Reuben Dellinger. After many years of operation, the mill was shut down for 42 years, with the current owner, Jack Dellinger, restoring it in the 1990’s. After the Mill was listed as a historic landmark, people from all over the state and the country come to visit each year. According to their website, “It [The Dellinger Grist Mill] has the distinction of being the last water powered/stone ground grist mill of its kind left in the state”. We think that watching the same techniques that were used years ago is a pretty cool sight, and is well-worth the short drive from Bakersville. (not to mention taking home a bag of fresh ground cornmeal or grits!)

4.  Frankie and Charlie Silver Gravesite – Kona (Bakersville)

For those who love mystery and spooky gravesites, this is the road trip experience for you. One of the most well-known tales about our county is the murder of Charlie Silver by his wife Frankie. Frankie was the first woman hanged in the state of North Carolina for murdering her husband with an axe.  This eerie and tragic love story can take visitors on a once in a lifetime road trip. Down the winding roads of Kona at the Silver Family Burial Ground, you will find the graves of Charlie Silver.  Yes, we said graves.  Tragically Charlie’s remains are buried in three separate gravesites. This is a road trip experience that you will be talking about for years to come.

5.  Roan Mountain – Accessible by Bakersville

If you and your family are looking for some spectacular views and some time outdoors, you will find that Roan Mountain is the perfect Mitchell County road trip experience for your family. Roan Mountain is accessible from Bakersville on Hwy 261, and has a beautiful drive of winding mountain roads. Roan Mountain is home to some of the most spectacular views in the world, especially from the balds, where visitors can get a 360-degree look at the Blue Ridge Mountains without obstructions. Roan Mountain is also home to the world’s largest naturally growing Rhododendron garden that blooms every summer with thousands of brilliant pink blooms. Home to a portion of the famous Appalachian Trail, Roan Mountain is perfect for hikers and outdoorsman looking for a day of peaceful hiking among some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. For families, there are shorter hiking trails that vary in difficulty, making Roan Mountain perfect for all ages and all accommodations and many picnic sites to choose from!

6.  Grassy Creek Falls –Near the Blue Ridge Parkway (Little Switzerland Milepost 334)

Grassy Creek Falls is a great local hiking spot that will be the perfect road trip experience for your family. This short hiking trail is approximately 2 miles round trip and leads to a stunning 25’ waterfall spilling over large rocks. This short hike is perfect for stretching your legs after a long car ride on a warm day. This is a great way to get a glimpse of the more natural side of Mitchell County. After your hike, drive into Little Switzerland to grab some dinner and desert at a local restaurant.

7.  Orchard at Altapass – Along Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 328.3

Situated along the winding curves of the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 328.3, The Orchard at Altapass is a special Mitchell County road trip event. This non-profit historic orchard has over 40 varieties of apples, with the earliest ripening in early June and the latest ripening in late October. Visitors can stop by the store to purchase homemade jams, jellies, drinks, snacks, and some old-fashioned apple butter, a local Carolina favorite. You can also purchase apples at the store, or you can grab a peck bag and go apple picking from the hundreds of apple trees on the orchard property! During the summer and fall months, the Orchard at Altapass has many activities for children, families and visitors, including live music, hay rides, crafts, and more! The Orchard at Altapass is also home to The Apple Core Grill, which is serving up farm fresh burgers, sandwiches, and more, all cooked to order! This unique piece of our County’s culture is a must on your visit to Mitchell County.

8.  The Diamondback Route– Little Switzerland

For those motorcyclists, sportscar enthusiasts, and just visitors seeking adventure, this road trip experience can be a check off of your bucket list. This 12 mile long driving course runs along the curves of the Blue Ridge Mountains and connects NC-226 with the Blue Ridge Parkway. This adrenaline packed route features 190 steep, climbing switchback curves, some of which loop at almost 360-degrees. Riding with the windows down and wind blowing through your hair, you will experience Mitchell County in a whole new way. After driving the Diamondback, be sure to stop by the Switzerland Café or the Chalet Restaurant for lunch and a visit to the general store and local shops!

9.  Penland School of Crafts – Penland 

Penland is one of our County’s most notable attractions and is a big reason for our vibrant arts community here in Mitchell County. Penland School of Crafts is home to some of the most talented and well-known artists in the world who have come to our region to gain inspiration from the mountains that we call home. Penland’s curvy roads makes for a fun drive to an incredibly unique location full of art, culture, and a sense of belonging and community. This is the perfect road trip for those who love art and want to get a first-hand look at our claim to fame! While at Penland, be sure to take a look around the gallery of art for sale that has been made by students and teachers, as well as visit their local coffee shop to grab a coffee and desert!

10.  Altapass Swinging Bridge – Spruce Pine

This road trip spot is one of every local’s favorite things to do on a warm sunny day! The Altapass swinging bridge is a wire suspension bridge built for pedestrian directly above the North Toe River. This bridge is located on Halltown Road in Spruce Pine. Visitors can park and walk across this bridge to see the beautiful river and the surrounding scenery and trees. Walking across this bridge will also give you a great look at Soggy Bottom Farms. After visiting the swinging bridge, pay a visit to the Tin Shed Restaurant at Soggy Bottom Farms and get some freshly smoked barbeque or an ice cream! (Use caution and follow all precaution signs listed when visiting).


Did we miss one of your favorite Mitchell County road trips?  Send us an email on our Contact Us page or tag us in your next road trip experience! #seek_findmc

photo credit: Appalachian Exposures


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