School is out and summer is finally here, and while vacationing may take a different shape this year as we continue to practice social distancing, it doesn’t mean you have to stay home. From the safety of your own vehicle you can take in some of North Carolina’s most breathtaking sights from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Crystal Coast. Check out these six road trips that are a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon or an entire weekend.
Mere minutes from Chapel Hill you can find yourself cruising down the rolling hills of country roads surrounded by picturesque landscapes. Frequented by cyclists as well as motorists, popular routes include the Carrboro to Hillsborough loop. This ride starts in a residential area, transitions to rural terrain, coasts past farms and winds through Orange County’s woodlands.
Another great loop to explore is Orange County to Saxapahaw. Traverse through the south and western regions of the county on winding two-lane roads that unfold over rolling hills featuring country homesteads and local farms.
Just Outside of Chapel Hill
The Colonial Heritage Byway is a 92-mile route starting in Durham that weaves through Caswell, Guilford, Orange and Rockingham Counties. During the course of this two-and-a-half hour drive you will get an impressive tour of 18th and 19th century history in North Carolina, with architecture from that time period dotting the landscape and landmarks commemorating the state’s commercial and military history.
Retrace the 45-mile path thousands of fans have taken to get to and from University of North Carolina games on Football Road. Start in Chapel Hill and meander through pastoral settings heading towards Greensboro, keeping your eyes peeled for the route’s many dairy farms, creeks, ponds and historic sites that date back to the Revolutionary War.
For Overnight Trips
For those who find the journey just as enjoyable as the destination, try incorporating these scenic routes on your way to your next vacation.
If you’re headed to the Outer Banks this summer, carve out some extra time to explore the Outer Banks Scenic Byway. This 138-stretch of road includes 25 miles by ferry, beginning at Whalebone Junction on HWY 12 in Dare County and ending in Beaufort. Along the way you’ll see 21 coastal villages, Pamlico Sound, the Atlantic Ocean, lighthouses and possibly even a wild horse roaming the beach.
On the western side of the state, North Carolina’s section of the Blue Ridge Parkway attracts visitors from across the nation. Known for its incredible mountain-top views, elevation changes, waterfalls, scenic overlooks and access to hiking trails and camp sites, it’s worth spending a day in the car to soak in nature’s beauty.
For more information about our state’s many scenic byways, including maps and directions, check out this guide from the North Carolina Department of Transportation.